Leadership Reading Guide for Pastors

Pastoral ministry is a calling, but as you already know—that doesn’t mean all pastoral skills and responsibilities come naturally. All leaders need to grow in their capacity to lead effectively. That is where reading comes in. Books provide fuel for your leadership.

We have pulled together a dozen books that can help you develop strengths in the most important areas of your pastoral job:

  • Leadership development
  • Staff development
  • Church development
  • Personal spiritual development

The summaries below were created by each book’s publisher and posted on their Amazon listings.* We have gathered them here for you to consider adding these resources to your reading rotation and help create a strategic, well-rounded pathway for growth.


Leadership Development

The old argument about whether leaders are born or created is irrelevant. Every pastor finds themselves in a position where leadership strengths are required. Thankfully, those skills can be acquired.

Here are a few books on church and business leadership that will get you off to a good start.

Authors: Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck
Length: 248 pages

Many churches do not develop leaders intentionally and consistently. When leaders emerge from some churches, it is often by accident. Authors Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck argue that churches that consistently produce leaders have a strong conviction to develop leaders, a healthy culture for leadership development, and helpful constructs to systematically and intentionally build leaders. All three are essential for leaders to be formed through the ministry of a local church.

Whether you are called to lead your home, in the marketplace, in God’s church, or in your community, if you are called by God you are called to lead others to worship the glory of God in Jesus Christ. God has designed his people to lead.

Author: Dr. Betty Uribe
Length: 312 pages

Arriving in the United States from Colombia at the age of twelve and not speaking any English, Betty Uribe’s first job was cleaning houses to help support her family. Fast forward to today, and Dr. Betty Uribe is a nationally and internationally renowned senior banking executive, entrepreneur, speaker and author. The secret to her success? Values-based leadership.

From diverse communities in North America, South America, and Asia, to African Massai Mara villages, to the Presidential Palace of Colombia, the White House, and the Vatican, Betty has engaged in values-based leadership with everyone from student leaders to world leaders. The most successful and trusted leaders all embodied strong, personal, higher values; they made decisions based on these values, and made a difference for others while living with a higher purpose. Dr. Betty highlights the values and leadership strengths of some of the top culture-drivers in North America. She challenges the reader to ask themselves, Can I be a better leader?  then provides the tools, advice, and encouragement needed to help people do just that.

Author: Michael Fletcher
Length: 224 pages

The truth is, very few churches really have a well-thought-out leadership development plan. Growth requires continually adding healthy new leaders who carry the church culture forward and embody its core values. Everyone knows it, but how do we achieve it?

In Empowering Leadership, author and leadership consultant Michael Fletcher says leaders like this can’t simply be bought, nor can they be hired from someone else's leadership assembly line. To develop leaders at every level, you need a culture that develops leaders organically. “It isn't about the leader. It never was about the leader. It will never be about the leader. It will always and only be about Jesus and his people.”

jacket illustration: © Disney • Pixar

Staff Development

Leaders are only as good as the people who surround them. To raise up strong churches, you need to create dynamic teams. If you are looking for some help creating a powerful, collaborative culture, check out these options.

Author: William Vanderbloemen
Length: 240 pages

What could your church accomplish if it could attract and retain staff and volunteers who buy into your organization’s mission 100 percent? Culture Wins is a practical yet challenging modern guidebook for organizations that want to own the future. Its firsthand insights into building a contagious culture will drive sustainable growth and innovation for any organization. You will build a healthy workplace and change the world with the lessons you will learn. Stop losing staff members, grow your team, and build a contagious culture.

William Vanderbloemen uses his company’s proven experience in staffing and organizational consulting to provide a global perspective of effective, thriving cultures—and how to create them.

Author: Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace
Length: 368 pages

Creativity, Inc. is a manual for anyone who strives for originality and the first-ever, all-access trip into the nerve center of Pixar Animation—into the meetings, postmortems, and “Braintrust” sessions where some of the most successful films in history are made. It is, at heart, a book about creativity—but it is also, as Pixar co-founder and president Ed Catmull writes, “an expression of the ideas that I believe make the best in us possible.”

Catmull reveals the ideals and techniques that have made Pixar so widely admired—and so profitable. The unique environment that Catmull and his colleagues built at Pixar is based on leadership and management philosophies that protect the creative process and defy convention.

Author: Simon Sinek
Length: 368 pages

In his work with organizations around the world, Simon Sinek noticed that some teams trust each other so deeply that they would literally put their lives on the line for each other. Other teams, no matter what incentives are offered, are doomed to infighting, fragmentation and failure. Why?

The answer became clear during a conversation with a Marine Corps general. "Officers eat last," he said. The most junior Marines ate first while the most senior Marines took their place at the back of the line. What is symbolic in the chow hall is deadly serious on the battlefield: Great leaders sacrifice their own comfort—even their own survival—for the good of those in their care.

