Church Involvement

Category: Books

Creativity and Ministry

Creative Thinking and Ministry

A few weeks ago my wife, our two best friends and I were in New England. On the way back home we stayed in Lancaster, PA.   We stayed in a new motel by the Hilton group called “TRU Hilton.”   It is intentionally designed to cater to the “millennial” age group.    Attached is a picture of the lobby.   The walls are multi-colored, the free breakfast is very ‘healthy’, there is a huge 55 inch TV in each room, there is no wood furniture, long tubes of shampoo and soap were attached to the bathroom wall (versus free small bottles) and wood floors (versus carpeted floors).   To an old geezer like me, it was shocking and to be honest, it was a bit uncomfortable.  My wife said it felt cold and industrial.   I must give the folks at Hilton some credit:  they are creative in their attempts to reach a younger generation of consumers.

I mention this experience for several reasons one of which is that some congregations of the church are no longer creative.   Unfortunately, some of us have lost our creativity and some of us will mark anyone who exerts any creativity as progressive or a trouble-maker.   We are not creative in reaching the younger generations for example.    We are competing with the world which spends billions in being creative in promoting their products and philosophies.   We’ve got to rethink how we do things.   Doing the average or just getting by will not get it done.

One of the most helpful books that I’ve read in recent days is Howard Hendricks’ Color Outside the Lines.   Most of us know him as a conservative commentator, but he is also a genius on the topic of creativity.

In the closing chapter of his book, he lists the three stages of discipleship:  (1)Learning, (2) following and (3) sharing.   Many Christians I know are stuck in the first step and have been there since the day they were baptized into Christ.   Few have moved to actually emulating the Christ and sharing Him with lost friends and family.

Why is this?   I think the answer is simple: we have not been creative in showing how we are to emulate Christ and share Him.   We have equated Biblical learning (alone) with soundness.   However, if you closely study the lives of such folks as Jesus, Peter and Paul, you will see their creativity.   They were sound, but also creative in maturing Christians.

Our ministries should be creative in recruiting and training participants. We need ministries that have been created and based upon real needs.   We should encourage creative thinking among ministry leaders and members.   It is rather obvious that those who promote the use of

alcohol and other products (harmful or otherwise) are very creative.   It is past time for God’s children to be as wise as serpents and gentle as doves, and we can be as learn to be creative.   Our Lord can do beyond what we ask or think; He is the ultimate in creativity.   Look at His stories, parables, miracles, questions, the visuals that He uses (e.g. the Lord’s Supper is one of the most visual things He uses for our good), the very creation of everything, the variety is creation and the list goes on.

I strongly recommend, that each church and ministry leader read Howard Hendricks’ book and start to promote forward/creative thinking.   The payoff, in my estimation, will be continued spiritual and numerical growth.  I am not advocating changing the gospel.   However, I AM advocating changing much of our methodology in teaching the gospel and actually promoting following Christ (as disciples) and showing our brethren how to share the gospel with the lost.   It starts with elders and deacons who must learn to “color outside the lines” by being creative in their thinking.    Travis Irwin, Athens, TN

Note:  Steve Cummings of Tusculum church of Christ, Nashville, just recommended these two books: 

Ed Young, in his book, “The Creative Leader,” talks about how hard it is to be creative. If you haven’t read that book, I would recommend you put it on your “to do” list. I also recommend the book, “Every Leader Is An Artist.”
Steve also did his preaching this past Sunday from a fishing boat; you can go to his church’s webpage to find this.  While this method was because of COVID-19, similar creative methods could be used under “normal” circumstances.    Thanks Steve.

Books I Recommend

Books1Some Helpful Books

Every minister has his favorite books and so do I.   The following is a partial list of books I have found helpful in my involvement ministry as I write, speak, teach, coach and share. There are no perfect books except the Bible, so please don’t think that I agree with every single word in them. Each has a mustard seed that makes each worthy of ownership and reading. Please share what your favorites are.

Thriving in the Second Chair by Mike Bonem (

Leading from the Second Chair: Serving Your Church, Fulfilling Your Role and Realizing Your Dreams by Mike Bonem and Roger Patterson

Me & You and the People in the Pews by Tracy Moore.   Tracy looks at the four different personality traits of people in the church and defines them and shows some possible positives and negatives.  He applies the fruit of the Spirit to them and makes suggestions.   This is really a neat book and one that would make for a very interesting and challenging adult study in a congregation.   Jenkins Institute is the publisher.   I highly recommend the book for personal enlightenment or to use in an adult Bible class.  Tracy will be out keynote speaker at the 3rd annual Church Involvement Conference on January 18 & 19, 2019.

Everyday Genesis by Nika Maples.   When I was undergoing cancer treatment in 2016, several people recommended Nika’s book Hurting Hope.   My wife and I read it and it appeared to be a dark book (its subtitle is “Dig Through the Darkness to Find the Light”; I guess it’s subtitle warns you of its darker side).   However, her latest book Everyday Genesis is a bright and hopeful book.  Nika has much better health than she did in her first book and she is determined for find her place in God’s economy.   I love this book because she discovered her spiritual gift and used it.   I will not give away the story, but I believe that every serious child of God should read it.   I think it would be a good Bible class read.

The Art of Neighboring by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon, and The Neighboring Church by Rick Rusaw and Brian Mavis.   Both of these books quote each other and the topic is the same:  we need to follow the second command of loving our neighbors as we love ourselves.   The book is biblical and full of stories and suggestions on how to be better neighbors which in turn makes us better and more effective in our faith as Christians.   This is faith and a gospel that is seen by a lost of dying world.   Every church needs to have classes on this topic; these two books would make for great study and discussion.

