As I mentioned in my post earlier about healing from a broken (pastor) heart, seeking ways to grow and do self-reflection on your biases, blindspots, trauma and history is an important part of healing as a pastor. I encourage clergy to seek out a professionally trained person to talk to-a therapist, counselor, spiritual director, coach or reiki practitioner to help sift through these themes as they show up in your relationships and ministry. But there are some times where geography (hello small town ministry where everyone knows everywhere you go!) or finances (can we all say student loans) can prevent you from getting this kind of help. That doesn’t mean you can’t go to your public library or hit up Amazon and get some resources that can be used as a tool to help you work through your stuff.
Even though I am weary of the whole “self-help” genre that often doesn’t take into account family history, social location, systemic biases and other things that make up your specific situation, there are some books that I think do a good job with asking good questions and guiding solid self-reflection. While this is by no means an exhaustive list here are a few books I recommend for self discovery and reflection:
The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile
The Enneagram is all the rage right now with tons of experts popping up on the internet with cute memes and snarky commentary. The Road Back to You provides a solid introductory to the Enneagram personality typology by two authors that have spent years developing and studying this tool for knowing ourselves and others.
The Leader’s Journey: Accepting the Call to Personal and Congregational Transformation by Jim Herrington, Robert Creech & Trisha Taylor
This book is a personal classic. When I was first starting in ministry and friend and colleague of mine gave me a copy. I read it every few years because the content is just that good. It focuses on systems and how we play a part in changing or maintaining systems in the church. Not a reader? You are in luck with this one, as the authors now have a podcast where they present many of the theories in depth on the show.
The Three Marriages by David Whyte
I love the poetry of David Whyte but I have also found helpful this book on the relationship between vocation, the self and significant relationships. This is a good book to help reflect how you balance the multiple facets of your life–being a pastor with a passion for your work, a person separate from your work with your own unique needs and desires and a person who is in relationship with others, whether that is a spouse or deep friendships. Whyte invites the reader to reflect on the importance and value of each to feed the other.
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo
Pastors, we can not talk about healing ourselves and our communities without talking about racism and its systematic effects on our communities and how we think and view the world. Part of our journey to self-discovery as a pastor includes examining the systems, practice and biases that shape our lives. Di Angelo does an excellent job helping readers understand the issues at hand and facilitate reader self-reflection. I highly recommend reading this book with a friend or in a cohort group that can help you process and hold you accountable.
Grief Works: Stories of Life, Death and Surviving by Julia Samuels
Loss is a part of living and grief is a part of loving. This book written by British grief psychotherapist Julia Samuels tackles various forms of grief through the personal stories of her clients as well as offering specific reflections and suggestions on how to make sense of our loss. This book is essential to any pastoral library, but it is also a helpful tool for reflecting on and processing grief as a pastor.
Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown
Did I say only five books? I supposed I did but I can’t have a list about healing and self-discovery without the queen of vulnerability and hard work. All of Brene Brown’s books are excellent, but when I ask fellow clergy which one they think is her best or helped them this most its Daring Greatly. If you don’t know who Brene Brown is you can watch her TED Talk to get a feel for what her work is all about. When you find that pastoral work or life in general is tempting you to form a protective shell, this is a book that reminds you that you can live and lead from joy.
This is not a comprehensive list, just some of the better resources I have run across. So, what have you read that you have really grown from?
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