Health and Growth

20 Summer Book Recommendations for Pastors, Church Leaders, and Curious Christians

Looking for a book to read this summer? Whether you’re a pastor, church leader, or a curious Christian, there are plenty of options to choose from in this list.

20 Summer Book Recommendations for Pastors, Church Leaders, and Curious Christians
by

The summer months are a great time to recharge your batteries. One of the most affordable, rewarding, and beneficial things you can do to refuel yourself this summer is to read more books.

But here’s the thing about books:

There are a gazillion books to choose from.

In 2013, there were nearly 1.5 million books (new titles and non-traditional) published. What is more, these numbers don't include the millions of books already in circulation. Needless to say, that’s a lot of books you don’t have time to read—even if you can read a 240-page book in two hours.

To help you cut through the clutter this summer, we have a list of old and new book recommendations for pastors, church leaders, and curious Christians to read this summer.

#1. The Bible

This recommendation isn’t a Jesus Juke, and I’m not suggesting this in a tongue-in-cheek way, either.

This summer, you’ll have a better opportunity to read more books than you can throughout the year. Activities in your church have winded down. You probably have a vacation scheduled. And there’s a good chance your pastoral duties have reduced since a lot of your congregation is on vacation, too.

Regardless of how much or little spare time you have, this summer is an excellent opportunity to read the Bible more often than you usually do. In the words of Charles Spurgeon, “Visit many good books, but live in the Bible.”

#2. The Gift and the Giver

The Gift and the Giver by Peter Greer and David Weekly is a short and accessible primer on fundraising that packs an encouraging punch. Even though the focus of this book is on fundraising for non-profits, the advice the authors share will give you a fresh Kingdom perspective on unleashing generosity in your congregation.

#3. Crazy Busy

Life is busy in the church.

According to polls, the median workweek for pastors is 50 hours. In other words, among pastors polled, 50% of them worked more than 50 hours per week.

In Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem, author Kevin DeYoung shares straightforward biblical advice you need to take control of your life. And, true the book's title, you can read this is one sitting.

#4. Reset

Talking about busyness in pastoral ministry, Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture was written especially for pastors and men to help them overcome the unique challenges they face in pastoral ministry. There’s no better time to hit a reset than the summer!

#5. The Pastor

The Pastor: A Memoir by Eugene Peterson is his reflection on life, calling, and pastoring for more than 30 years. After reflecting on his ministry, one of the key takeaways Eugene shares is that ministry is really about connecting with and caring for people, which sounds like a great idea this summer!

#6. George Washington’s Secret Six

George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution has all of the ingredients for a fun summer read: secrecy, espionage, betrayal, and unsung heroes.

20 Summer Book Recommendations for Pastors, Church Leaders, and Curious Christians @tithelyapp

#7. In The Heart of the Sea

I don’t intend to discourage you from swimming this summer, but In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex will take you on a journey of ambition, desperation, and survival. In case you didn’t know, this true story of the destruction of the Whaleship Essex was an inspirational source behind Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick.  

#8. In Garden of Beasts

Why was the world oblivious to the rise of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany? Get a real-time look of Germany in 1933 as events unfolded through the eyes of William Dodd, the United States first ambassador to Hitler’s Nazi Germany in In Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin.

P.S. You can’t go wrong with anything by Erik Larson

#9. Streamline

Does it feel like you're stuck on a treadmill in your ministry? Like you’re constantly busy, but you’re not actually moving forward?

Before starting a new service, spending a ton of cash on a new outreach event, or hiring an expensive branding agency, open up the hood of your church to see if you have a systems problem.

In Streamline: How to Create Healthy Church Systems, Michael Lukaszewski shares practical advice on how you can align every ministry of your church and implement live-giving systems that will help you and your church focus on what’s most important.

#10. The Pilgrim’s Progress

The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan is a classic on the Christian life. Charles Spurgeon claimed to have read it at least one hundred times, and Garrett Kell, lead pastor of Del Ray Baptist Church, said, “I don’t think you can read The Pilgrim’s Progress too many times.”

