What You Should Be Reading this Summer
Summer is such a drag. No new episodes of “The Good Wife,” “Nashville,” or “Downton Abbey.” I have been forced, forced I tell you, to watch “The Bachelorette” (don’t judge, I know there are at least three of you watching too). That, and reading. Ah yes, the lost art of reading. Reading books - you know, the ones that are made out of paper and that you hold in your hands. The youth of today have no idea what I am talking about. I might as well be an antique.
|But, amazingly, I have been reading real books. And, I am here to let you in on a few of them. All of these books deal in their own way with church vitality. Now don’t go start rolling your eyes on me. I know that you have heard about “church vitality” ad nauseam. But frankly, there are some really good ideas in these books that just might inspire you to try something new. There is no reason to get overwhelmed. Just say to yourself, “I will try just one idea this month. I will see if there isn’t something we can copy that is easy and can make a difference.”
Theologically, these books are all over the map – but I guarantee you can find at least one good suggestion in each of them.
Vital: Churches Changing Communities and the World by Jorge Acevedo
Acevedo is probably the closest thing I have seen to a Charismatic United Methodist. No mere sprinkling for him – it’s full immersion baptisms at Grace Church! Despite that surprise, Acevedo grounds his church and satellite church campuses in Wesleyan tradition. His six keys to highly vital congregations? Pastoral leadership that leads, coaches, and sets visions; equipping and inspiring laity for ministry; transcendent, relevant, contextual, and excellent worship; small groups to build community; and local and global outreach and mission. Nothing particularly surprising but how he implements them are helpful. There are lots of great ideas and good worksheets at the end of each chapter to get you motivated.
Rebuilt: Awakening the Faithful, Reaching the Lost, Making Church Matter by Michael White and Tom Corcoran
Written by a Catholic priest and his lay associate, this is an excellent and fast read. These two turned around a dying parish in the small town of Timonium, Maryland and as a result have brought in literally thousands of new parishioners. Chock full of ideas, what I like best about this book is that they name where they have encountered pushback, failed in some areas, and where they still need work. At the end of every chapter they declare “You Can Do This!” with a simple list of things to do. And, they have an entire chapter devoted to tithing – you know I love that.
Strength for the Journey: A Pilgrimage of Faith in Community by Diana Butler Bass
OK, I admit it – this is an “oldie but goodie” (2002) written by an Episcopalian. Butler Bass weaves her own spiritual journey (name dropping alert – we went to college together) with examples from vital, progressive, and not necessarily flashy Episcopalian congregations around the country. As she says “…It’s hard to be a mainline churchgoer…Conflict, timidity, injustice, quiescence, institutional dysfunction, and fear of change have been the cup of mainline unfaithfulness.” A page later Butler Bass hopefully states, “Will we succumb to or drink the heady wine of Love?...No more establishment churches. No graveyards of dry bones. Only communities of living faith.”
And with these three books on your nightstand, being read with an eye to try just one thing, we will indeed become “communities of living faith.” Happy reading!
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past decade, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over $2 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. She served as the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012. She hopes Andie will find love on her Bachelorette "journey." Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.