image Why did I review this book?

When Larry Shallenberger announced several months ago that he was planning on doing a book blog tour to celebrate the fifth anniversary of his book, I eagerly signed up.  I don’t know Larry personally, but I do follow his comments on Twitter and read his blog, so I kind of feel like I know him even if he doesn’t follow me on Twitter. 🙂  Based on that presumption of relationship, and the generally laid back nature of people in children’s ministry, I will refer to him as Larry throughout this review.

Anyhow, I knew that regardless of what the book was about, Larry’ has a great sense of humor and an easy to read writing style, so I knew reading his book wouldn’t be a complete waste of time.  That said, when I found out the topic of the book was leadership, I got just a little bit leery.  It’s not that I don’t like reading about leadership or being a leader.  I actually do, but the world has plenty of books on leadership, and I have read a bunch of them.  It seems the everybody who has ever been a boss or started a ministry or had people report to them has taken it upon themselves to write a book on leadership.  After a while, they all just seem to say the same thing – do it my way and you’ll be OK, and it ultimately all runs together into a fuzzy blurry haze in my head.  Besides that, I already have a group of people whose writings, podcasts, etc. on topic of leadership I devour.  They include people like Andy Stanley, Jim Wideman, and others who I have grown to trust in this area and have learned a lot from.  With all due respect to Larry, I wasn’t sure what he could offer that hadn’t either already heard or wasn’t getting from some of the other resources I was reviewing.

There’s an old, slightly cliché, saying that “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”  I agree in principal, and Larry’s book turned out to be a prime example of this for me and another reason I try not to let pre-conceived notions totally guide what I choose to read.  Now, I’ve never recommended that someone not read this book, but if it hadn’t been for this blog tour, I’m not sure I ever would have read it either.  Had that happened, I would have missed out.

What was my overall impression?

Larry’s book opened my eyes, and my heart, to ideas and theories that I had never even considered.  It is written in a style that I personally found compelling and engaging with plenty of practical advice thrown in for good measure.   Not only is this book one I learned from on my initial read through, it is one that I am certain to refer back to time and time again.  With those general observations out of the way, let’s a little more detailed look at the book itself.

How is this review different from other reviews?

I know what you’re thinking – even if you won’t admit it.  10 reviews in 10 days by 10 different people, why should I read yours?  You think you have issues?  I found out that my review was going to be number 7 of 10.  I didn’t get to lead off with the epic home run that leave people wanting more.  I don’t get to close with quips of wisdom.  What on earth was I going to write about that would be different than everyone else?  Here’s what I decided – I would write I want.  It’s kind of freeing in a way. 🙂  I decided to do with this book what I do with many of my reviews here on Dad in the Middle (especially the good ones) and feature a whole lot more content from the book than my own personal opinion while still offering some insight into what I got out of it.  Hopefully this will give you enough information to discern whether or not you want to read it for yourself.  I hope that you will as the book will give you a ridiculous amount of additional detail not available in this review.

Who is this book written for?

The book is written specifically for those of us in children’s ministry.  Indeed, the subtitle is “Discovering Your Leadership Style in Children’s Ministry.”  That said, the principles throughout this book are just as applicable to any other ministry and to life in general.  As someone with a passion for children’s ministry though, I appreciate that the focus of this book is squarely on children’s ministry and children’s ministry leaders.

What is the basic premise of the book?

The books starts by dispelling what Larry calls “the myth of the perfect leader.”  He notes that we, as a society, spend our time looking for and/or trying to be the perfect leader – the leader who bring everything to the table and is capable of juggling all the balls which leadership invariably throws at us.  Other people compare us to this mythical leader, and more importantly, we compare ourselves to this mythical leader and find ourselves lacking.  I know that, in my own life, this is something that I have been guilty of many time.  Larry explains that there is no such things as the perfect leader.  That’s not the way God made us, and:

When we try to be someone God didn’t wire us to be, we make it very hard for God to use us.

Imagine that!  In trying to lead the ministries God has called us to, we try to be more than God has made us to be and end up doing less than God has enabled us to do.

