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Book review: Make or break your church in 365 days – Paul Borden

In preparation for my first appointment as an officer of The Salvation Army, I’m reading and rereading some books that might help me in my ministry. One of the books recommended to me was Paul Borden’s book, Make or break your church in 365 days.

Cover of Paul Borden's Book, Make or Break Your Church in 365 DaysThe premise of the book is that in order to bring about systemic change to your church, there are certain things that a pastor needs to do. Borden shows this by first laying out his reasoning and research,  then laying out some of the things that you should do in the first 365 days. Finally,  he lays out a schedule for each day of the week,  outlining what a pastor should do with his time to help bring about systemic change.

There are a number of assumptions made by Borden in this book, some of which he names,  and others which are implied by the way he writes. The two biggest are that you are in the same denomination as him,  which is Southern Baptist from the USA,  and that you are a single minister – that is,  your spouse is not engaged in paid ministry,  but acts more like the ministers wife (whether male or female),  in that they cook dinner for the pastor, and intercept phone calls when the pastor is “off-duty”. Obviously,  that is not going to be the situation for everyone.

As a Salvation Army officer, my main problem with Borden’s weekly structure is that it is almost entirely spent in the office. Apart from daily breakfast and lunch meetings, which is with a new or potential convert, a potential leader, or a community leader, there is no time scheduled in to be with the community. As an officer who has signed a covenant to serve the least, the lost and the last, that just doesn’t fit well with me.

Finally,  Borden is scathing of those who don’t want to follow his plan. While he notes that systemic change is hard work (putting in 60 hour weeks most of the year) and not for everyone, he goes on to say that if you’re not up for the work, then you shouldn’t be a pastor at all. That seems to be a rather harsh assessment for a schedule that doesn’t necessarily fit all situations.

That being said,  there is some value to the book. It contains lots of practical pastoring examples that you can add to your tool kit, and it does encourage you to think strategically about your week structure. The main problem for Salvation Army officers though is that it’s written for pastors, and officers are not solely pastors, but pastors,  ministers, deacons, community workers, ceo’s and general dogs body workers,  all in one,  and probably a few more things as well. No book, written from someone outside of the Salvation Army, can even attempt to understand the differences and individualities that Salvation Army officership provides.

Rating: 3.5/5

Paul D. Borden, Make or Break Your Church in 365 Days: A Daily Guide to Leading Effective Change. Abingdon Press, May 2012

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