The church today is in a difficult position. Many churches are at a point of no return where they must change the will die. Many mainline churches are declining and need a major comeback if they are going to exist 10 years from now. With that in mind, here are 5 helpful books about turning around a church. There are many that could be listed, but these are the 5 I would recommend that pastors/leaders start with.
Comeback Churches: How 300 Churches Turned Around and Yours Can, Too– Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson did a study of churches that were “comeback churches.” These were churches that were in serious decline and have turned their numbers around. I like this approach because so many other book are almost exclusively diagnostic. In other words, many other books are about what is wrong. This book finds best practices of churches that are doing what many of us would like to do. It is a wealth of information about small places to get some leverage in the church.
Taking Your Church to the Next Level: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There– Gary McIntosh has written a number of books that could be on this list, but this book is my favorite. This books helped me understand why churches decline. He talks at length about church size and how churches change with their attendance numbers. He also goes into the church life cycle that churches natural follow and explains how turnaround happen at different points on the bell curve. The book should be required reading for pastors in seminary because it explains so much.
Memories, Hopes, and Conversations: Appreciative Inquiry and Congregational Change– Mark Lau Branson uses appreciative inquiry (AI) to church transformation. If you are not familiar, appreciative inquiry is an organizational development theory that is based on building on what is working. AI asks people in an organization to tell stories of best practices and best memories to discover core values and practices. It then encourages organizations to dream about what they could be and design a process for getting there. This book is a great resource to lead some leadership team meetings or even congregational meetings. It is especially helpful if your church is really negative.
Look Before You Lead: How to Discern and Shape Your Church Culture– Aubrey Malphurs has several books that could be on this list. He book on strategic planning is a major contribution to church leadership. I recommend Look Before You Lead here because it deals with an area that few other books deal with. It is one thing to change programming or processes at a church. What is often needed, however, is a culture change. The way people think, talk, and act all need upgraded for the church to go anywhere. This book deals with how to change a culture.
Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard– This book has nothing to do with the church. It is a business book about making changes that last for both individuals and groups. It has profoundly changed how I approach church. It is based on brain science (though the book never talks about the technical neuroscience). It talks about the elephant (emotional part of the brain) and the rider (the logical part of the brain). Most of the time when we try to make a change ourselves or our churches we use one or the other. The key is to use both and to shape a path that is easy to follow for others. This also had an impact on how I preach.