Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Book Review Choosing Change

Change is not easy. At least most of the time. Change usually brings up a lot of anxiety especially when it involves something new, something different. Major shifts in life; a new job, a new house, a marriage, having children often causes stress, strain, and many emotions! But as humans we have to change, its natural. We age. We grow. The question is not whether or not we're going to change but how we navigate those challenging times in our life.

Peter Coutts' new book Choosing Change: How to Motivate Churches to Face the Future (Hendon, VA: Alban Publishing, 2013) is a book for pastors and lay leaders who are dealing with change. Coutts has over twenty years experience in congregational life and has taught in the Dmin. program at McCormick Seminary in Chicago. His many years of parish life combined with his teaching ability gives Coutts the credibility to write this book. This is no ordinary book either, it reads as if the author is right there with you, leading you by the hand through the numerous thickets and briars of change.

No one likes change, well at least most folks. Parishioners generally don't like change either. In one vignette in this book Coutts talks about just the small change when he moved the pulpit on Sunday morning caused a ruckus in the congregation. I read that and smiled, been there, done that. Most communities like status quo and stability. Change comes hard. After all Jesus' main message in the gospel is "repent" a word which means change, not many folks wanted to follow. Thankfully some did!

Choosing Change is divided into two major sections:

Introduction to Motivation Theory 

Practice of Motivational Leadership 

While I understand some theory was important for this book I found part one to be less satisfying than part two.

What I really enjoyed about the book however was that Coutts offers many real life examples from his own life as well as stories from other parishes which he weaves throughout his narrative. I also liked that fact that he pauses at times and provides some easy to read bullet points for later re-reading and reference.

Coutts reminds clergy especially that change brings up a lot of anxiety and worry in people. Change is and often can be scary. A long time pastor leaves parish ministry, a parish closes, a parish is aging. All these things can bring up bad feelings in people. Change can also be good too. A small mission parish grows. A parish begins a building program. A young new pastor begins ministry. Change can be exhilarating at times too. Yet Coutts shows us that there are key factors in how communities and individuals change.

Choosing Change is a must read for any newly ordained pastor or parish council/vestry leader.

For more information about Choosing Change click on this link