Congregation and Community is the most comprehensive study to date of congregations in the face of community transformation. Nancy Ammerman and her colleagues include stories of over twenty congregations in nine communities from across the nation, communities with new immigrant populations, growing groups of gays and lesbians, rapid suburbanization, and economic dislocations. With almost half of the nation's population attending religious services each week, it is impossible to understand change in American society without a close look at congregations. Congregation and Community will exist as a standard resource for years to come, and clergy, academics, and general readers alike will benefit from its insights.
Ammerman, N. T., (2005). Pillars of faith: American congregations and their partners. University of California Press.
Nancy Tatom Ammerman follows several traditions—Mainline Protestant, Conservative Protestant, African American Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox, Jewish, Sectarian, and other religions—as they establish discernible patterns of congregational life that fit their own history, tradition, and relationship to American society. Her methodologically sophisticated study balances survey research with interviews conducted with people from ninety-one different religious traditions and ethnographic observations that yield new information on many dimensions of American congregational life. Her book is the first to depict the complex resource base supporting American congregations, the enormous web of partners with whom congregations work, and the range of institutional patterns they exhibit.
Bakke, R., (1997). A theology as big as the city. Intervarsity Press.
As our cities swell with immigrants, I'm reminded that Jesus was born in a borrowed barn in Asia and became an African refugee in Egypt, so the Christmas story is about an international migrant. Furthermore, a whole village full of baby boys died for Jesus before he had the opportunity to die for them on the cross. Surely this Jesus understands the pain of children who die for the sins of adults in our cities." How does God see the city? What does Scripture have to say about urban ministry? These are the questions Ray Bakke has systematically addressed, beginning with Genesis and continuing through to Revelation. Here is a biblical theology that will constantly surprise and challenge as you get a glimpse of how big God's view of the city really is.
Bolsinger, T. (2018). Canoeing the mountains: Christian leadership in uncharted territory. Intervarsity Press
Drawing from his extensive experience as a pastor and consultant, Tod Bolsinger brings decades of expertise in guiding churches and organizations through uncharted territory. He offers a combination of illuminating insights and practical tools to help you reimagine what effective leadership looks like in our rapidly changing world. If you're going to scale the mountains of ministry, you need to leave behind canoes and find new navigational tools. Now expanded with a study guide, this book will set you on the right course to lead with confidence and courage
Branson, M.L., (2004). Memories, hopes, and conversations: Appreciative inquiry and congregational change. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Branson first leads readers through the foundations of Appreciative Inquiry and bracingly explores biblical texts for understanding the practice in a faith context. He then outlines and illustrates a four-step process--Initiate, Inquire, Imagine, Innovate--that creatively employs constructive conversations and questions to evoke storytelling and spur imaginations. Branson persuasively demonstrates how concentrating on needs and problems can mire a congregation in discouragement and distract it from noticing innate strengths. By focusing on memories of the congregation at its best, members are able to construct "provocative proposals" to help shape the church’s future. Grounded in solid theory and real-life practice, Memories, Hopes, and Conversations is a groundbreaking work of narrative leadership and the first book to apply the principles of Appreciative Inquiry to the lives of congregations.
Brueggemann, W. (2016). God, neighbor, empire: The excess of divine fidelity and the commitment of common good. Baylor University Press.
Brueggemann calls readers into prophetic listening by demonstrating the continual dialogue between man and God expressed within the pages of Scripture. He not only illuminates the paradoxical nature of the story of God and Israel in the Old Testament, but also reveals how the arc of this story reaches ever forward, and its trajectory confers meaning upon human relationships and communities in the present. The Old Testament still speaks. Amid the noise luring us to pursue our own interests or to isolate or marginalize our neighbors, Brueggemann demonstrates repeatedly the call to renew a careful listening to God and neighbor that we might be equipped to live in the world with faithful obedience.
Chaves, M. (2004). Congregations in America. Harvard University Press.
Drawing on the 1998 National Congregations Study--the first systematic study of its kind--as well as a broad range of quantitative, qualitative, and historical evidence, this book provides a comprehensive overview of the most significant form of collective religious expression in American society: local congregations. Among its more surprising findings, Congregations in America reveals that, despite the media focus on the political and social activities of religious groups, the arts are actually far more central to the workings of congregations. Here we see how, far from emphasizing the pursuit of charity or justice through social services or politics, congregations mainly traffic in ritual, knowledge, and beauty through the cultural activities of worship, religious education, and the arts.
