As I’m often asked for book recommendations on various subjects, I decided to put together an online list of my top ten books in various categories. Basically, if I was only allowed 10 books in my library on that subject, these are the ten I would choose. Previous posts include:

Following on from my articles on eldership (here and here), today I’m listing my Top 10 Books for Elders, with the recommendation that elders read at least one of these books on eldership every year. Why not do it together with fellow-elders? If you know of other good books on this topic please leave your suggestion in the comments and I’ll add them under “Reader Suggestions.”

Obviously there are various church polity models represented here, but I hope you’ll find much to learn about eldership from each of the various traditions.

1. The Shepherd Leader by Timothy Witmer

I agree with Pastor Al Martin that this book should be required reading for all elders/pastors. Crystalizes the elder’s work around four verbs: Knowing, leading, protecting, providing.

Also see Witmer’s The Shepherd Leader at Home for application of the same shepherding principles to family life.

2. The Elder and His Work by David Dickson

We’ve been studying this older Scottish work at our church. It’s a short and inspiring treatment of eldership that will elevate and expand your view of eldership as well as providing much practical advice on how to fulfil your duties. You can read my notes on the book here.

3. Biblical Eldership by Alexander Strauch

The most comprehensive, exegetical, and theological of the books on this list. It is also the best-selling book and for good reason. Like The Shepherd Leader this book also groups the elder’s duties under four categories: leading, feeding, caring, and protecting.

And here’s a condensed and simplified Booklet Version of Biblical Eldership, which can also serve as a helpful checklist for duties

4. Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons by Thabiti Anyabwile

The majority of the book is focused on eldership. It’s a simpler and more accessible alternative to Strauch’s Biblical Eldlership. Warm, exegetical, and practical, with challenging questions for both present and prospective elders.

5. Church Elders: How to Shepherd God’s People Like Jesus by Jeremie Rinne

A fresh, concise introduction to eldership from the IX Marks Building Healthy Churches series. Also a good book to give to non-elders in the church to help them understand the elders’ roles and their spiritual relationship to them.

6. The Elder’s Handbook: A Practical Guide for Church Leaders by Lester DeKoster

Practical, conversational, and with a Dutch Reformed flavor.

7. The Trellis and The Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne

The helpful metaphor in the title of this book helps church leaders to discern if they are getting the right mix of vine work (preaching, teaching, discipleship) and trellis work (organization, administration, support work) and if the right people are doing each.

8. Conviction to Lead by Al Mohler

Although not aimed only at elders, this appears at #1 on my Top 10 Christian Leadership Books, and therefore strongly recommended for any Christian leadership position.

9. Hospitality Commands by Alexander Strauch

1 Timothy 3 lists two of the elder’s duties – teaching and hospitality. As the latter is often neglected, the author of Biblical Eldership wants to put that right with this brief book on hospitality. A Meal With Jesus by Tim Chester is another book on hospitality. I’ve not read it but I’ve read many good reviews.

10. How Sermons Work by David Murray

Again not a specifically for elders, but as all elders are to be “able to teach,” this simple primer on the basics of putting a biblical message together might help elders get started on their first Sunday school lesson or sermon.

Honorable Mentions

The Warrant, Nature, and Duties, of the Office of the Ruling Elder, in the Presbyterian Church by Samuel Miller.

Elders in the Life of the Church by Phil Newton and Matt Schmucker

Reader Suggestions

With a Shepherd’s Heart by John Sittema.

The Work of the Pastor by William Still

The Cross and Christian Ministry by Don Carson

A Portrait of Paul by Jeremy Walker and Rob Ventura

  • Wes Bredenhof

    John Sittema’s With a Shepherd’s Heart is also an excellent resource. At two of the churches I’ve served we’ve used that for elder training.

    • David Murray

      Thanks Wes, I added that under “reader suggestions.”

  • Mike Davenport

    A Portrait of Paul: Identifying a True Minister of Christ
    by Jeremy Walker and Rob Ventura

    I particularly found this book encouraging in its use of the Scriptures as from the hand of Paul – how Paul saw himself fulfilling the duties of this office. Also helpful is the way that the book addresses the office from the perspective of the office-bearer as well as the church in need of an elder.

    • David Murray

      Thanks Mike. I added that one. It’s an especially good book for the teaching elder/minister.

  • Chris Hutchinson

    “The Work of the Pastor” by William Still. (Since all elders pastor to some degree, cf. I Pet. 5). Brings a simplicity, courage and single-mindedness not found in many of the more modern “how to” pastor books. Given as a series of lectures to IVCF students in the early 60s. And Scot no less!

    “The Cross and Christian Ministry” by DA Carson. Also given as a series of lectures, and largely an exposition of I Corinthians 1-3. Helps keep us focused on ministering in a way that reflects the Cross, rather than more worldly goals and measurements.

    Appreciate your blog!

    • David Murray

      Thanks Chris. I added these, although I think they are more suited to the traditional minister/teaching elder role than the ruling elder.

      • Chris Hutchinson

        Indeed, but I couldn’t resist. Thank you for including them.

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  • Arthur Miskin

    Harry Rheeder’s The Leadership Dynamic is a pretty good resource too ,David.

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  • Kevin LeRoy

    I really enjoyed Christ in Church Leadership. Very practical. Both of the Authors were on staff with Ray Stedman at PBC.

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