Tuesday, March 17, 2009

On my bookshelf:

I recently lent out one of my favorite books on congregational life to a good friend here, and he was returned it last night.  As I was putting the book back just now, it occurred to me, many people in our churches are unaware of the value of Peter Steinke's writings.

I have a "trilogy" on understanding the emotional system from Peter Steinke that I highly recommend you pick up and read.  Each book is around 170 pages or less; quick reads that are very packed...  I'll save my favorite title for last, as I share these gems with you.

The 1st book to consider is, "How your church family works."  If you want to know why anxiety hijacks a group of people, and how to find stability again, you won't find a better resource anywhere.   One very powerful concept that Steinke draws out here is how we need to practice what he calls "self-differentaion."  This is the idea of being present with the group, but remaining an individual.  It's harder than you might think, but Steinke devlops the idea and provides clear guidance on the how to deal with it.

The 2nd book I'll recommend is, "Congregational leadership in anxious times."  You'll like the subtitle: Being calm and courageous no matter what....
Here Steinke unpacks concepts on how a leader can manage their own anxiety to be a non-anxious presence, to be a calming influence.  He does a great job describing the two types of anxiety we deal with, Acute and Chronic anxiety.  The book has three phases, The Leader's presence, The Leader's functioning, and The Leader's challenges.  This book is essential for anyone who would attempt to  navigate the choppy waters of congregational life...

The 3rd and favorite book of the three is, "Healthy Congregations."
Steinke shows how anxiety is like a virus attacking a body; it has to have a host to survive.  If you've heard the term "Triangulation" before, you'll benefit from Steinke's perspective on this topic.  The core of the book unpacks the four viruses that attack the body of the church: 1. Secrets, 2. accusations, 3. lies, and 4. triangulation.  Steinke shows how all four of these are expressions of anxiety.   This book is, no exaggeration, worth its weight in gold...

To say these three books should be required reading by all leaders, and most members, could come off as a cliche....  but I'll say it anyway :-)  Let me finish my recommendation with this:  All three books detail the really difficult challenges we face as a community of believers - followed by delivering  tools/skills that will aid us in our efforts to work through the many difficulties that face every congregation.  These books provide more than just hope for a better future for congregations strangled by conflict and stress... these books inspire their readers to action!

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