Reading list: Leadership ideas to help the church

By Bishop Larry Goodpaster, Special Contributor…

Editor’s note: United Methodist Bishop Goodpaster shares brief reflections on the books he read during the first few months of 2012.

Boundary Spanning Leadership by Chris Ernst and Donna Chrobot-Mason (McGraw-Hill, 2010)

If there is one leadership book on this list that should be a must-read, this is it. I find myself returning to it as we move forward in the conference I lead, and in our denomination. There is a very practical, workbook-like feel here, along with key insights into how to solve problems, encourage creativity and innovation, and transform organizations.

Midnight Lunch: The 4 Phases of Team Collaboration Success from Thomas Edison’s Lab by Sarah Miller Caldicott (Wiley, 2012)

Written by Edison’s great-grandniece, herself a business consultant and speaker, this book provides fascinating insights into what is necessary to lead innovation in the 21st century. Drawing on Edison’s methods of creating teams and expanding understandings of how we collaborate, Ms. Caldicott provides a framework for our work together.

I was particularly inspired in this reading because much of what we are beginning to practice and recover as a networked-connectional system in the United Methodist Church finds roots in Edison’s teamwork. The author reminds us that in order to move in collaborative ways, “a premium will be placed on workforce reskilling methods and the ability to form smart layers.” In our church world, we must find new methods to communicate and live out the message of the gospel.

FuturePerfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked Age by Steven Johnson (Riverhead, 2012)

Often one book leads to another, and I chose this one after reading Ms. Caldicott’s book on collaboration. Here Mr. Johnson builds a strong case for the many ways our technology, our connections and our networks lead to creativity and innovation. Given our Wesleyan heritage of connection and cooperation, we United Methodists should be moving forward with energy and passion. We can learn from books, research and insights like Mr. Johnson’s. This one is worth an investment of some time.

Hamlet’s Blackberry: A Practical Philosophy for Building a Good Life in the Digital Age by William Powers (Harper Perennial, 2011)

Speaking of connections, this one runs in the opposite direction. This book really spoke to me as someone who is not “totally into” all of the social media outlets, but one who seems to spend a lot of time connected to that world. Mr. Powers traces several “advances” in technology through the ages: from Plato to Gutenberg and Shakespeare to Thoreau (there are eight such moves). Each advance fundamentally changed our perspectives about the world and about life. How is this digital age impacting “life” and our ways of ordering our days? A very good read!

How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen (HarperBusiness, 2012)

Excellent book, and one that I have used not only to reflect on where I am at this stage of my life, but also where the next years may lead. Dr. Christensen, who teaches at Harvard Business School, invites us to think about key questions that go deeper than merely being successful at what we do. At any point along our life-journey, he invites us to reflect on those things that really matter. The book takes some surprising and inspiring directions, and in so doing gives us a carefully crafted way to think about how we measure our lives.

Lead Like Butler: Six Principles for Values-Based Leaders by Kent Millard and Judith Cebula (Abingdon Press, 2012)

The amazing story of the Butler University men’s basketball team over the last several years is well known. But there is more to the story than scores and upsets. The Rev. Kent Millard, retired pastor at St. Luke UMC, Indianapolis and Judith Cebula, a professor at Butler, relate the basic principles that undergird the program, and that Coach Brad Stevens seeks to impart to the players and the community.

This is rich reading, and resonates with the kind of leadership that makes a difference in our lives and, I believe, in our churches. The six principles are humility, passion, unity, servanthood, thankfulness and accountability. The book highlights and expounds on these in wonderful ways.

Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck—Why Some Thrive Despite Them All by Jim Collins (HarperBusiness, 2011)

This is Mr. Collins’ latest update after his previous three immensely popular books, including Good to Great. He discusses choices that several companies made over time that led not only to success but to greatness; and, he compares them to similar companies that made different choices and wound up extinct or declining. There is a great deal of research and formulas and charts here, but the key learnings are well worth an investment of time.

The Collected Sermons of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, edited by Isabel Best (Fortress Press, 2012)

I spent a day with each of the sermons included in this recently translated collection and have found them stimulating, thought-provoking and inspiring. Each is introduced with a few paragraphs setting the stage and the context in which Bonhoeffer preached the sermon. The sermons come primarily from before the more familiar writings of his life, but one can already pick up the themes that would become so closely associated with Bonhoeffer.

ReStart Your Church by Dottie Escobedo-Frank (Abingdon Press, 2012)

As we continue to address some of the deep issues facing the United Methodist Church, many voices are converging to help point a way forward. There is a common concern for the future of the denomination, but more importantly for our calling to participate with God’s mission in the world.

The Rev. Escobedo-Frank, a UM pastor in Phoenix, Ariz., offers another perspective on what must happen in many of our churches. She draws on the biblical image of death and resurrection, and relates stories of her own experience in leading churches to “restart.” The book provides helpful reflections for local churches struggling with their current reality and future possibilities.

Change or Die: The Three Keys to Change at Work and in Life by Alan Deutschman (HarperBusiness, 2007)

Everyone today knows that change is happening and it is happening rapidly—and anyone who tries to hold on to outdated, outmoded ways of functioning, organizing or working, will be left behind. Mr. Deutschman suggests in this book how to navigate the changes and how to determine what we must do in order to thrive in this kind of world. Even though “change” is not a popular word in many church-circles, it is a reality around us.

Great Leaders Grow: Becoming a Leader for Life by Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2012)

This is a helpful little read that complements Mr. Deutschman’s book. It can be read quickly (told in the form of a story about an individual), but has some wonderful hints about how we GROW as leaders. Hint: “grow” is an acronym.

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg (Knopf, 2013)

Ms. Sandberg, chief operating officer at Facebook, has stirred quite a bit of publicity with Lean In. She emphasizes that while progress has been made, there is still a long way to go in a world dominated by men in the highest levels of leadership. I found this book immensely insightful, helping me to recognize and be aware of issues that continue to plague us in the UMC—including the frustrating reluctance on the part of some of our churches to receive a woman as a pastor. As Ms. Sandberg writes in chapter 11, we must “understand and acknowledge how stereotypes and biases cloud our beliefs and perpetuate the status quo.”

Bishop Goodpaster leads the Western North Carolina Conference.

Special Contributor to UMR

Special Contributor

This story was written by a special contributor to The United Methodist Reporter. You may send your article submissions to

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