Conn, H. M. (2002). The urban face of mission: Ministering the gospel in a diverse and changing world. R & R Publishing.
How do we sing the Lord's song in "the strange land" that is now the 21st century? How do we take appropriate account of where and when we are without compromising the "old, old story of Jesus and his love?" Harvie Conn pressed these questions while teaching missions for twenty-six years, and this volume, written by former colleagues in his honor, does the same. Contributing chapters are: Paul Hiebert, Raymond Bakke, Roger Greenway, Samuel Escobar, Charles Kraft, William Dyrness, and others. The volume begins with a previously unpublished essay by Conn on missions and theology.
Cooperrider, D. L., & Whitney, D. (2005). Appreciate inquiry: A positive revolution in change. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
A truly revolutionary method of change management, Appreciative Inquiry (AI) emphasizes inquiry into strengths, rather than focusing exclusively on fixing weaknesses. Written by the originators and leaders of the AI movement, this accessible guide offers a practical introduction to the method, which has been used to significantly enhance customer satisfaction, cost competitiveness, revenues, profits, and employee engagement, as well as organizations' abilities to meet the needs of society. Full of exciting stories that illustrate its many applications and benefits, this is the most authoritative guide to Al. By using this change method to systematically tap human potential, organizations, communities, and individuals become more effective.
Cnaan, R. A., Boddie, S. C., Handy, F., Yancey, G. I., & Schneider, R. (2002). The invisible caring hand: American congregations and the provision of welfare. SUNY Press.
Based on in-depth interviews with clergy and lay leaders in 251 congregations nationwide, it reveals the many ways in which congregations are already working, beneath the radar, to care for people in need. This ground-breaking volume will provide much-sought empirical data to social scientists, religious studies scholars, and those involved in the debates over the role of faith-based organizations in faith-based services, as well as to clergy and congregation members themselves.
Friedman, E. H. (2017). A failure of nerve. New York: Church Publishing.
Friedman was the first to tell us that all organizations have personalities, like families, and to apply the insights of family therapy to churches and synagogues, rectors and rabbis, politicians and teachers. His understandings about our regressed, "seatbelt society," oriented toward safety rather than adventure, help explain the sabotage that leaders constantly face today. Suspicious of the "quick fixes" and instant solutions that sweep through our culture only to give way to the next fad, he argued for strength and self-differentiation as the marks of true leadership. His formula for success is more maturity, not more data; stamina, not technique; and personal responsibility, not empathy A Failure of Nerve was unfinished at the time of Friedman's death and originally published in a limited edition. This new edition cleans up some oversights in the original and brings his life-changing insights and challenges to a new generation of readers.
Garland, D. R., & Yancey, G. I. (2014). Congregational social work: Christian perspectives. North American Association of Christians in Social Work.
Congregational Social Work: Christian Perspectives by Drs. Diana Garland and Gaynor Yancey offers a compelling account of the many ways social workers serve the church as leaders of congregational life, of ministry to neighborhoods locally and globally, and of advocacy for social justice. Based on the most comprehensive study to date on social work with congregations, Congregational Social Work shares illuminating stories and experiences from social workers engaged in powerful and effective work within and in support of congregations throughout the US. Congregational Social Work work includes chapters on topics such as: what is church social work, congregations as context for social work, social workers as congregational leaders, and leading from charity to justice.
Harder, C. (2013). Discovering the Other: Asset-Based Approaches for Building Community Together. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
What is God's mission? Simply put, says theologian and field educator Cameron Harder, God's mission is to form communities that reflect and embody the life of the Trinity. Discovering the Other is an introduction to two tools that community builders have found helpful: appreciative inquiry and asset mapping. These tools help congregations see that all of life is saturated by the sacred and give them energy to begin living as if it were so. Instead of asking, 'What's wrong?' appreciative inquiry asks, 'What's right?' Asset mapping asks, 'What resources do you have personally that we could bring to our future together?' Out of these questions can arise a sense that every congregation is rich in history, people, and resources. Ideas emerge as people, inspired by the Spirit, listen and talk to each other. The leader's task is to facilitate, coalesce, and connect ideas, to catalyze and stimulate the development of vision. The creative connections lead to programs and projects that will enrich your congregation's mission. But most importantly, in the process they will engage you with others, with their stories, their hopes, their gifts - to build community. This book looks for God, not only through the lens of such tools, but in the tools themselves. It is an effort to understand how processes like appreciative inquiry and asset mapping reflect the character and community-building style of the God whom Christians worship as Divine community.
