Book Review: 7 Practices of Effective Ministry, by Andy Stanley, Reggie Joiner, and Lane Jones


7-practices-of-effective-ministryAndy Stanley, Reggie Joiner, and Lane Jones, Seven Practices of Effective Ministry(Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 2004)

A pastor friend of mine handed me this book by the North Point team over the weekend, and once I started reading I had trouble putting it down. Don’t let the publishing date dissuade you; the wisdom contained in these pages is still just as relevant today as it was in 2004.

Let’s get a couple of disclaimers out of the way, before reviewing the content. First, though Andy Stanley is listed as the first author, his direct written contributions include only a short introduction and conclusion. If you are looking for material written by him specifically, this is not the book for you. However, his influence is clearly present on every page, as might be expected from his long time friendship and ministry partnership with Lane Jones. As a North Point resource, this book contains wisdom, strategies, and ideas that have grown out of Stanley’s leadership and the lessons learned at North Point Church.

Second, the style of this book is altogether different from what you might expect to find in a leadership book. In the first part, Lane Jones tells the fictional story of a young pastor at his wits end, who is lured by a friend into a coaching session with a successful businessman, under the pretense of free tickets to a baseball game. The entire story takes place within the context of the game, so the reader will find several references to baseball throughout. This story serves the function of providing a common narrative context for leadership lessons the authors wish to teach.

In the other half of the book, Reggie Joiner builds upon the foundation laid by Jones, and delves more deeply into each of the seven recommended leadership practices. This part of the book contains real world examples, which further illustrate the concepts highlighted in the fictional story.

Though somewhat unusual for the genre, this style of blending story and instruction works well to guide the reader into the book and cement the rational for implementing the recommended practices. The second part of the book doesn’t settle for restating what was said in the first, so there is no sense of tediousness in reading. I found that the story drew me in, prepared me to hear the wisdom being presented, and then drove the lesson home in the second half. Reading this book was much like listening to a well crafted sermon.

Now for the content. Stanley’s team convincingly argues the following 7 practices will enhance the work of ministry leaders:

  1. Clarify the Win – define what is important at every level of the organization.
  2. Think Steps, Not Programs – before you start anything, make sure it is where you need to go.
  3. Narrow the Focus – do fewer things in order to make a greater impact.
  4. Teach Less for More – say only what you need to say to the people who need to hear it.
  5. Listen to Outsiders – focus on who you’re trying to reach, not who you’re trying to keep.
  6. Replace Yourself – learn to hand off what you do.
  7. Work On It – take time to evaluate your work–and to celebrate your wins.

All seven of these practices challenged and resonated with me. Different personalities will struggle more with different individual practices, and many leaders will recognize practices they have already implemented into their leadership in some fashion. I was most personally challenged by practices 2, 3, and 4, and I think our church will be most challenged with practice 5. I look forward to thinking through the ways I can incorporate these strategies into my own leadership and instill them into other leaders in my ministerial context.

I consider this book a “must read” for pastors and other ministry leaders. It is a quick read that will challenge you to lead with purpose and consider the long-term success of your church or parachurch organization as more important than your own.

I highly recommend this book!

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Isaac Hopper

Isaac Hopper (PhD, Manchester) is a United Methodist Pastor serving churches in the Indiana Conference. He writes publicly about Christian discipleship, faith, and living the called life. He also writes academically about Wesleyan theology and practice.