Monday, May 30, 2011

Book Review: "When Better Isn't Enough"

TITLE: WHEN BETTER ISN'T ENOUGH - Evaluation Tools for the 21st-Century Church
AUTHOR: Jill M. Hudson
PUBLISHER: Herndon, VI: The Alban Institute, 2004, (170 pages)

When Better Isn't Enough: Evaluation Tools for the 21St-Century Church
This is a book about evaluating and measuring Church work and workers. It is about the need to change and to grow. Both are critical. Using 12 measurement 'tools,' Hudson helps readers to intelligently and practically put in place a template for enabling the Church and the workers to grow and to change accordingly. The two myths that are stated are helpful in setting the state for change and growth. The first is the myth that one can change without growing. Without the openness to change, congregations wrongfully assume that things can easily remain the same way, even though no growing is done. The second is the myth that one can change without conflict. This is another of those popular sentiments of measuring Christian love according to how 'nice' people are to one another.

Hudson is very aware of the postmodern climate. She describes such a climate as one that is like:
  • The belief that knowledge is certain and truth can be objectively sought; This gives rise to a higher authority given to science and technology;
  • Rise in women rights and a fight for a more level playing field;
  • Lower trust in institutions;
  • Culture is increasingly open to alternatives, like medicine, ecology, atheism,
  • Experience is the new yardstick to morals, ethics, and values;
  • The wide variety of choices.
  • 'postmoderns want to stand out, not fit-in.' (10)
  • Relative truth
Hudson proposes that the new postmodern church pastor must reflect the following 12 characteristics (p32):
  1. The ability to maintain personal, professional, and spiritual balance.
  2. The ability to guide a transformational faith experience (conversion).
  3. The ability to motivate and develop a congregation to be a 'mission outpost' (help churches reclaim their role in reaching new believers).
  4. The ability to develop and communicate a vision.
  5. The ability to interpret and lead change.
  6. The ability to promote and lead spiritual formation for church members.
  7. The ability to provide leadership for high-quality.
  8. The ability to identify, develop, and support lay leaders.
  9. The ability to build, inspire, and lead a 'team' of both staff and volunteers.
  10. The ability to manage conflict.
  11. The ability to navigate successfully the world of technology.
  12. The ability to be a lifelong learner.
Each characteristic is then followed by a set of questions for the pastor to examine himself with. There are also questions for the board or review committee to ponder about. 

My Comments
I read this book with some caution. While the book directs the 12 characteristics at the postmodern church pastor, it comes across as one that is too pastor-centric. It centers on ability more than quality. It looks like a skill driven list rather than a list to enable some kind of a fit between church, pastor, leaders, and congregation. I understand that Hudson is targeting pastors and Church leaders. After all, evaluation is usually most relevant to these people.

I think that such a book is a good kickstart to any evaluation exercise. It should not be the only tool used. I personally prefer it to be used alongside a team-directed kind of a evaluation exercise. Doing Church is a team effort. It cannot be completely thrown at any one person. The book does well on the nitty-gritty of church work. Most importantly, it requires the affirmation of the traditional facets of Christian faith, and an awareness of the changing postmodern environment. The book will be better helped with more biblical content, and the application of it. This is my main critique. How did Hudson draw from the Bible the 12 characteristics? What about the explicit preaching of the Word? What about the prayer life?

That said, this book is a certainly a book where 'better' is not quite enough.


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