Found at My Local Library: Favorite Reads from 2010

Since I don’t have a book allowance in my budget anymore, the library has become a best friend.  One of my life habits is to always be reading a book, which for me means usually having about three books going at one time. I read for pleasure, curiosity, professionally, inspiration and ideas.

I’m always surprised at what I can find in our rural library or its lending tree.  As my last post of this year I thought I’d give a quick review of my top five library gems of the year. Here they are alphabetically by title.

Church Unique, Will Mancini, 2008

The focus in this read is the missional church. It was refreshing, taking on the traditional church and the church growth movement.  I learned concepts like:

  • Thinkholes – vacuums of thinking
  • The conference maze – relying solely on training events, with prepackaged programs, rather than processing toward uniqueness
  • Denominational ruts – getting stuck maintaining structures of yesteryear
  • Strategic planning – it usually leads to ground lost and inspires no passion.
  • Growth idolatry – the unconscious belief, on the soul level, that things are not OK with me if my church is not growing.
  • Focus – the ability to eliminate everything that falls outside of the simple ministry process.

This is a minimal sampling to get you thinking. Because I am focused on getting ministry focused, simple and effective, these authors have gotten my attention. It’s geared toward churches, but as camps we minister in much the same way and need our approaches challenged.

Make the Impossible Possible, Bill Strickland, 2007

This is the story of Bill Strickland, a Black man, who overcomes his own adversity to create a successful job creation empire for inner-city Pittsburgh. Its success becomes a model for other cities around the world.  He uses the word transformational to describe the outcome of giving skills and dignity to the poor who can then achieve when given the chance. When I read the word transformational I want to know what meaning is intended, because Christian camps are to be spiritually transforming. He will give you plenty to think about.

What catches my attention is the approach he takes in building his facilities and programs. Each detail is intended to create dignity for the poor. It’s worth reading just to capture the creative message behind his dream and its effect on those he reaches out too. It will change the way you look at your facilities, your atmosphere and the treatment you give to those you minister too. Everything matters; from the first impression, to the building’s windows to the food that’s eaten.

Streetsmart Financial Basics for Nonprofit Managers, Thomas A. McLaughlin, 2009

Ok. So this does not sound like an exciting book. But it reads easy and it will prepare you to interpret the balance sheet to your board and to know when you’re in financial trouble.  You’ll understand your nonprofit status and you’ll feel more intelligent when you talk to your accountant when they do your yearly audit.

ROI for Nonprofit’s, Tom Ralser, 2007

Fund raising is on each ministry’s mind. Right now you’re contemplating your year end giving and how it’s going to add up. ROI is the acronym for Return on Investment.  The suggestion is that the paradigm should be changing in your organization so that it is focused on your ministry outcome. The main questions we should be seeking to answer are, “Does your mission deliver outcomes that are valued by your investors? Do you know who your investors are?” If you are lacking investors, it’s fair to ask whether or not you’re achieving appropriate mission related outcomes.

This book will get you thinking about what your ministry is accomplishing, because without observable outcomes in the lives you minister too, there will be no great amount of fund raising happening. The upside is, if you have meaningful ministry outcomes, your fund raising activity will become easier.

The Power of Simplicity, Jack Trout, 1999

I love this book. For a practical how to book for organizing your ministry, this is perfect. Here’s a little of it’s down to earth wisdom.

  • Complexity is NOT to be admired. It is to be avoided.
  • Common Sense: it can make things simple. “You must draw on language, logic and simple sense to determine eventual issues and establish a concrete course of action.”  – Abe Lincoln
  • Mission Statements: All they add is needless confusion
  • Long Term Planning: It’s just wishful thinking. Wishful thinking belongs in fairy-tale land. What you deal with is reality
  • Big Ideas almost always come is small words.
  • Simplicity: Its power is alive and well
  • Nothing is more simple than greatness; indeed, to be simple is to be great.  – Emerson
  • Keep it simple and good things will happen

Full of wit and understanding, you’ll be more confident after reading this book knowing that you do not have to unravel some special kind of magic to get the job done.

Wonder what I will find next year?  I’ll be starting my yearly Biography on Monday. Reading keeps me fresh. I encourage you to do the same.


About the Ordinary Hiker

A Christian camp director for many years, I enjoy ministry and being outdoors. I refer to God's creative wonder as the testimony of creation, a special place where God brings His word to life. Its where I like to be and where God speaks in His gentle voice in the awe of His creative work.
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