Growing Young by Kara Powell, Jake Mulder and Brad Griffin.   It’s old news that churches are losing millennials are a record pace—in fact, most/many millennials have rejected the Christian religion.   In their book, the authors encourage the church to think and grow young as a means of reaching the younger generations.   This is a well thought out and documented book and is worthy of our study.   If we are really interested in the lost youth, we will read this and make necessary changes.

Living Forward, A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want by Michael Hyatt an Daniel Harkavy.   There are dozens of books like this and this one of the most practical of them all.   Most of us, and even most churches, are drifting; we have no passion and we are making no progress.   We have little direction in our lives and it shows.   If you are serious about “Living Forward” and living a life of intention, this book is for you.   These two men offer the help needed to do what many of us have intended to do all our lives.

Created for Good Deeds by Mike O’Neal (21st Century Christian).  I met Mike last week.  He is a retired NASA employee and is a very interesting person to talk to.  You might want to check out his website at  He has written 3 books and this is the one that I have bought and read.   It is a ‘must’ for an involvement minister because this is what involvement ministry is all about:  good deeds.  Mike’s book is a biblical study of God’s creating us for good deeds; it is well exegeted and he has everyday illustrations of people who do good deeds.  I’ve never seen such a book: it is easy to read and it is not heavy like some books of this nature.   It is as practical as it is  biblical.   If you want to get your brethren ‘pumped’ for doing good deeds, this is the book to study.   It also includes excellent discussion questions.

Mind Set–The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck of Stanford University.   Dr. Dweck has discovered that there are 2 basic mind sets in humans: the that says  (1)  I can’t change and the other which says (2)  I can change.   If your mind set is set (inflexible) you cannot and will not success.   However, if you are open to being more and learning more, you are more likely to be successful.   The reason I like this book is because many Christians think they can’t grow and change (fwhich is alse doctrine) and the same can be said of churches.   However, if Christians and churches are to grow spiritually and numerically they must have an open mind that God can change them and empower them for such growth.

The New Breed–Understanding & Equipping the 21st Century Volunteer by Jonathan and Thomas McKee

This book was recommended to me by Joshua Pappas of  LaVergne church of Christ (TN).   Written by a father and son, when read, you will learn how to approach millennials and folks that are self-centered when needing volunteers.   An excellent read for elders, deacons and those who have to ask for volunteers.

The Equipping Church Serving Together to Transform Lives by Sue Mallory.   This is a standard book on involvement and worthy of reading.   Sue Mallory is encouraging her readers to produce disciples.   Very practical.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All Gary McIntosh

Every congregation and every person is different and should be treated in that manner.    Gary McIntosh has several good books that everyone should read.

3 books on coaching:   Coaching for Christian Leaders by Linda Miller and Chad Hall, Christian Coaching by Gary Collins and Co-Active Coaching by Laura Whitworth, Karen Kimsey-House, Henry Kimsey-House and Philip Sandahl.  A part of the work of good effective involvement ministry is coaching.   If you wish to be an effective involvement minister you need to be a good coach and be able to train others to be coaches in the church.   Our job is to help folks see how God can use that which He has given them in practical ways.   Coaching helps folks discover what they have and how they can be using it for His glory.   If you haven’t started training to be a coach, you need to start today with these three books.   Coaching is a lot different from consulting, training and mentoring.  You will see the difference.  I will also be happy to come and train members of your church in coaching.

Break Out Churches   Thomas Rainer

The Servant Driven Church   Ray Fulunwider

Written by a good friend and a wonderful person to listen to; Ray is full of good advice and stories about church growth.   The thesis of the book is that every Christian is a servant and service should be the driving force in the church.   He has also written The Prayer Driven Church: another excellent book.

The Other 80 Percent   Thumma and Bird

These two authors show you how to get the other 80% of your church serving instead of always relying on the same 20% to do everything.

Essential Church Thomas Rainer

Simple Church   Thomas Rainer

You Are Gifted   Ken Hemphill

High Expectations   Thomas Rainer

Team Ministry   Dr. Larry Gilbert

Much of the Material from

When God Grows a Church   Bob Russell

A Balance the late Ira North

The Purpose Driven Church   Rick Warren

Becoming Your Favorite Church   London and Wiseman  

The Great Niche Hunt  Frahm and Rinehart

Everything Must Change   Bryan McClaren

Are You Committed?   Jay McSwain of PLACE Ministries

I have received training from Jay.  Jay wants church folks to get serious and make total commitment to serving the Lord using our gifts, etc. for His glory.   Many churches and their leaders are not as committed as the Lord desires.

Live Your Calling   by Brennfleck and Brennfleck

Discover Who You Are   Kise, Stark and Hirsh

Grace Gifts   Dan Knight

Mentor Like Jesus   Regi Campbell

Bearing Fruits   Weems and Berlin

Orchards   H. Dan Mullins

Bearing Fruit Diana Kleyn

Understanding How Others Misunderstand You Ken Votes and Ron Braund

Most of the problems among people is personality related.   God gave us different personalities for a reason.   However, we do not take such into account and there is conflict when we don’t.    Your personality either complements your gift and other people in the church, or it causes conflict and adversely affects your ability to serve well.

The Gift of Prophecy Wayne Grudem

The most thorough study on this gift.

Becoming a Vessel God Can Use Donna Partow

Every Life a Plan of God  the late Batsell Barrett Baxter

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