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Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times: Being Calm and Courageous No Matter What
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Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times: Being Calm and Courageous No Matter What

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  356 ratings  ·  48 reviews
Anxious times call for steady leadership. When tensions emerge in a congregation, its leaders cannot be as anxious as the people they serve. To remain effective, congregational leaders must control their own uneasiness. This takes self-awareness and confidence to manage relationships and influence behaviors. Knowing how to deal with anxiety and how to work throug complex c ...more
Paperback, 200 pages
Published November 20th 2006 by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (first published January 1st 2006)
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Jared Wilson
Jul 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
More gospel and less therapy-speak would have helped, but this is still an excellent read and a book I'd recommend to almost any pastor about calm, confident leadership in the midst of conflict, confusion, or chaos. Really good stuff here on understanding conflict dynamics, emotionality, etc. in congregations. For every story he told, I could think of real-life examples I either faced as a pastor or am aware of in the pastorates of others I know. ...more
Trevor Hoffman
Jun 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An extremely helpful book. Applies the concepts of Edwin Friedman’s work (see “failure of nerve”) to a congregational leadership setting. Invaluable tool for pastors / elders.
Jan 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
I was anticipating this to be more about external opposition or circumstantial anxiety. It deals more with internal conflicts. Though it wasn't what I expected, it was very good. ...more
Dan Scott
Nov 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Handbook for Leaders Facing Conflict

As a pastor who has led churches through times of serious congregational conflicts, I wish every pastor, elder, deacon and bishop would read this book. It is full real wisdom and insight into the realities of Christian leadership.
Byron Fike
May 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Steinke has a great deal of experience in working with anxious churches and he uses that experience to help the thoughtful church leader understand the dynamics behind church conflicts.
Devin Morris
Oct 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wow! My first Steinke book. I immediately ordered two others (Uproar and A Door Set Open). I love his use of illustrations, examples from churches he has worked alongside, personal experience, and bullet point lists that capture his thoughts at the end of each chapter.
This is a great resource for congregational leadership and dealing with groups as emotional systems. Edwin Friedman was Steinke’s mentor and it comes out in his writings. Every chapter was beneficial and I encourage church leaders
Jun 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
A practical and easily read application of Bowen’s Systems Theory within a church context. Concrete and tangible examples help to illustrate the way a psychological theory can be enacted to build healthy communities. Often simple and elementary, but promotes accessibility for leadership and lay person.
Drew Miller
Feb 11, 2019 rated it liked it
A helpful discussion of the role of healthy leadership in dealing with anxiety and conflict in the church. Leans heavily on Bowenian family systems theory (anxiety, differentiation, biological metaphors and triangles).
Apr 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent examples

Bowen Theory is reflected throughout the book giving excellent examples of congregations in real life scenarios. Resolutions and the processes to them are discussed as well. Thought provoking for leaders
Zachary Adams
Apr 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: leadership
Steinke combines aspects from science (psychology, biology, neuroscience, etc.) with leadership and ministry in a powerful way. It’s refreshing to have an approach on this topic that appreciates an interdisciplinary approach. Definitely recommend! Especially in a post-COVID-19 world.
Kelley Johnson
Nov 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An excellent work bringing clarity to the navigation of our current challenges (Covid-19, a divisive election season, racial struggles). I found the closing chapter on narcissism to be very insightful and eye opening.
Tom Greentree
Mar 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A whole new way of seeing and understanding congregational relationships and our leadership in it. I look forward to reading more of Steinke.
Tony Meyer
Jan 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book about church leadership written in a wonderfully accessible format. The "bonus chapter" at the end about narcissism entitled "People of the Charm" was excellent. ...more
John Lucy
Mar 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Solid book but derivative from other sources. In addition to being derivative, the examples and cases are less than convincing.

Still, if you find it in your hands and you don't have any other resource for guiding you through anxious times in the church, might as well read it.
Apr 20, 2015 rated it liked it
This is probably a 3.5 star book, but alas...

There's so much talk in the jacket notes about how awesome and revered Steinke is, which I find kind of funny because basically he's just really good at funnelling other people's information. (And, I have to admit, I totally judge him for citing Wikipedia in this. I was a teacher, okay--that knee-jerk response will never fade.) I really appreciated the clarity of Steinke's analogies to explain the concepts he wanted to get across, though I'm not sure
Nathaniel Michael
Sep 01, 2015 rated it liked it
The information in this book was very challenging and enlightening. Its primary focus is to encourage leaders to be controlled, decisive, and creative in the presence of contagious anxiety. A self-controlled leader can have a powerfully transformative effect on a reactive and self-preserving emotional system. The book was filled with examples and analogies so that every principle was easy to comprehend. The writing was straightforward and simple and quotes were well chosen. Every chapter express ...more
Sean Post
Jul 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Steinke uses his wealth of experience as a consultant to craft this masterpiece. I don't use that word lightly. By far, this is one of the best leadership books I have read. The subtitle, "being calm and courageous no matter what" captures the particular angle of leadership which is discussed in this book. Steinke isn't talking about the romantic side of leadership. He is addressing the tension-filled atmosphere which characterizes the jungle of chaos all leaders inhabit.

