What are your 2-3 must read titles on churches facing decline? Warren Bird offers 10 (via books @ leadership network)

This is the question I was recently asked. My first response was to wonder why these churches are declining, and perhaps it’s a different reason for each church. The reason for decline, if known, will influence which books would help. Leadership and vision are typically the biggest issue for churches facing decline. Churches need hope that God can use them to make a difference and guidance on how he might lead them to find a new future focused on a clear mission.

I don’t want to overlook the Bible as the foundational answer to understanding church growth and decline. Beyond that I couldn’t narrow to 2-3 books, as requested. Here’s my working list. What titles would you add? Which one would you say is the best or most helpful?


Comback Churches

Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson , Comeback Churches  (2007)

Ed Stetzer is director of LifeWay Research and missiologist in residence at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, Tennessee. He holds two masters and doctoral degrees and has written dozens of respected articles and books including Planting Missional Churches, Breaking the Missional Code, Compelled by Love, and Comeback Churches.

Mike Dodson has served as a pastor and church planter strategist in the Northeast for over 15 years. Mike co-authored Comeback Churches with Ed Stetzer and has also published or edited numerous other books and articles. Mike is the Associate Director of North American Church Planting and Assistant Professor of Church Planting and Evangelism at the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina.             

Leading Change

  Mike Bonem, Leading Congregational Change (2000)

Mike Bonem is president of Kingdom Transformation Partners and author of Leading Congregational Change: A Practical Guide for the Transformational Journey and Leading from the Second Chair: Serving Your Church, Fulfilling Your Role, and Realizing Your Dreams. Mike’s work focuses primarily on the facilitation of healthy change, congregational assessment, vision discernment, and implementation planning. He has created and led seminars for The Purpose-Driven Church, Willow Creek Association, Leadership Network, Citireach International, and other organizations.

Leading turnaround

Gene Wood, Leading Turnaround Churches (2001)

Gene Wood has served as Senior Pastor at Grace Church of Glendora since January 1991. He is the author of a nine-week discipleship series Advancing Your Faith, and two ”turnaround books”: Leading Turnaround Churches and Leading Turnaround Teams . These books, along with Leading Turnaround Training Seminars, are being used to strengthen and mobilize churches throughout the United States and abroad.

Turnaround strategies

Ron Crandall, Turnaround Strategies for the Small Church (1995)

Ron Crandall is the McCreless Professor of Evangelism in the E. Stanley Jones School of World Mission and Evangelism, Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky. Previously, he worked with small churches as evangelism director for the General Board of Discipleship, United Methodist Church. He sings in the Lexington, Kentucky, Community Chorus and was the president of the Academy for Evangelism in Theological Education. He is the author of WITNESS: Exploring and Sharing Your Christian Faith, a 25-week small group resource.

turnaround chuches

George Barna, Turnaround Churches (1993)

Born in New York City, George Barna worked in the Massachusetts state legislature and as a pollster and a campaign manager. Introduced to Jesus Christ during his grad school years, he moved to California, where he worked in media research and then as an executive in an advertising agency.  In 2004, he re-engineered the for-profit corporation into The Barna Group, of which he is the Directing Leader.  To date, Barna has written more than 35 books, predominantly in the areas of leadership, trends, spiritual development, and church health. Included among them are best sellers such as Revolution, Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions,The Frog in the Kettle, The Power of Vision, and User Friendly Churches.

sticky church

Larry Osborne, Sticky Church (2008)

Larry Osborne has served as a Senior Pastor and Teaching Pastor at North Coast Church since 1980. He has helped oversee the growth of the church from a fledgling group of 128 meeting in a rented school, to a multi-site ministry that reaches nearly 7,000 in weekend attendance. Larry is also an author and a nationally recognized trainer of pastors. His books include 10 Dumb Things Smart Christians Believe, Spirituality for the Rest of Us and THE Unity Factor: Developing A Healthy Leadership Team. He travels extensively speaking at conferences and mentoring pastors and church planters across the country.

change without compromise

Brad Powell, Change your Church for Good:The Art of Sacred Cow Tipping (2007)

For the last nineteen years Brad has been the Senior Pastor here at NorthRidge Church in Plymouth, Michigan, previously known as Temple Baptist of Detroit. Brad is a frequent conference speaker; author of Change your Church for Good, Revised, regular columnist for Outreach Magazine; recently named contributing editor of the Leadership Journal; and host of and primary teacher for an annual conference called “Change Without Compromise.”


Dave Browning, Deliberate Simplicity (2009)

Dave Browning is a visionary minimalist and the founder of Christ the King Community Church, International (CTK). CTK is a non-denominational, multi-location church that has been noted as one of the “fastest growing” and “most innovative” churches in America by employing the K.I.S.S method: “keep it simple and scalable.”Prior to CTK, Dave pastored in traditional and mega-church contexts. His experiences led him to become a pastorpreneur and to break many of the rules of the established church, including “bigger is better.” A scion of simplicity, Dave coined the phrase “deliberate simplicity” to describe a new equation for church development, where less is more, and more is better.

How the Mighty

Jim Collins, How the Mighty Fall (2009)

Jim Collins is a student of companies–great ones, good ones, weak ones, failed ones–from young start-ups to venerable sesquicentenarians. The author of the national bestseller Good to Great and coauthor of Built to Last, he serves as a teacher to leaders throughout the corporate and social sectors. His work has been featured in Fortune, BusinessWeek, The Economist, USA Today, and Harvard Business Review. Jim has served as a teacher to senior executives and CEOs at over a hundred corporations. He has also worked with social sector organizations, such as: Johns Hopkins Medical School, the Girl Scouts of the USA, the Leadership Network of Churches, the American Association of K-12 School Superintendents, and the United States Marine Corps. In 2005 he published a monograph: Good to Great and the Social Sectors.

simple church

Eric Geiger and Thom Rainer, Simple Church (2006)

Thom S. Rainer is president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, Tennessee. He was founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and, Church Growth at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also a best-selling author and leading expert in the field of church research. His many books include Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, The Unexpected Journey, and Breakout Churches.

Eric Geiger serves as executive pastor of Christ Fellowship, a large and growing multicultural church comprised of more than seventy nationalities near Miami, Florida. Eric frequently consults with and speaks to church leaders. He is the author/co-author of Simple Student Ministry. He received a doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.




Warren Bird small

Warren Bird, Ph.D., is Research Director at Leadership Network, and co-author of 21 books on various aspects of church health and innovation. His recent “Leadership Network” books blogs include He Irritates Christians to Get Busy and Change the World, Becoming a Healthy Fruitful Multi-Ethnic Church, What Is Necessary for Church Planting to Go Viral?Mark Batterson’s Primal, Updated Publishing Updates, Beyond Christendom Says Migration Keeps Transforming the Church, Terrific Biography of Rick Warren, The Soviet Plot to Kill God, The Worst Moment in Most Church Services, Excellent Resources for Church-Based Grants, Multi-Site Church Roadtrip Released Today, Do White Churches Hold Others in Cultural Captivity?and Church Merger Phenomenon Continues to Expand.