Whether it’s time to read this classic for the first time, or to dust off your old copy to read for the second, third, or fourth time, this summer is ideal to join Pilgrim on his journey through the Christian life.

#11. Amusing Ourselves to Death

The introduction of Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business is worth the cost of the book alone. Originally published in 1985, this book paints a prophetic picture of what our life, businesses, and churches look like if they succumb to a culture of entertainment.

#12. Lectures to My Students

Talking about Charles Spurgeon, his book, Lectures to My Students, is a compilation of talks Charles gave to pastors and pastors in training in his church’s college. There is a tremendous amount of wisdom you can glean from this entire book, but several sections merit reading if you’re really pressed for time, such as "The Minister’s Self-Watch," "The Call to The Ministry,"and "The Preacher’s Private Prayer."

#13. Sticky Teams

Are you disappointed with the state of your staff? Do you desire to build a healthier team? Regardless of the size of your church or the length of time you’ve been in church ministry, you’ll learn practical ways you can build a healthier church culture in Sticky Teams: Keeping Your Leadership Team and Staff on the Same Page by Larry Osborne.

#14. Gilead

Gilead: A Novel by Marilynne Robinson is a story about a pastor from a small mid-western town, John Ames, who’s at the end of his life and desires to pass on a legacy of faith to his son. As you read through this fictional account, you’ll be led to recapture the joy of ministry as you peer through the eyes of a dying man who loved his life, his church, and his family.

#15. The Imperfect Pastor

In The Imperfect Pastor: Discovering Joy in Our Limitations through a Daily Apprenticeship with Jesus, Zack Eswine offers a brutally honest, yet refreshing take on pastoral ministry. For pastors both young and old, you’ll be recharged in Jesus as you read this book

#16. Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering

Here’s an unfortunate reality for every person (Christians included): You have suffered, or you will go through a period of suffering (Acts 14:22).

Alright, after that encouraging public announcement, Tim Keller’s Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering is a well-rounded book on this topic you can read. From providing a biblical foundation for suffering to giving practical advice, this is a helpful book to have in your library as a resource to refer to for personal and pastoral guidance.

#17. Building a Storybrand

Reaching people with the gospel is easier said than done. From text messages, emails, social media, and advertisements, people are bombarded with a slew of messages every day.

To help you cut through this clutter and clarify your message, Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen by Donald Miller is worth its weight in gold.

Related: How to Quickly Create a Communication Strategy for Your Church

#18. The One Thing

Frank Barry, the COO of Tithe.ly, highly recommends church leaders to read The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller. In The ONE Thing, Gary walks you through how you can eliminate distractions and focus on doing the work that matters most.

#19. Newton on the Christian Life

You probably know John Newton as the songwriter of "Amazing Grace” who was redeemed from a life in the slave trade, but did you he left behind a rich history of pastoral letters on the Christian life? In Newton on the Christian Life: To Live is Christ, Tony Reinke highlights key themes from Newton’s writing that will be like drinking a cold glass of water on a hot summer day for your soul.

#20. The Invention of Hugo Cabret

I asked my ten-year-old son, Jude, what book he’d recommend parents to read with their kids, and the first one he shouted out was The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznik. This book is an enchanting, heart-warming, and enjoyable read you can enjoy by yourself or with your family.

What book do you recommend for pastors, church leaders, and curious Christians to read this summer? Share your suggestions in the comments below!

Why Write Church Donation Letters?

In a previous blog post, I shared the different ways your church can thank donors—from automated emails to year-end giving reports. Printed donation letters also play an essential role in your church’s stewardship efforts.

Donation letters are the Swiss Army knife of your church’s gratitude arsenal. It may not be the most powerful—but it’s versatile, handy, and gets used often.

Your basic church donation letter can serve many different purposes, including:

  • Acknowledging that you received a donation
  • Thanking the giver for being generous with their finances
  • Sharing other ways the person can support your church
  • Allowing the donor to write the gift off on their taxes
  • Encouraging supporters to make recurring donations
  • Requesting future donations from church members

A single, well-crafted donation letter can pull together several of these things simultaneously. Better donation letters lead to more giving, which leads to more donation letters—thus creating a cycle of on-going church generosity.

