Leading Change Through Learning Change: a book review

How do we effect change at a congregational level? What does it take to transform community? Jim Herrington and Trisha Taylor provided leadership to Riddler Church Renewal, a personal and congregational transformation process out of Western Seminary, working with pastors and congregations in the Reformed Church of America (RCA) and the Christian Reformed Church of North America (CRCNA). They developed a transformational model which is based on organizational theory, family systems, adaptive leadership, neuroscience, and biblical principles. In Learning ChangeHerrington & Taylor, along with seven pastors who participated in the Riddler Church Renewal Process present the insights they’ve gleaned from their research.

Learning ChangeHerrington and Taylor’s co-contributors include: Michael DeRutyer, pastor of Midland Reformed Church in Midland, MI; Drew Poppleton, former pastor of Heartland Community Church in Lafayette, IN and current Ph.D. candidate at Fuller; Nate Pyle, pastor of Christ Community Church in Indianapolis, IN; Chip Sauer, pastor, Community Reformed Church of Charlevoix, MI; Jessica Shults, pastor of Standale Reformed Church in Grand Rapids; and John Sparks and Brian Stone, former co-pastors of Haven Church in Kalamazoo, MI.

Learning Change: Congregational Transformation Fueled by Personal Renewal unfolds in four sections.  In part one, they outline their approach and make the case that transformation of a congregational system starts with personal transformation in the life of its leader. Poppleton writes, “In the beginning, I looked outward and assigned blame to the congregation. As it turns out, the problem was not them. I was waiting for others to change and complaining when they failed to do so. I needed to stop worrying about the speck in their eye and focus more on the log in my own eye. I needed to focus on the only person I could change: me”(47). This focus on personal development is explored throughout the rest of the book. The contention of Herrington & Taylor, et al. is that it as a leader begins to change, the congregational renewal they long for becomes possible.

In part two, they outline four core values for leaders to work on: Integrity, Authenticity, Courage, and Love. It is as leaders learn lifestyles of Integrity (conformed to God’s design), share our true selves, take risks and commit to loving those in our charge that communal transformation begins to happen. Part three discusses mental models which enable us to shift our thinking about discipleship, personal responsibility, the power to change, problem-solving and systems thinking. Finally, part four provides ‘additional tools’ for personal leadership development.

There is a lot of good insights this book, and the authors draw on a huge range of resources from sociology, organizational leadership, discipleship, spiritual formation, and systems thinking. The leadership books I appreciate most are all focused on personal development, which is front and center here. The chapters are organized for leaders’ and lead teams’ use. Each chapter closes with suggestions for practice and reflection and links to resources from Riddler Church Renewal for going deeper (plus chapter bibliographies for additional resources).  The contributors each illustrate their chapters with anecdotes from their own ministries. but they speak with a unified voice about how personal transformation.

This is a really solid approach to personal and corporate transformation. As I read this book, I was confronted with areas I still need to grow in, in my own leadership. I give this four stars. ★★★★

Notice of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book from Kregel Academic & Ministry in exchange for my honest review.

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