Jones, L. Gregory (2016). Christian social innovation: Renewing Wesleyan witness. The United Methodist Publishing House.
In business, startups seem to be the way to go these days. What can our faith communities learn from entrepreneurship? Christian Social Innovation author L. Gregory Jones looks at how our need to develop “fresh expressions” for gatherings of community and our desire to cultivate a renewed sense of mission are the basis for the growing interest in starting new churches and establishing church plants.
Keller, T. (2010). Generous justice. Penguin Books.
It is commonly thought in secular society that the Bible is one of the greatest hindrances to doing justice. Isn’t it full of regressive views? Didn’t it condone slavery? Why look to the Bible for guidance on how to have a more just society? But Timothy Keller challenges these preconceived beliefs and presents the Bible as a fundamental source for promoting justice and compassion for those in need. In Generous Justice, he explores a life of justice empowered by an experience of grace: a generous, gracious justice. This book offers readers a new understanding of modern justice and human rights that will resonate with both the faithful and the skeptical.
McLaren, B. (2004). A generous orthodoxy. Zondervan.
A Generous Orthodoxy calls for a radical, Christ-centered orthodoxy of faith and practice in a missional, generous spirit. Brian McLaren argues for a post-liberal, post-conservative, post-protestant convergence, which will stimulate lively interest and global conversation among thoughtful Christians from all traditions.In a sweeping exploration of belief, author Brian McLaren takes us across the landscape of faith, envisioning an orthodoxy that aims for Jesus, is driven by love, and is defined by missional intent. A Generous Orthodoxy rediscovers the mysterious and compelling ways that Jesus can be embraced across the entire Christian horizon. Rather than establishing what is and is not “orthodox,” McLaren walks through the many traditions of faith, bringing to the center a way of life that draws us closer to Christ and to each other. Whether you find yourself inside, outside, or somewhere on the fringe of Christianity, A Generous Orthodoxy draws you toward a way of living that looks beyond the “us/them” paradigm to the blessed and ancient paradox of “we.”
McNeal, R. (2003). The present future: Six tough questions for the church. Jossey-Bass.
McNeal identifies the six most important realities that church leaders must address including: recapturing the spirit of Christianity and replacing "church growth" with a wider vision of kingdom growth; developing disciples instead of church members; fostering the rise of a new apostolic leadership; focusing on spiritual formation rather than church programs; and shifting from prediction and planning to preparation for the challenges of an uncertain world. McNeal contends that by changing the questions church leaders ask themselves about their congregations and their plans, they can frame the core issues and approach the future with new eyes, new purpose, and new ideas.
Myers, B. L. (2006). Walking with the poor: Principles and practices of transformational development. Orbis Books.
Bryant Myers shows how Christian mission can contribute to dismantling poverty and social evil. Integrating the best principles and practice of the international development community, the thinking and experience of Christian nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and a theological framework for transformational development, Myers demonstrates what is possible when we cease to treat the spiritual and physical domains of life as separate and unrelated.
Rusaw, R., & Swanson, E. (2004). The externally focused church. Group Publishing, Inc.
Learn from churches that have made serving their communities a priority--with dramatic results. Your church can be a firm pillar in your community because of the unwavering truth and love of its members.
Sider, R., Olson, P. N., & Unruh, H. R. (2002). Churches that make a difference: Reaching your community good news and good works. Baker Books.
In Churches That Make a Difference, best-selling author Ron Sider and his coauthors give those involved in community outreach a comprehensive resource for developing holistic ministry--a balance of evangelism and social outreach. Illustrations and helpful organizational tips detail the how-to's of an effective holistic ministry. Case studies that show how different churches across the United States reach out to their communities provide a variety of ideas and practical applications. User-friendly tools are included as well for congregational studies, surveys, evaluations, and community assessments.
