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. Not to think about the summer slump.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!