Sinek illustrates his ideas with fascinating true stories that range from the military to big business, from government to investment banking.


Church Development

Attractive, missional churches don’t just spring up out of nowhere. They are the result of thoughtful and strategic decisions and consistent behaviors. Pastors who are readers have a leg up on everyone else because you learn from the experiences of others. Why not avoid a mistake if it is possible?

Author: Tony Morgan
Length: 224 pages

Think about your church for a moment. Is it growing? Is it diminishing? Is it somewhere in between? Acclaimed church leader, blogger, and founder and chief strategic officer of The Unstuck Group, Tony Morgan has identified the seven stages of a church’s life cycle that range from the hopeful and optimistic days of launch, to the stagnating last stages of life support.

Morgan unpacks each phase of the church life cycle, and offers specific and strategic next steps the church leader can take to find its way to sustained health—and finally become unstuck. The Unstuck Church is a call for honest an assessment of where your church sits on the life cycle, and a challenge to move beyond it.

Author: Stephen T. Um and Justin Buzzard
Length: 176 pages

Right now, more people live in urban centers than ever before. This means that we have an unprecedented opportunity to influence the majority of the world through the church in the city. Helping us to make the most of this moment, urban pastors Justin Buzzard and Stephen Um lay out a compelling vision for cultural engagement and church planting in our world’s cities.

If you are looking for motivation to maintain a commitment to the city or for guidance as you consider going all in, this book provides a comprehensive analysis of urban life that informs, instructs, inspires, and answers questions. Instead of retreating from or taking from our cities, here is a call to make the cities our home, to take good care of them, and to participate in God’s kingdom-building work in the urban centers of our world.

Author: Mark DeYmaz
Length: 240 pages

The multi-ethnic church is more than a good idea—it is a biblical, first-century standard with far-reaching evangelistic potential. How can your church overcome the obstacles to become a healthy multi-ethnic community of faith? And why should you even try?

Dr. Mark DeYmaz provides an up-close-and-personal look at seven common challenges to creating diversity in your church. Through real-life stories and practical illustrations, DeYmaz shows how to overcome the obstacles in order to lead a healthy multi-ethnic church. He also includes the insights of other effective multi-ethnic church leaders from the United States and Australia, as well as study questions at the end of each chapter.


Personal Development

To successfully guide a church, you recognize your need to have a vibrant connection to Christ. Unfortunately, many church leaders spend so much time focused on the needs of others that it is easy to let this area slip. These books can help you prioritize deepening that spiritual connection.

Author: John Ortberg
Length: 208 pages

In an age of materialism and consumerism that tries to buy its way to happiness, many souls are starved and unhealthy, unsatisfied by false promises of status and wealth. We have neglected this eternal part of ourselves, focusing instead on the temporal concerns of the world―and not without consequence.

John Ortberg presents will help you find your way out of the spiritual shallow-lands to true divine depth. With characteristic insight and an accessible story-filled approach, Ortberg brings practicality and relevance to one of Christianity’s most mysterious and neglected topics.

Author: Paul E. Miller
Length: 304 pages

Prayer is so hard that unless circumstances demand it―an illness, or saying grace at a meal―most people simply don’t do it. We prize accomplishments and productivity over time in prayer. Even pastors experience this prayerlessness―a kind of practical unbelief that leaves us marked by fear, anxiety, joylessness, and spiritual lethargy.

Prayer is all about relationship. When Jesus describes the intimacy he seeks with us, he talks about joining us for dinner (Rev. 3:20). Paul Miller lays out a pattern for living in relationship with God and includes helpful habits and approaches to prayer that enable us to return to a childlike faith.

Author: Brené Brown
Length: 208 pages

“True belonging doesn’t require us to change who we are. It requires us to be who we are.” Social scientist Brené Brown, PhD, LMSW, has sparked a global conversation about the experiences that bring meaning to our lives—experiences of courage, vulnerability, love, belonging, shame, and empathy. With her trademark mix of research, storytelling, and honesty, Brown argues that we are experiencing a spiritual crisis of disconnection, and introduces four practices of true belonging that challenge everything we believe about ourselves and each other.

She writes, “In a culture that’s rife with perfectionism and pleasing, and with the erosion of civility, it’s easy to stay quiet, hide in our ideological bunkers, or fit in rather than show up as our true selves and brave the wilderness of uncertainty and criticism. But true belonging is not something we negotiate or accomplish with others; it’s a daily practice that demands integrity and authenticity.”

Never Stop Developing

Sometimes you need a partner by your side to keep growing as a leader. CDF Capital believes that true growth comes from intentional transformation. Our coaches partner with leadership teams to help churches grow from the inside out. Discover how CDF Leadership Capital can help your team.

*All Amazon links included in this post are affiliated with smile.amazon.com. If you choose to make a purchase, please consider selecting our sister ministry, The Kairos Benevolence Fund, LLC, as your designated non-profit organization.