The authors draw on extensive experience with church ministries and faith-based organizations as they share the life-changing vision and biblical mandate for living the whole gospel. Church leaders will be encouraged in their process of developing and maintaining a holistic ministry, and local churches will rediscover a passion for loving the whole person the way Jesus did.
Snow, L. (2004). The Power of Asset Mapping: How Your Congregation Can Act on Its Gifts. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Asset mapping isn't a new system or theory. It's a way of thinking, a doorway into an "open-sum" perspective rooted in the Bible and common experience. The Power of Asset Mapping, by long-time community developer Luther K. Snow, shows congregational leaders how to help a group recognize its assets and the abundance of God's gifts and to act on them in ministry and mission. Congregations will find the book easy to read and immediately useful. Leaders can begin with the tested Quick and Simple Asset Mapping Experience to strengthen and inspire any group in the congregation in as little as an hour. Futher tips, techniques, stories, and lessons drawn from the experience of diverse congregations will help readers discover how asset mapping works. Finally, Snow provides lessons about why asset mapping strengthens faith and community.
Stearns, R. (2009). The hole in our gospel: The answer that changed my life and might just change the world. Thomas Nelson.
Is our faith only about going to church, studying the Bible, and avoiding the most serious sins? Or does God expect more? Have we embraced the whole gospel or a gospel with a hole in it? More than twenty years ago, Rich Stearns came face-to-face with that question as he sat in a mud hut in Rakai, Uganda, listening to the heartbreaking story of an orphaned child. Stearns’s journey took much more than a long flight to Africa. It took answering God’s call on his life, a call that tore him out of his corner office at one of America’s most prestigious corporations, to walk with the poorest of the poor in our world. Stearns’s compelling story demonstrates that the whole gospel was always meant to be a world-changing social revolution, a revolution that begins with each one of us.
Swanson, E., & Williams, S. (2010). To transform a city. Zondervan.
To Transform a City is a timely, compelling book that helps readers understand how to think about cities, their own city, and the broad strategies needed for kingdom impact. The book begins with an overview of the importance of cities in the new day in which we live. The authors address the process of transformation along with examples of where and how communities have been transformed throughout history. After writing a persuasive chapter on kingdom thinking the authors unfold the meaning of the whole church, the whole gospel, and the whole city. The book ends with the need for people of good faith to work together in the city with people of good will for the welfare of the city.
Sweeney, C. (2011). A new kind of big: How churches of any size can partner to transform communities. Baker Books.
A New Kind of Big tells the inspiring story of how Perimeter Church in suburban Atlanta started a partnership called Unite! with other area churches in order to increase its reach in a community that desperately needed God's light and aid. This partnership has grown to a network of nearly 150 churches that are bringing kingdom transformation to Atlanta. For instance, on just one weekend in 2007, 6,000 volunteers from over 60 churches in metro Atlanta gathered to work on 250 service projects inside the ten-mile radius around Perimeter Church. Thirty welcome baskets were delivered to refugees, a dozen homes were repaired, a thousand Bibles were given away, 750 "encourage a teacher" gift bags were distributed. And that's not all: volunteers orchestrated 20 block parties in low-income apartment communities and 65 neighborhood food drives that collected 25,000 pounds of food. Chip Sweney shows Christian leaders how they too can discover the power of this "new kind of big" to pool their resources, energy, and time to minister to their communities, no matter how long or short their membership rolls.
Wind, J. P., & Lewis, J. W. (1994). American congregations (Vol. 2). The University of Chicago Press.
American Congregations, Volume 2: New Perspectives in the Study of Congregations builds upon the empirical foundation provided by the historical studies in volume 1 of the Congregational History Project. Volume 2 addresses three crucial questions: Where is the congregation located on the broader map of American cultural and religious life? What are the distinctive qualities, tasks, and roles of the congregation or parish in American culture? And, what patterns of leadership characterize American congregations? Published simultaneously, these two volumes combine engaging historical studies with incisive scholarsly analysis to focus attention on the central role of congregational studies in research and teaching of American religion.
Cnaan, R. A., Boddie, S. C., & Yancey, G. (2003). Bowling alone but serving together: The congregational norm of community involvement. In: Corwin Smidt (Ed.). Religion, Social Capital, and Democratic Life. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 19-31
Garland, D. (2012). Is that church on fire? A unique moment of opportunity for Social Work leadership. Social Work and Christianity,. 9(1), 88-99.