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Articles, Books, and More for Pastors

We share the following resources in the hope that they may contain ideas for those interested in forming peer learning groups or in sponsoring continuing education events for pastors. This list has been compiled from suggestions made to the Pastor Church Resources staff and is not intended to be exhaustive. PCR doesn’t necessarily agree with everything presented in these resources. Discernment is always needed.

Articles

"A Time for Lasts" by Bruce G. Epperly and Katherine Gould Epperly (published in the February 21, 2011 issue of the Alban Weekly).  Much like the changing seasons, retirement for pastors can be a transformative time in which “new life springs… but not without the death of the old self and its habitual patterns.”  This season is often accompanied by a mixture of emotions, from feelings of relief and a new sense of freedom to feelings of uncertainty and loss as pastors discern the next steps beyond congregational ministry.  With the realization that they do not simply “do ministry” but rather are ministers, retirement brings a powerful reminder of how work shapes their personal identity.  To read more, click here.

"Compassion Fatigue" by David Ragsdale (published in the May 2012 issue of the Compass, a publication of QuietWaters Ministries).  Increasingly burnout is becoming more prevalent among ministry leaders.  The less well-known condition, Compassion Fatigue (CF) is equally serious. As leaders overextend themselves while failing to practice self-care, CF sets in and leaves them “worn out, cynical, and disillusioned.”  As David Ragsdale writes, “The work of compassion taxes our mental, emotional and spiritual resources.  Even the most emotionally resilient caring professional can end up experiencing a ‘caregiver crisis’.”  To read more about the symptoms of CF and strategies to avoid it, click here.

"Congregations Gone Wild" by G. Jeffrey MacDonald (published in the August 7, 2010 issue of The New York Times).  Despite the need for pastors to rest and take time away from their work, recent studies show that many congregations are “consumer-driven,” placing increased pressure and demands on their pastors and clergy.  Sadly, these demands have led pastors to switch their religious affiliation or, in the case of some, suffer burnout and leave the ministry altogether.  On the flipside, when the pastor fails to meet such demands, congregants have gone elsewhere to fulfill their unmet spiritual needs.  To read more, click here.

"Finding Creative Ways of Renewal" by Lis Van Harten (published in the Fall 2012 issue of the APCE Advocate).  For pastors and educators, renewal is vital to help combat the drain of an overfull, often stressful workload.  Ways of finding renewal will vary greatly from person to person.  Many pastors have experienced the joy of renewal through peer groups, in which pastors enjoy studying books, attending conferences together, sharing experiences, and engaging in a variety of other group activities.  Renewal can also come through unintentional means, and sometimes it is the “simple act of people getting together to share life [that] brings renewal.”  To read the full article, click here.

"Overcoming Loneliness in Ministry" by Barbara J. Blodgett (published in the March 28, 2011 issue of the Alban Weekly).  Many pastors experience loneliness—feeling they’re lone rangers—at some point in their ministry. Ironically, this loneliness isn’t usually caused by a lack of company.  Rather, the loneliness stems from a desire for companionship with peers—other pastors who ‘do the same thing they do.’  Many pastors have found this companionship through pastor peer groups which provide opportunities to gather with other pastors. To read more about how peer groups can positively impact loneliness in ministry, click here.

"Pastor, Heal Thyself?" by Amy Simpson (posted on www.seminarygradschool.com).  Ministry is full of challenges.  For pastors, the constant work of helping others can lead to anxiety, depression, discouragement, and a number of other symptoms that are depleting.  While nearly all people experience these feelings from time to time, pastors do so often in the context of “high conflict, high expectations, and high incidence of loneliness.”  Consequently, an increasing number of pastors are facing mental health challenges and they often deal with it alone.  In this article, Amy Simpson emphasizes the importance of pastoral self-care, beginning at the seminary level, to help pastors develop healthy practices and habits for long-term ministry.  To read the complete article, click here.

"Pastoral Excellence in an Impatient Age" by Neil Carlson (January 2013). Recognizing changes in the social position of pastors is a new issue for today’s church.  Not only are pastors facing increasing social informality, but they’re also facing increasing expectations and responsibilities set by their congregations.  As Neil Carlson writes, “Pastors are expected to bring a ‘non-anxious presence’ to the congregation, but most are caught in an anxiety-inducing vise of declining respect for their professional status and increased demand for managerial skills that ensure efficient delivery of services to members.”  The result?  Pastors who are “undernourished” and lacking the congregational support and resources necessary for effective ministry.  To read more of Carlson’s article and how churches can begin to address this “chronic problem,” click here.

