One habit of leaders in vibrant congregations is to choose a book that they will use as a group study resource for the church year.  They read a book in common over the summer, then discuss it by chapter or by theme during the August-May months.

I often get requests for suggested titles…here is a list of recommended titles and descriptions.  Choose one depending on your leaders’ focus and congregation’s mission, and create your own learning community!  (Some may need a bit theological translation, but that shouldn’t slow you down! 🙂 )

Liberating Hope!: Daring to Renew the Mainline Church by Michael Piazza  (Pilgrim Press, 2011)

This book uses the experience and success of the missional and church planting movements and suggests ways that established churches can renew themselves with that wisdom. The key word is “transformational.”  If your congregation is ready to rethinking they way they “do church” (with a red pill sensibility) but just starting, this is the book for you.  Written for a liberal Christian audience, Unitarian Universalists will not have to do much theological translation.

Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times: Being Calm and Courageous No Matter What by Peter Steinke (Alban, 2006)

One of our Foundations of Leadership is thinking systemically, and this book is one of the best for congregational leaders to understand how their congregation functions as a system and how anxiety can interfere with our higher brain functions.  If you have taken a Healthy Congregations(R) or Smart Church workshop, this is a great refresher.  Steinke uses biblical as well as congregational stories as examples.

Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice by Paul Kivel (New Society, 2011)

Another Foundation of Leadership is Multicultural Sensibility. This book explores the evidence that race is still a marker that effects the outcomes of people’s lives across the United States and provides an introductory framework for understanding how racism can exist within systems and institutions (including our congregations) and how congregational leaders can work to change this.

Moving On from Church Folly Lane: The Pastoral to Program Shift by Rev. Robert T. Latham (Wheatmark, 2006)

No theological translation is necessary for this classic by a UU minister specializing in interim work.  If you congregation’s membership numbers are hovering around the 175 mark, this is the book for you.  The main focus is on developing a mission-based culture of share ministry with practical tips and tools.

The Growing Church: Keys to Congregatinal Vitality edited by Thom Belote (Skinner, 2010)

Ministers of some of the fastest-growing UU congregations share how they serve their mission and vision for Unitarian Universalism.  There is also a companion DVD: Listening to Experience: 12 Visionary Mnisters Discuss Growth (this may already be in your church library!).

About the Author
Rev. Renee Ruchotzke
Leadership Development Consultant, Central East Regional Group (CERG) of the UUA. I have a vision of Unitarian Universalist congregations being led by thousands of diverse, spiritually mature and passionate people ready and willing to spread the good news of liberal religion.  I believe ministry is best when shared between lay and professional leaders. More information about me can be found on the UUA website.