Over the years my role as a pregnancy center leader and my personal growth have been impacted greatly by numerous books. There are too many to list, of course, but I wanted to share some of the most impactful ones I’ve read as I know how challenging it can be to choose what to invest your time in as a busy leader. The books I list are ones that I found to be the most user friendly, beneficial and practical. Most, but not all, are based on biblical principles.
Obviously Holy Scripture is first and foremost. Every leader and volunteer must spend regular meaningful time in God’s Word. As leaders in a ministry that the world system opposes, we need to hear, be encouraged and find strength from God speaking to us. Scripture gives wisdom and courage, both of which I found I needed in abundance.
“The Search For Significance” By Robert S. McGee. It is an older book but excellent for looking at misconceptions that frequently hamper the ministry and lives of believers. It’s especially good for staff study.
“Experiencing God” by Henry and Richard Blackaby. This is an older but classic Bible Study workbook great for absorbing theology.
“Fearless” by Max Lucado. An appropriate book for the times we live in. Our staff has read (and cried) our way through a number of Max Lucado books during staff meetings.
“The Rest of the Gospel” by Dan Stone and David Gregory. Don’t let th title fool you -iIt is about living like Christ instead of being stuck as a pew warmer. Fights common Christian myths.
“Nothing to Prove” by Jennie Allen. Over the years I discovered that many people in ministry feel like they are never enough, and are stuck trying to earn God’s approval instead of enjoying the bounty of his affection. This book addresses those insecurities. This is another book we studied as a staff.
“Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands” by Paul David Tripp. The title really says it clearly - it’s a book for those who want to serve Christ.
“Knowing God” by J.I. Packer. A classic on the study of God and his character. I highly recommend getting the study version if you can. I found that too many of our staff and volunteers had only a superficial knowledge of the personality and character of God - shockingly many had almost no scripture memorized that supported basic theology. This book helped address that
“My Utmost for His Highest” by Oswald Chambers. The short devotional format is wonderful for reading a quick devotional thought.
“Jesus Calling” By Sarah Young. There are several different short devotional version of this and is similar to My Utmost for His Highest, just more contemporary.
Of course there are lots of other great devotional books available!
Leadership and Organization
Great leadership is a learned skill. I’ve learned a lot from my mistakes over the years - but also from books! Of course there are plenty of other good leadership books - both Christian and secular - beyond what I list below. For example, serious leadership students often read John Maxwell’s books.
“Church and Nonprofit Tax And Financial Guide,” published annually by Zondervan. This is an essential reference book for every ministry. It will keep you current and legally aligned with ever-changing federal regulations. Read in its entirety, marking everything that applies to your center and then use as a frequent reference throughout the year.
“The Sower” by R. Scott Rodin and Gary G Hoag. Published by ECFA Press. This book outlines biblical fundamentals of financial management and fundraising and is not your traditional nonprofit fundraising mindset.
“Organizing for Accountability” by Robert R Thompson and Gerald R Thompson. Harold Shaw Publishing. This is a great little book on how to avoid crises in your nonprofit ministry. Even though it was written in 1991 it still has lots of practical advice.
“Lessons from the Non Profit Boardroom” by Dan Busy and John Pearson. ECFA Press. I consider this essential reading for Executive Directors and Board Chairpersons. Side note: every board member should be required to read this book and take Care Net’s online Caring Foundations course.
“The Council” Another ECFA book for boards. This one looks at Biblical examples of how and how not to have a spiritually mature board. Good principles to follow.
“Home Run” by Kevin Myers and John Maxwell. It discusses learning leadership principles and practices.
“9 Keys to Successful Leadership” By James Merritt. These seful leadership lessons are fairly easy reading.
“Successful Women Speak Differently” by Valerie Burton. This is an excellent book on communicating clearly in meetings and management.
“The Wall” by Kirk Walden. A study of how the example of Nehemiah can help pregnancy center work.
“Leading For Life” by Sue Currans Fultz. This brand new book is a study of godly characteristics for leaders using the stories of leaders in the pregnancy center movement. Lots of good background on how pregnancy centers came into existence and also a great way to acquaint staff with a few of the names in our movement.
Care Net Manuals. All of them. These were my teachers when I started with Care Net back in 2000, especially the legal manual. I literally fell asleep every night with this under my pillow when I was too tired to study any longer. The Compassion, Help, and Hope volunteer training manual is also terrific. Care Net’s other manuals on outreach, board governance, client care, medical services, fundraising and others are also helpful. This material is constantly being updated and is now in downloadable publications for those who are Care Net affiliates. Much more information is available through Care Net’s CEU online courses.
Care Net now has an online Centers of Excellence University course for leaders which I would highly recommend for board members and Executive Directors, as well as other online courses too. While these aren’t technically books, I still had to include them.
When I became the Executive Director of a group of pregnancy centers, I immediately discovered that I had been lazy in developing good time and people management skills. My work and personal life immediately became unbalanced and it was clear that I was in over my head. This forced me to focus on praying and learning how to manage my time better. To help me remember, I made a sign that hung on my wall saying, “In dependence on God in place of independence”. And how true it turned out! God led me to the following resources, among others, to get me up to speed.
“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Steven R. Covey. Oh how I needed this book! This secular book profoundly helped me evaluate my priorities and use of time. It has lots of helpful tools to help organize thoughts and actions.
“Irregular People” by Joyce Landorf Heatherly. This book is helpful when you’re facing the dilemma of deciding how to deal, in a God honoring way, with those weird and annoying individuals who are in our families and our workplaces.
“Margin” by Richard A Swenson, M.D. One of the dangers that leaders face is becoming overwhelmed. Burnout is all too common and the “shelf life” of pregnancy center directors is frighteningly short. This book is designed to help us find a healthy balance by creating “wiggle room” in every area of life.
“The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. There are many different versions of this book, all of which help readers understand the needs and responses of others. It’s very helpful for figuring out how to communicate with and encourage our center team.
“Father Memories” by Randy L. Carlson. I found this book useful in learning how to communicate well with others. It helps us understand ourselves, people in our families, and those in our workplaces. There are great charts defining personality strengths and weaknesses in this book.
“The Peacemaker” by Ken Sande. This book teaches us how to maintain biblical relationships during conflict. When we follow these biblical principles, God often restores, strengthens relationships and accomplishes his productive purposes.
“Wild At Heart” by John Eldredge, Thomas Nelson Publishers. Why a book about masculinity? This book was a turning point in understanding my husband and the men who work in and come to the center. So many men have deep, profound pain that they struggle with every day. In order to be good fathers and husbands, they need healing from these wounds. John’s wife also has a similar book for women.
“How Then Shall We Live” by Francis Schafer. Honestly, any book by Francis Schafer is worth reading. They are classics on Christian thinking (as are the works of C.S. Lewis, while we’re on the subject).
Finally, June Hunt has a lot of little books on a great many topics related to personal struggles. For a while she was producing a manual on topics for pregnancy centers. These materials had lots of Bible verses and references. I’ve often given her little books to people suffering through divorce, abuse, anger etc.
So many books so little time! They are only good if you take the time and effort to pull out the good stuff and apply it. And then share with others. Blessings as you grow.
Mary LeQuieu served the Care Net Pregnancy Centers of Albuquerque for two decades, first as Client Services Director for their five centers, then as Executive Director. Now retired from the centers, she is an instructor for Centers Of Excellence University. She loves helping center staff grow their ministry.