ACCORDING to Rod Street and Nick Cuthbert, the authors of Better Change in Church: When wholehearted commitment counts (Createspace, £9.99 (£9); 978-1- 50619382-3), a key challenge for today’s Church is finding healthy ways to facilitate internal change in a rapidly changing world. They seek to offer a path to harmonious and effective transformation. They largely succeed — but with a few bumps and potholes along the way.
The bumps and potholes first. Some readers may struggle to get beyond the home-produced feel of the book. Layout and paragraphing are eccentric, and the whole book would have benefited from a firmer editorial hand. The link between title, subtitle, and cover illustration (a swan and cygnet) is far from clear. Those who feel that secular management has little to offer pastoral ministry are unlikely to warm to its graphs, strategies, and quotations from corporate gurus. Similarly, the authors’ preference for bullet-pointed lists of steps and tasks over metaphor or anecdote can make for heavy reading.
Readers who stick with it, however, will find much here to help them navigate change in a local context. The authors explore the particular need for change, and distinctive dynamics of change, within the Church. They offer advice on how to prepare wisely for change, and maximise support within a congregation, as well as how to handle conflict constructively.
Most helpfully (for this reader, at least), they are at pains to root their principles taken from secular management theory in church settings. These include Simon Sinek’s recent insights on the importance of starting not with a “what” but with a “why”. Specifically, they root their principles in the realities of Anglican parish life: they know their PCC from their CEO and their EQ.
For readers who can handle dodgy paragraphing, sigmoid curves, and volleys of bullet-points, there is much wisdom here.
The Revd Mike Starkey is a tutor for the Church Army, and a freelance writer.