Larry has quite cleverly and effectively positioned this book on leadership around something those of us in children’s ministry can relate to – an object lesson. 🙂  In this case, Larry explores leadership styles as they relate to putting on a play and then examines how those styles relate to children’s ministry.  Now, I’ve never put on a big production in Children’s Ministry, but the analogy itself is so illuminating that I still found it helpful and educational.

What are the different facets of leadership?

Larry follows up shattering the myth of the perfect leader by noting five stars that any children’s ministry leadership team needs to have to be truly effective.  He notes that no one leader can possibly bring all of these stars.  They are:

  1. Describing the Promised Land – a destination towards which your ministry is heading – a vision
  2. Providing Road Maps – strategic plans and listing of core values
  3. Tending to the Tool Box – making sure the right skills and resources are available
  4. Keeping the Ministry “Heart-Healthy” – tending to heart of the ministry ensuring positive outlook and optimism
  5. Providing Muscle – ability to get things done

The purpose of this book is to examine leadership styles and what we can bring to the table in terms of the five stars of leadership.  In addition to that, it offers advice on how to train ourselves to be better leaders in areas where we are not and understand the other facets of leadership so that you can surround yourself with the right types of people to have a five-star ministry.  Larry points out the following:

We tend to surround ourselves with people who think like we do.

Instead, in order to be effective leaders, we must surround ourselves with people who compliment our strengths and make up for our weaknesses.  There is much to be gained by understanding the leadership styles presented in this book.

Who doesn’t love a test?

I have to admit it.  I love tests.  I really do.  I like personality tests, gifting tests, political affiliation tests, etc., etc., etc.  Give me a series of seemingly random questions and then reduce it to a profile about me, and I love it!  So, when I wandered past Chapter 1 of the book and found Chapter 2, I was ecstatic!  I know you think I’m embellishing my reaction, but I’m really not.  I also imagine you’re thinking, “Really, we’re only on Chapter 2?  I thought this was a review not the actual book!”  I promise, it’ll pick up.

Anyhow, Chapter 2 is “the dramatic leadership assessment test” in which you answer 48 questions with an indication of how often they apply to you.  Fill out the number grid, add up the numbers and this test will rank six different leadership styles as the apply to you (with your highest score being your most prevalent style, and so on).

So, what are the leadership styles?

If I’m being honest, it was this test that really peaked my interest in the book.  Larry’s work went from being some abstract, albeit good, principals about leadership to something very personal – what is my leadership style?  After filling out the test, I couldn’t wait to jump to the chapter describing my most prevalent style, which I did.  I actually read all six in order of decreasing prevalence from my own test results.  The ones which matched my profile were interesting.  It’s always fun to see how well they actually match up to you, and they were spot on in this case.  Much to my surprise however, I learned just as much (maybe more) from reading the bottom three as the top three.  It’s was insightful to learn about people with leadership styles which represent my weaknesses and figure out who and how to incorporate those into my leadership style.  I think this is where Larry has really hit it out the park with his book, and I think this is why this book becomes much more of a reference work for constant review than just a one-time read.

So, Chapters 3 through 8 each describe one of the leadership styles.  Each chapter start with a reference to the ongoing Production object lesson followed by a profile of the leadership style, a biblical case study, a contemporary case study, and specific ideas and practical application about how to lead with each style whether or not it is your strength.  Each chapter ends with a prayer based on the leadership style and some questions for discussion.  Before I list the styles, I should say that the parts of each chapter which I enjoyed the most were the biblical case study and the contemporary case study.  My leadership style (which I’ll discuss later) says I like to go to the Bible to learn about leadership and kids, so it’s no surprise that I enjoyed the Biblical case study for each leadership style.  However, I also enjoyed the contemporary case study in which Larry interviewed and shared the perspectives of the likes of Jim Wideman, Karl Bastian (the Kidologist), Craig Jutlia and others.