Church Donation Letter Samples

Here’s the good news—you don’t have to write an individualized letter for every person who gives to your church. That would be tough to do for even smaller churches. And most donors don’t expect you to. They’d rather you be putting their gift to better use in the community, instead of ceaselessly writing thank you notes.

With the possible exception of some unique circumstances, your church can use template language for the majority of your church donation letters. You’ll have to add in custom details like the donor’s name and gift amount, but you can write everything else in advance.  

To make this even easier on you, here are a few basic church donation letter templates you can copy and paste. Keep in mind that not all of these have to be in print—you could just as easily turn some of these samples into email appeals.

1. Donation Acknowledgment Letter

The Donation Acknowledgement Letter is a basic way you can confirm and affirm a monetary gift to your church. Sending these is standard practice in church and nonprofit culture.

Dear [first name],
I want to personally thank you for your donation of [gift amount] to [church name]. We’re honored you would bless us with your generosity. Donations like yours make a big difference in the work our church is doing in the community.
Without givers like you, our church can’t have an impact or influence in our community. With your support, we’re partnering with local nonprofits, sending out global mission trips, and hosting small groups on topics that help real people like you. Together, we can make a difference.
Because we’re a tax-exempt nonprofit, you also get to write this donation off on your taxes. This letter serves as official proof of your donation, so keep it in your records come tax season. At the end of the year, we’ll also send you an annual recap with how much you’ve given to the church.
Thank you for supporting [church name]!
Sincerely,
[your name]

2. Donation Request Letter

Not every church member realizes the importance of giving, or understand Bible verses about tithing and giving.  So a Donation Request Letter helps to spread that awareness and encourage a spirit of generosity.

Dear [first name],
How are the finances in your household? That was a rhetorical question, so you don’t have to answer—besides, this is a letter so we wouldn’t hear you anyway. But we still want you to think about that question.
Money is a uniquely human issue, one we all struggle with to one degree or another. Even if you’re financially blessed, you still have the burden of stewarding your money wisely. And we believe that one of the best ways to invest your money is into the local church.
Tithing (giving 10% of your income) on a regular basis not only supports the work we do at [church name]. It doesn’t just support local missions and community growth. It also shows an obedience to God by making his work a financial priority in your life.
So if you find yourself ready to put God first in both your heart and your wallet, we encourage you to make a one-time gift or sign up to make recurring donations. That way, you won’t have to ever wonder again about the financial status of your household.
Sincerely,
[your name]

3. Monthly Giving Letter

Many church donations aren’t just one-time gifts. Plenty of givers contribute monthly—and that should be acknowledged.

Use this template to correspond with recurring givers.  

Dear [first name],
Thank you for being an active and faithful member of our church community. By giving to our church on a monthly basis, you’re showing that our church has a meaningful place in your heart. We just wanted to write this to let you know that you’re in our heart, too.
Donating to the church monthly allows us to preach the gospel, make disciples, and support others in our community who need help. Others like the local food bank and the nearby homeless shelter. We’re answering the cry of the needy, and it’s all thanks to contributors like you.
We earnestly appreciate your ongoing support and want to let you know we’re here for you. If there’s ever anything we can do for you and your family, don’t hesitate to reach out. You are a valued member of our church family. And you’re financial support is making a difference.
Sincerely,
[your name]

4. Year-End Giving Letter

At the end of each year, it’s customary to give your church supporters a summary of their gifts. The primary reason is for tax purposes, but it’s also a way to recap everything your church has done over the past year with their support.