"Pastors and Peer Groups" by Maria Mallory White (published in the September 2010 issue of Faith & Leadership).  Across various denominations, pastor peer groups have long shown the benefits to pastors who experience the support and encouragement these groups offer.  Recent studies have shown that congregations are also benefiting from pastor peer groups.  A recent survey (which the CRC participated in) revealed a strong correlation between pastor involvement in a peer group and congregational growth and engagement in ministry both in and outside the church.  To read more, click here.

"Peer Power" by Christina Braudaway-Bauman (published in the January 11, 2012 issue of The Christian Century).  What does a pastor peer group look like when it focuses on “pastoral excellence”?  Pastors can be energized and strengthened through honest conversations and camaraderie can be built through sharing the challenges, stressors, and disappointments in ministry. As Christina Braudaway-Bauman writes, “The lesson emerging from every peer group project is that when clergy meet regularly in a ‘community of practice’ for intentional reflection on their ministry, they find that trust develops, anxieties diminish, and challenges turn into occasions for learning.”  To read more, click here.

"Self-care is not self-ish" by Kate Rugani (published in the August 2012 issue of Faith & Leadership). Amidst numerous daily tasks and responsibilities, pastors often put self-care at the bottom of their “to-do” list. While many understand the importance of caring for themselves, it can often be seen as “selfish” (whether by the pastor and/or the congregation) and therefore takes a backseat to other vocational responsibilities. To avoid feelings of pressure and guilt, it is important for pastors to set (and keep!) boundaries in their work that allow time to care for themselves and their families. To read more, click here.

"Shooting the Rapids: The cycles of pastoral ministry" by Dan Pietrzyk (posted on www.faithandleadership.com).  The work of the Sustaining Pastoral Excellence program of the Evangelical Covenant Church has revealed a ministerial life cycle that more than 400 pastors have affirmed to be true.  The cycle is comprised of three formational stages, each defined by a key question and key word.  Author Dan Pietryzk writes, “Like rapids in a river, where the water moves faster and more intensely, these formational stages are filled with turbulence, unfolding quickly for pastors paddling in the river.”  Understanding the cycle can help pastors understand how to sustain ministerial health for the longevity of their ministry.  To read more, click here.

"Sunday Through a Pastor's Eyes" by Mandy Smith (posted January 19, 2015 on www.christianitytoday.com)  Reflecting on seven years of ministry, Pastor Mandy Smith offers an insightful, and honest, look at a Sunday morning as she experiences it.  The challenges, the energy, the unexpected, and everything else that comprise a pastor’s Sunday morning is unique to his/her role—and often understood only by other pastors.  To read the complete story, click here.

"Taking a Break from the Lord's Work" by Paul Vitello (published in the August 1, 2010 issue of The New York Times).  Although pastors taking “time off” from their work can be a sensitive topic for some congregations, health studies show an alarming trend of pastors suffering from health problems at higher rates than most Americans.  In response to these findings, several denominations have adopted new initiatives to ensure their pastors take vacations and time away for renewal.  To read the article, click here.

"The Care and Feeding of your Preacher" by Dr. Mary S. Hulst (posted May 31, 2013 on www.thebanner.org).  “Preaching is a unique practice, wholly demanding and yet routine.”  More than twenty years since her first preaching “gig,” Dr. Mary S. Hulst knows very well the physical and spiritual demands all preachers experience.  She describes these as a “perfect storm” wherein God can do great things or, “it can be 22 minutes of pain for preacher and parishioner alike.”  Hulst offers some practical ways to help preachers counteract the effects of these demands so that they might flourish in their preaching.  To read the complete article, click here.

"The Dark Side of a Sabbatical" by Mark Miller-McLemore (published in the December 2010 issue of Faith & Leadership).  An increasing number of pastors are adopting the practice of sabbaticals, which can be a great time of refreshment and growth for pastors and their congregations.  However, as three congregations illustrate, there is a ‘dark side’ – or potential dangers – that can arise in pastoral sabbaticals.  Whether it’s wrongful assumptions about sabbatical intentions, resentment from the congregation, or emotional tension between pastors and lay leaders, sabbaticals have the potential to create unexpected problems.   To read some helpful tips on how to avoid sabbatical hazards, click here.