So, without any further delay, here are the six leadership styles as Larry defines them along with a brief explanation of each:

1. The Director
The Director is all about vision.  They can see the vision for their children’s ministry and motivate their team to get there.  They study scripture and other successful ministries for ideas about where they should lead their ministry.  Directors take pleasure in getting their team to tackle big goals and do new things.  They tend to have any easy time asking other people to sacrifice for their vision.  In terms of the five stars of leadership, they bring both Promise Land and Muscle to the table.
2. The Production Assistant
The Production Assistant is adept at taking a Director’s vision and mapping out the steps needed to get there.  They separate large projects into a series of manageable steps and identify what is needs to be in place to lead their team through change.  They like calendars, timelines, to-do lists, planners and other things that help them measure progress.  The ministry start that they bring to the table is Maps.
3. The Stage Manager
The Stage Manager is takes care of all those pesky to-do lists that make a ministry run.  They are constantly looking out for new ways to make the ministry run more effectively.  They have a knack for creating systems and writing policies to help your ministry continue running smoothly.  They appreciate order and well defined environments.
4. The Drama Coach
The Drama Coach is leads by “teaching team members the competencies, values, policies and procedures, and philosophies needed for the team to become master children’s ministry volunteers.”  The Drama Coach is the consummate teacher who presents his knowledge of both scripture and children’s ministry in easy to understand ways to equip those who work with and for him.  He enjoys studying scripture and other literature to bring new ideas to children’s ministry.
5. The Theater Manager
The Theater Manager is concerned with relationships.  They focus on making sure that the ministry is healthy by ensuring that the members of the ministry are healthy.  They enjoy tending to the members of their teams and are able to unite a diverse group of people.
6. The Stagehand
The Stagehand meets the physical needs of the team to allow other leaders to spend their time focusing on their own leadership.  They anticipate needs for supplies and labor and make sure they are met.  They would rather assist than have one of the more visible roles in ministry and are willing to take on whatever task necessary to get the job done.

What were my results?

Well, thanks for asking.  I actually took the test twice.  The differences were only minor, but I spent more time reflecting on each question the second time, so here are the results from that test (including scores for each style out of a potential total of 24):

  1. Drama Coach (21)
  2. Director (20)
  3. Stage Manager (17)
  4. Production Assistant (17)
  5. Stage Hand (12)
  6. Theater Manager (11)

After review the types, I have to say that this assessment was pretty spot on for me.

What else is in the book?

The final chapters of the book include brief summaries of each type of leadership style, an assessment sheet for discerning your own strengths and weaknesses, suggestions for teaching your team about different leadership styles and the epilogue to the production narrative that runs throughout the book.

What didn’t I like?

I always feel compelled to include this section in my reviews or people just don’t believe the disclaimer below.  So, what didn’t I like about this book?  Well, despite looking far and wide, I couldn’t find anything in the book about sarcasm or long winded explanations – both of which are included amongst my leadership gifts.  Other than that, I couldn’t really find anything I didn’t like.

What disclaimer?

This one.  I received a free copy of this book (actually two) from Larry in order to participate in this book blog tour.  While I appreciate the free copy, it did not in any way impact the contents of this review.

So, this all sounds awesome, what do I do next?

If you already own the book, go read it again.  If you don’t, you can purchase it here. .

Shouldn’t you be giving one away?

Now, that’s a good idea!  Larry actually gave me a signed copy to give away.  If you want to enter, do one of the following:

  1. Leave a comment below; or
  2. Send the following tweet – RT @stocksohio is giving away a free copy of Lead the Way God Made You. Find out how you can win: http://wp.me/pN5Ju-110 #kidmin #cmconnect

Winner will be drawn from all entries before 9:00 AM, Wednesday, July 14, 2010.

Will this review ever end?

Yep.  I’m done now!

1 Comment

  1. Excellent premise for a book. Often, when leaders get started in ministry, logic seems to dictate that they imitate the leadership style of those who are enjoying success. Instead, success will come by obedience to God’s direction and allowing Him to use each individual as they were uniquely created.