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Book Review: Brain Savvy Leaders

Brain research. It sounds sleep-inducing (and to some it is), but there are many real-life practical applications of the tons of insights that are being discovered every year. Brain-Savvy Leaders: The Science of Significant Ministry links new know-how on how our brains operate to how we (should) do ministry and in doing so offers many valuable tips to get it right—or at least better.

The book focuses on four areas:

  • Emotional regulation
  • Team collaboration
  • Personal productivity
  • Change management

brain savvy leadersIn each area, specific tools and approaches are given to use brain research to do better in our ministry.

In case you wonder what brain research has to do with ministry: a lot. To me, the best chapters (because they offered the most practical tools) were the one on emotions and the one on change. In both cases, the author shows how ineffective your current strategies may be, based on how our brain operates.

Let me give an example to make it even more practical. In the chapter on change, the author explains how brain research has shown that people naturally assume the worst and that they fill in gaps in their knowledge with fear. That stresses the importance of timely, correct, and abundant info whenever leading our team through a change—big or small. We’ve all seen this in action (including in ourselves), but here we learn why and how—and what we can do to prevent it from happening, or reduce the consequences.

The same is true for the chapter on emotions, which shows how our emotions can get the best of us—and what we can do to let calmer heads prevail. Literally.

Author Charles Stone is not a brain scientist: he’s a lead pastor. That means he’s coming at it from a ministry viewpoint based on what he has learned about the brain over the years. That helps tremendously in making the book accessible.

Sure, there’s a healthy dose of scientific info on the brain in there, necessary to understand the concepts Stone advocates. But it’s certainly understandable for ‘amateurs’ and Stone has done his best to use normal language. He even uses some mnemonic techniques to help us remember his concepts better (and they work!).

X-ray image of a human head brain

The book is also highly spiritual, meaning that the author constantly uses the Bible as his starting and ending point. In discussion our leadership, he constantly points towards a higher standard, encouraging us to do better. The fact that he honestly shares some painful mistakes and a lot of personal stories helps to make it feel authentic.

If you’re a leader in the church, Brain-Savvy Leaders will help you to understand yourself and your team better. If you already have a solid basic knowledge of how the brain works, you can skip the stuff in the first few chapters but you’ll still learn tons from the later parts of the book. Highly recommended!

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