I got a free copy of"Transforming Church in Rural America" by Shannon O'Dell for review.
It took me awhile to review it, as I was unsure about how I felt about what he had to say. In some circles, Shannon O'Dell is a 'divisive' character, to put it mildly. His book is part how-to, part self-help for church leaders in rural churches. As such, I'd recommend it as reading for any member of a rural church, whether you agree with how O'Dell grew the church he pastored, or not, reading this book will give you insight into how it was done.
While much of what Brand New Church has done is laudable, I don't feel it would have been possible without some potentially unethical political maneuvering early in his tenure there. I have attended churches which use the 'congregationally-led system' where most of the votes can not pass with out a majority of the congregation's assent. And, yes, in a small, rural church this majority can be hard won. But, O'Dell freely admits to asking the deacons to let him pick a "research team" to examine the church's bylaws to see what would be needed to "allow us to work most efficiently and (most importantly) most biblically", which he then, by his own admission, filled with like-minded people. When he says that he did not let on that he "knew where this process would take [them]", it gives the impression that the end result was a foregone conclusion. That the "research team" was simply a formality to give an air of legitimacy to his proposed changes in the church's structure. It all sounded a little too Machiavellian, for me. The next linchpin in getting the new bylaws approved was that, in spite of being available for a month before the vote, few (if any) actually read the proposed changes until (according to the book) the night before the vote.
Aside from all that, the book does offer some valuable insight into ways small churches can do much with limited resources.
Shannon O'Dell does an excellent job of writing a personal story of transition from big city youth worker to rural america senior pastor and offers several powerful leadership and growth tools for everyone along the way.
Each person has been given natural abilities and the opportunity to succeed. It is up to each person how they will choose to travel.
Leadership has extremes and Shannon challenges the reader to expect them, and grow from them.
I highly recommend this book for all leaders, church leaders, business leaders, and those who hope to be leaders one day.
Warning, this is a book you will have a difficult time putting down once you begin to read.
The book, Transforming Ministry in Rural America, is written by Shannon O'Dell. While the title implies that this book is for churches in rural America, the reality is that what O'Dell has written could be used in any ministry situation. O'Dell recounts leaving ministry in urban America to go to a small church that has been transformed into a multi site contemporary church that serves thousands of worshipers.
O'Dell uses the acronym VALUE. He says that Vision, Attitude, Leadership, Understanding, and Excellence in ministry are important. O'Dell's prescriptions for ministry are very practical. At the same time, many of his ideas are not new. The emphasis in the book is on practicality, not on novelty.
This book would be particularly important to pastors and church leaders in rural situations. While Dell does not offer an approach that applies to every ministry situation, much of what he provides can be used in a variety of situations. If your church is stuck in a rut, this book may be able to help you get going, and a new direction.
Transforming Church in Rural America by Shannon O'Dell is a great book for a pastor or leader who wants to grow their church. Who doesn't want this?
I found this book informational mostly because I really don't know anything about the inner workings of a church. I could also clearly see some of the things he referred to being problems in my own church. I chuckle each time I leave my own sanctuary with its dedicated pews and brass plaques on everything from the Chandeliers to the stained glass windows. I could only imagine the fight over removing some of these things. Our church building dates back to the 1800's and even though it burned to the ground once it was rebuilt and dedicated to the original families that built building one. Oh yes, what a fight that would be.
While I don't lead a church I can see where the information presented could be used in other work related areas and plan to use it with my own teams in the future. This also gave me some ideas to get more involved in the church and offer my talents to helping build the team.
This book also made me reflect on church splits. What caused them and where the two sides are now. So as a non-Pastor I found this book brought me a lot of insight and wisdom I do plan to pass my copy onto my Pastor. I don't hold out much hope for removing the brass plaques though.
Shannon O'Dell walks us through his journey in a rural part of Arkansas, in the book "transforming church in Rural America, breaking all the Rurals". From the painstaking beginning steps, through the heartaches, and the growth, we watch not only the church change but also the leaders within the church. Shannon breaks all of the "rurals" of small town churches and shows a path to create and fulfill a vision.
This book was very interesting to read. Shannon's way of explaining the changes undergoing at the church, and within his own life and family was very easy and fun to read. He explains not "rurals" that had to be changed at the church he signed on at, but also the principals that were added as he grew to allow for the church to grow.
I especially liked the "Value" acronym:
V - Vision
A - Attitude
L - Leadership
U - Understanding
E - Enduring Excellence
Every church that is interested in growing, would gain value from no just the acronym, but also reviewing the principals in this books. There are also lots of extras for the reader to refer to on-line, and also scripture as a base for each principal. I would recommend this book not only for church leadership, but also volunteers.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."