Dear [first name],
You’re getting this letter because you gave to [church name] at some point during the past year. That might have been a one-time gift, or recurring donations. Either way, we want to thank you for your generous support. Every contribution helps.
One of the official reasons for this letter is for tax purposes. That’s right—you get to write these donations off on your taxes. Which is why we’ve included a summary of all the contributions you’ve made to our church this year.
But the other reason for this letter is to let you know what we’ve done with the money you gave. We take stewardship very seriously, which means we value spending our time and resources wisely.
During the year, our church supported local nonprofits, sent global missions teams, and baptised quite a few people. It was a great year for us—thanks in large part to donors like you.
So thank you for your support of our church, and we hope you’ll consider continuing to contribute to our mission in the coming year.
Sincerely,
[your name]  

5. Church Fundraising Letter

Sometimes you need to make a more significant financial push using tried and true church fundraising ideas. Some churches call this a Stewardship Campaign or a Church Capital Campaign. Either way, the goal is to raise a certain amount of money for a big project. And typically, a solid letter of appeal is an integral part of that.

Dear [first name],
God has a plan for everyone and everything. That includes you, and it includes [church name]. None of us can fully know God’s plan—the best we can do is pray and listen for clarity. Our church leadership has been doing just that and are excited to announce our latest church project.
[Detail the outline of the major church project—this could include a building campaign, or raising support for a global mission trip. Anything specific to your church that requires a fundraising letter. Be sure to include a fundraising goal so everyone knows what you’re shooting for.]
But we can’t pull this off without your support. Whether you give to the church on a regular basis, or just attend on occasion, we’re asking you to consider contributing to this massive undertaking prayerfully. It’s something we need our entire church community’s help with.
Even if you can’t make a large gift, know that every little bit helps. It’s more about coming together as a community united behind a common cause. We hope that you’ll consider making a donation towards this great step forward that we’re making together.
Sincerely,
[your name]

Tips when writing church donation letters

It’s not enough to just copy and paste this content and send away. The key to an effective church donation letter is a touch of personalization. Follow these tips to take your donation letters to the next level:

  • Examples: Add specific examples of how your church will use the donation. Tell a story about the work your church is doing in the community and connect that with giving.
  • Personalization: For regular donors, don’t be afraid to add a short, handwritten personal note. This shows that you’ve singled them out with praise.
  • Timeliness: Sending donation letters quickly reminds people you’re thankful for them. But this also takes organization and efficiency. All the more reason to use pre-written templates.
  • Storytelling: Everything is better with stories—including donation letters. Weave in a specific narrative of how your church is making a difference and how the money will be used.

There’s no one right or wrong way to write a donation letter or request contributions. You’ve got to do what is right for your church and congregation. But if you stick to these general tips, you’ll probably start to see some traction when it comes to giving.

What’s next?

Most people don’t love talking about money in church. But it’s a necessary and vital part of your church. And maximizing your efforts when it comes to donation letters will help make those conversations more comfortable. So what do you do next to put this into effect?

  • Customize these letters: Take the samples above and make them work for your church. Personalize the content. Remove the stuff that doesn’t sound genuine and add in stuff that does. Remember that these are just a starting point.
  • Create some systems: Develop processes that make it easy for you to replicate sending donation letters. Use a letter template that allows you to drop in names and details. Then develop guidelines for when these letters will be sent out.
  • Empower a champion: Find out who is going to be responsible for making these letters happen. Rather than thinking of this as adding more work to their plate, think about how you can elevate their work. This could be a staff member, or a volunteer.
  • Start sending: All of this will be for nothing if you don’t actually send out the letters. Take the time to get it right and get them into the hands of your church donors.

And if you’re looking for ways to grow your church’s giving capacity, Tithely can help.

We provide several different ways your church members can support your church financially—from online giving, text to give solutions, and giving kiosks.

Tithely’s systems make it as easy as possible for people to give to your church. Now all you need to start doing is generating a culture of gratitude. There’s nothing standing in your way. Go unleash generosity in your church.

How does your church use donation letters to spread generosity? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Editor's Note: This is a guest post from Robert Carnes. Robert is a writer and storyteller. He's the author of The Original Storyteller: Become a Better Storyteller in 30 Days. A former church communicator and nonprofit marketer, Robert works as a managing editor for Orange in Atlanta.

Blog

20 Summer Book Recommendations for Pastors, Church Leaders, and Curious Christians