His central idea is tha
Shirley Freeman
I read this as part of the Vital Church Initiative and really liked it. The subtitle highlights the main theme of the book -- being calm and courageous no matter what. Steinke uses insights from science, especially biology, to describe the way a group of people tends to operate under stress. He emphasizes well-known, but often under-used, leadership qualities to encourage church leaders to lead. I found the book encouraging in spite of the fact that I'm not overly excited about anxious times. I ...more
James Cooper
Nov 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This was an excellent book from start to finish. Highly recommend this book for any clergy member, lay leader, or any one who wants to be a good leader. I thoroughly liked the chapter discussing Moses and Aaron and the different leadership styles of the two and how it relates today. Clear in everything he has to say, Steinke seemed to make sense of not only Scripture, but how we interact with one another and that outcome is what leads us to form the communities/ideals/decisions we make, but at t ...more
Tj Luoma
Feb 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A good read, and an even better re-read

This is one of those books which might often be "required reading" in seminary but which proves itself to be _mandatory_ reading in parish ministry.

There is nothing particularly complex or complicated in this book, but that doesn't mean that it can't change your entire perspective on dealing with yourself (and others) during times of conflict.

Get a copy and read it even if (or perhaps especially if) you don't feel like you "need" it right now, and then keep
Rob O'Lynn
Oct 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: leadership, ministry
Great follow-up to Healthy Congregations! Steinke gets a little bogged down in the neuroscience and biology that systems thinkers are known to use as the foundation for our theory, however it is a "light and momentary affliction" that is necessary to understand the full argument that Steinke presents. The big benefits here are the "A Personal Note" and "Leader's Notebook" sections at the end of each section. Here, Steinke gives practical advice related to the concepts discussed in that chapter. ...more
The other John
Sep 29, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sociology, theology
I serve on the church council for our congregation, so I had to read this book. I don't particularly consider myself a leader, mind you. So perhaps that's why I wasn't impressed. The book did offer some good advice, I guess. It just seemed, well, obvious: Don't panic. Think things through. Stick to your principles. Really listen to people. ... Of course, I suppose that during a crisis--in church or elsewhere--one does need to be reminded of the obvious. ...more
May 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
An interesting combination of cell biology, Bible stories, and systems dynamics -- used to highlight some of the dysfunction typical of religious communities and prescribe behaviors likely to promote strong leadership. Those already deeply involved in congregational politics will recognize some of the parishioner types described. Steinke's suggestions for leadership success aren't necessarily easy, but they sure seem promising and admirable. ...more
Aug 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended for church lay leaders

This book provided wonderful content to prepare me for a period of transition at our church. It was easy to read and gave great spiritual and physiological references for the challenges congregational leaders face in times of change. Scenarios of real life issues are included as well as checklists and open ended questions. I am much better prepared to lead in the anxious time approaching our congregation.
Dec 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A short read that brings invaluable insights to congregational leadership. Too often leaders take a band aid approach to problem solving, relying on treating the symptoms rather than looking for the underlying issues involved. Some leaders let their own anxiety inflate the anxiety of those around them making every situation worse. This book contains great insight into achieving true growth and change rather than "keeping a lid on it". ...more
Aug 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: congregational leaders
I read this book because I'm in a leadership position at my church which is experiencing a lot of anxiety. I found it enlightening and laughed about how so many of the examples he included are or were going on at my church. I'm sharing it with other trustees to help us during this time of conflict. ...more
Jul 25, 2012 rated it liked it
This is a useful introduction to Steinke's work using the Bowen family systems theory in congregational life. I am not a family systems theory expert but I did not think there was much new here if you have read Steinke's other works.
I was frustrated that Steinke did not give more help in how to achieve the goal of being a differentiated leader.
Nathan Willard
Apr 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion, 2016, tim
Steinke does a great job of laying out elements in our own minds and in our congregational systems to be aware of. It helped me thing about managing my own anxiety, understanding the reactions around me and the resources I need to provide to the congregation, and the need to challenge the congregation as a leader.

It really changed the way I think about my role as leader.
Aug 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This probably should be 3 Stars, but the information was so helpful to our current church situation, I had to give an extra star. The analogies were confusing and the scienc-y bit in the middle was just too much. The first 3, and final 3 chapters were spot on. Generated some excellent discussion and gave us tools to frame our current issues.
Sep 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
more wisdom than you can get from just reading it. So, it's good, and it tells you how to be courageous and self-differentiate, but it seems to me that you can only really absorb is you read this in a group while also practicing being courageous in a real life situation. ...more
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