Books

Leadership

Badaracco, Joseph L. Jr. Leading Quietly. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2002.
Barton, Ruth Haley. Pursuing God's Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012.
Boers, Arthur Paul Never Call Them Jerks, (Alban Institute, 1999)
Carroll, Jackson W. God’s Potters: Pastoral Leadership and the Shaping of Congregations. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2006.
Friedman, Edwin H. Friedman's Fables. New York: Guilford Press, 1990.
Friedman, Edwin H. Generation to Generation. New York: Guilford, 1985.
Gilbert, Roberta. Extraordinary Relationships. Minneapolis: Chronimed, 1992.
Heifetz, Ronald Leadership Without Easy Answers, (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1994)
Heifetz, Ronald and Marty Linsky, Leadership on the Line, (Harvard Business School Press, 2002)
Herrington, Jim, Mike Bonem, and James H. Furr. Leading Change in the Congregation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2000.
Herrington, Jim, R. Robert Creech and Trisha Taylor. The Leader’s Journey: Accepting the Call to Personal and Congregational Transformation. San Francisco: Jossey-Baas Publishers, 2003.
Peterson, Eugene. Working the Angles. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993.
Rendle, Gilbert. Leading Change in the Congregation, (Alban Institute, 1998)
Rendle, Gilbert. Multigenerational Congregations: Meeting the Leadership Challenge, (Alban Institute, 2001)
Scazzero, Peter. The Emotionally Healthy Church. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003.
Scharen, Christian. Faith as a Way of Life: A Vision for Pastoral Leadership. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2008.
Steinke, Peter. Healthy Congregations, (Alban Institute, 1996)
Steinke, Peter. How Your Church Family Works, (Alban Institute, 1993)
Willimon, William H. Pastor: The Theology and Practice of Ordained Ministry, Abingdon Press, 2002.

Mentoring

Benner, David G. Sacred Companions. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2002.
Biehl, Bob. Mentoring. Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 1996.
Olthuis, James. The Beautiful Risk. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001.
Williams, Brian A. The Potter’s Rib: Mentoring for Pastoral Formation. Vancouver:Regent College Publishing, 2005.
Wright, Walter, Jr. The Gift of Mentors. Pasadena, Calif.: De Pree Leadership Center, 2001.

Ministry Reflection

Barnes, M. Craig. The Pastor as Minor Poet: Texts and Subtexts in the Ministerial Life. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2008.
Daniel, Lillian and Martin B. Copenhaver. This Odd and Wondrous Calling. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2009.
Dykstra, Craig. Growing in the Life of Faith: Education and Christian Practices. Louisville, KY: Geneva Press, 1999.
Jones, L. Gregory and Kevin R. Armstrong. Resurrecting Excellence: Shaping Faithful Christian Ministry. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2006.
Kok, Joel. ed. Persevering in Ministry. Grand Rapids: Christian Reformed Church in North America, 2004.
Peterson, Eugene. Subversive Spirituality. Grand Rapids: W. B. Eerdmans, 1977.
Smedes, Lewis. Shame and Grace. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1993.

Pastoral Care

Bullock, Richard and Richard Bruesehoff. Clergy Renewal: The Alban Guide to Sabbatical Planning. Alban Institute, 2000.
Nouwen, Henri. The Wounded Healer. New York: Doubleday, 1990.

Practical Skills

Allen, David. Getting Things Done. New York, N.Y.: Viking, 2001.
Burkett, Larry and Ron Blue. Wealth to Last. Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2003.
Day, Katie. Difficult Conversations. Bethesda, Md.: 2001.
Farris, Lawrence. Ten Commandments for Pastors New to a Congregation. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003.
Hester, Richard L. and Kelli Walker-Jones. Know Your Story and Lead With It: The Power of Narrative in Clergy Leadership. Herndon, VA: The Alban Institute, 2009.
Long, Thomas G. Beyond the Worship Wars: Building Vital and Faithful Worship, (Alban Institute, 2001)
McIntosh, Gary L. What Every Pastor Should Know: 101 Indispensable Rules of Thumb for Leading Your Church. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2013.
Whitehead, James D. and Evelyn Eaton Whitehead. The Promise of Partnership. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1991.
Vander Zee, Leonard. In Life and In Death. Grand Rapids: CRC Publications, 1992.

Spiritual Disciplines

Dawn, Marva. Keeping the Sabbath Wholly. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989.
Foster, Richard. Prayer, Finding the Heart's True Home. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1992.
Job, Rueben P. and Norman Shawchuk. A Guide to Prayer for All God’s People. Nashville: The Upper Room, 2000.
Job, Rueben P. and Norman Shawchuk. A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God. Nashville: The Upper Room, 2003.
Job, Rueben P. and Norman Shawchuk. A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants. Nashville: The Upper Room, 1983.
Ortberg, John. The Life You've Always Wanted. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002.
Schultz, Quentin, Habits of the High-Tech Heart. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002.
Willard, Dallas. In Search of Guidance. Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1983.
Willard, Dallas. The Divine Conspiracy. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998.
Willard, Dallas. The Spirit of the Disciplines. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998.

Key PCR Resources

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