Here are the second five of my top ten books for Christmas. They are not always religious books but they are interesting and helpful. With each book I enclose information provided by followed by my comments: “Why I recommend this book.”

Bridges Out of Poverty: Strategies for Professionals and Communities by Ruby K. Payne, Philip E. DeVol and Terie Dreussi Smith. Based in part on Dr. Ruby K. Payne’s myth shattering A Framework for Understanding Poverty, Bridges reaches out to the millions of service providers and businesses whose daily work connects them with the lives of people in poverty. In a highly readable format you’ll find case studies, detailed analysis, helpful charts and exercises, and specific solutions you and your organization can implement right now to: Redesign programs to better serve people you work with; Build skill sets for management to help guide employees; Upgrade training for front-line staff like receptionists, case workers, and managers; Improve treatment outcomes in health care and behavioral health care; Increase the likelihood of moving from welfare to work. If your business, agency, or organization works with people from poverty, only a deeper understanding of their challenges-and strengths-will help you partner with them to create opportunities for success.

Why I recommend this book: “Even though the minimum wage has been raised several times, the arithmetic of life is still not working for people at the bottom of the ladder… ‘Bridges Out of Poverty’ is a starting point where one can develop accurate mental models of poverty, middle class and wealth. It is a new lens through which readers can view themselves, their clients and the community. No significant learning occurs without significant relationship.” – Philip E. DeVol. I have learned more about how to understand poverty and people who are in poverty from “Bridges” than any other source. Any church leader would greatly benefit from reading the book or taking the course on “Bridges Out of Poverty.”

Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You by John Ortberg. The soul is NOT “a theological and abstract subject.” The soul is the coolest, eeriest, most mysterious, evocative, crucial, sacred, eternal, life-directing, fragile, indestructible, controversial, expensive dimension of your existence. Jesus said it’s worth more than the world. You’d be an idiot not to prize it above all else. Shouldn’t you get pretty clear on exactly what it is? Shouldn’t you know what it runs on? Wouldn’t it be worth knowing how to care for it? Two things are for sure. One is: you have a soul. The other is: if you don’t look after this one you won’t be issued a replacement. John Ortberg writes another classic that will help readers discover their soul and take their relationship with God to the next level.

Why I recommend this book: “The life of the village depended on the health of the stream. The stream is your soul and you are the keeper. Most people, at most times, in most places, at most ages, have believed that human beings have some kind of souls. We know it matters. We suspect it’s important. But we’re not sure what it means.” – John Ortberg. We use the word soul to describe heart, attitude, eternal life but what do we mean when we talk about our soul? What are we doing to care for our soul? How is God involved? All of us need to be more aware of our souls and how we provide care and nourishment.

High Yield: Seven Disciplines of the Fruitful Leader by Tom Berlin and Lovett H. Weems Jr. Just as in the world of agriculture, many variables influence fruitfulness. Leader behaviors are among the most important of those variables. Whether by training or intuition, fruitful leaders develop a set of practices that serve them well and bear much fruit. These practices often become second nature to these leaders, and thus they seldom think to share them with other leaders who may be struggling. Dr. Lovett H. Weems Jr. and Tom Berlin provide a vital resource to leaders through High Yield, a book that consists of a series of short chapters on leadership practices the authors have found most fruitful in their leadership and what they’ve seen exemplified in others. While many of these practices are common among diverse leaders, their implementation is as unique as the leaders themselves.

Why I recommend this book: “It is important for leaders in the church to understand that we are working in sand. I would prefer concrete. If we were working in concrete, decisions made at a meeting would set and be accepted by everyone. Congregations would not vacillate. Strong programs would remain strong. Meaningful ministries would not suffer from mission creep or the fluctuations that come with the ebb and flow of committed volunteers. Staff members who excel at their work would never take a job elsewhere. That would be great but that is not the way ministry works.” – Tom Berlin. If you want to make good leadership decisions in the ebb and flow environment of the church, this is an important book to read.

A Space for Peace in the Holy Land: Listening to Modern Israel and Palestine by Alex Joyner. A resource for Christian churches seeking to make a faithful response to the suffering experienced by the people of the Holy Land — Christians, Jews, and Muslims. By looking back at the modern history of the region, we can see the sources of the conflict, dispel some of the myths, and appreciate the complexities of the situation. This book also offers some theological resources for grounding our responses in something deeper than what is generally offered in the intertwining, overlapping, and competing claims.

Why I recommend this book: “Why read a book about all the troubles between Palestinian Muslims and Christians and Israeli Jews? Most of us would rather not even think about it. In ‘A Space for Peace’ Alex Joyner challenges Christians to bear witness to the space that God has opened in the world by the empty tomb of Jesus Christ, to pray and work for the reconciliation of Palestinians and Jews in the Middle East, and to support those persons, institutions and policies that will make for peace in this most contested place in the world. The vision that he presents does not allow us to succumb to frustration or ideological posturing but challenges us to serve the work of reconciliation that God has entrusted to us through Jesus Christ.” – Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker

Attract Families to Your Church And Keep them Coming Back by Linda Ranson Jacobs. To grow and remain vital, churches need to attract families. But the cultural landscape has changed and any church may have two-parent families with children, blended families, boomerang families, adult children of divorce and their families or lack of families, single adults whose family is the church, grandparents parenting again, childless families, co-habitation families, and children with three legal parents. What ministries are helpful in attracting and keeping families active and engaged in the life and mission of the church? This book will help church pastors and leaders navigate the changing tides in ministry to become the kind of church that families want to attend, where the church’s dynamic faith invites families who may then bring their friends.

Why I recommend this book: “Churches are going to have to embrace societal change. Many churches are trapped in the last century and in particular in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. Their congregations are still arguing about singing hymns with a choir and organ or rejoicing with praise songs, a keyboard and a praise team. We have moved beyond that argument.” – Linda Jacobs. “Leave it to Beaver” has evolved to “Modern Family.” The church however has changed very little. Attract Families offers real solutions that can work with today’s families. The change is never easy but it is necessary. This book is a must read.

There you have it. Five more books to put in your stocking. I pray you find reading them to be useful. Merry Christmas.