We had a couple of book questions come in, and with many matriarchs busy with the beginning of Lent and winter storms and travel, we didn't get as much input this week. But that's OK, it's Valentine's Day, so instead of trading chocolates and stuffed animals, why don't we trade book recommendations? The matriarchs will get us started. Here are the two questions:
1. Recommended reading for Christianity 101
A man slightly connected to our church is married to a woman who grew up unchurched (not negative about Christianity, just totally unknowing except for what she has seen in the media). He would like to get more involved but it is not on her radar; are there any books or resources that you have found that are Christianity 101-- interesting and challenging and inviting? They have a toddler who received a
nativity book for Christmas and the dad would like the child to have some interaction with church.
2. Recommended reading for the newly ordained
What one book (besides the scriptures) should every new clergy read in the first year? Why?
The only two that come to mind for Christianity are: Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis and Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. I'm sad to say that's all I've got; I'll be interested to see what others recommend.
For the second question: Hands-down my top pick would be Eugene Peterson's The Contemplative Pastor. I read this early in my first pastorate and found that it really helped ground me in what is most important for my ministry. All these years later, I am still aware of how much it shaped/shapes how I think of my ministry, and I find I refer to his concepts. I especially like to go back and read the chapter called "The Subversive Pastor." I think it ought to be required reading for all pastors - and maybe their congregations, too!
Peripatetic Polar Bear notes that reading just one book may fall well short:
The one book besides the scripture I recommend new clergy read is.............I can't. I cannot recommend one book. Here's what I recommend: read some novels, some poetry. Dip into a memoir. Read some blogs, and some magazines. Roll around with words that are beautiful and funny and joyful and sad. Wrap yourself into books that will entertain you, that will challenge you, and that will feed all the other parts of your brain that have been STARVING during those 3 (or more) years of seminary. I mean, Barth is great and all, but my guess is you've been reading the theology and ethics and haven't had a lot of time for everything else.
You have plenty going on in your first year of ministry: lots of adjustments, lots to learn on the job. Cut yourself a break, read for joy. Take the first year out to formulate the questions: and once you know what it is that you don't know, then go in search of books (or better yet--continuing education opportunities) to address those questions.
Want another reason? The best writers are insatiable readers. The more time you spend with words,conventional wisdom goes, the greater your skill in using them to create prose that is lively and fluid. Wouldn't the same advice apply to preachers?
Do you have any books you would recommend for these two groups of people? Share them in the comments! And feel free to submit your questions about your ministry to AskTheMatriarch@gmail.com.
And happy St. Valentine's Day to everyone!