Who should Christian college leaders ask for book recommendations?  

Larry McKinney’s broad range of experience in Christian academia makes him an ideal candidate. He has served as president of Simpson University, Providence University College and Seminary, and the Association of Canadian Bible Colleges. As executive director of the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE), he led the association through a transition that positioned the ABHE to a significantly more strategic and marketable place in higher education. As a consultant, he continues to impact Christian colleges and universities. Having authored Equipping for Service: A Historical Account of the Bible College Movement in North America. He has a broad understanding of our movement.

Here are some books he recommends:

The Leader’s Palette: Seven Primary Colors—Ralph L. Enlow, Jr.

Are leaders “born” or “made”? Is leadership considered an art or a science? The Scriptures and scholarly consensus suggest both! Leadership is a gift. But just like every other God-given capacity, the gift needs to be developed through thoughtful exercise. Aspiring and experienced leaders alike can benefit from the reflection this book fosters on the scenic possibilities inherent in God’s vivid leadership spectrum. The book will help leaders to learn about seven aspects of leadership and how to exercise them effectively, to gain insights that can help them reflect on their leadership strengths and to expand their leadership insights and capabilities, and to enhance their capacity to learn from past and present leadership experiences.


The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate the Three Essential Virtues–Patrick Lencioni

In his classic best-selling book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni laid out a groundbreaking, new approach for attacking the dangerous behaviors that destroy teamwork. Here, he turns his focus to the individual member of a team, revealing the three essential virtues that make some people better team players than others. Lencioni’s latest fable is the story of a leader desperate to save his company by cracking the code on the virtues that define a true team player. Beyond the fable, Lencioni presents a powerful framework and easy-to-read tools for identifying, hiring, and developing ideal team players in any kind of organization.


Mission Drift: The Unspoken Crisis Facing Leaders, Charities, and Churches—Peter Greer and Chris Horst

Why do so many organizations, including churches, mission agencies, and religious colleges, wander from their mission, while others remain Mission True? Can drift be prevented? In Mission Drift, Hope International executives, Peter Greer and Chris Horst, tackle these questions. They show how to determine whether your organization is in danger of drift, and they share the results of their research into Mission True and Mission Untrue organizations.

Even if your organization is Mission True now, it is wise to look for ways to insulate yourself against drift. You will discover what you can do to prevent drift or get back on track and how to protect what matters most.


Good Governance for Nonprofits: Developing Principles and Policies for an Effective Board—Fredric L. Laughlin and Robert C. Andringa

Good Governance for Nonprofits is a succinct but thorough guide that can help organizations develop a board that is legally and ethically responsible and effective in advancing their needs. The authors offer a process manual to help boards apply proven standards of governance. With limited resources, nonprofit leaders can learn how to eliminate redundancy or outdated policies, add new processes more effectively, guide the CEO and evaluate his or her performance, ensure compliance with required legislation and regulations, understand why certain policies should be included, and adapt the authors’ template to their specific situations.


Nonprofit Sustainability: Making Strategic Decisions for Financial Viability–Jeanne Bell, Jan Masaoka, and Steve Zimmerman

Nonprofit organizations, particularly many private Christian colleges and universities, struggle to find a long-term sustainable business model that will enable them to carry out their mission and their activities effectively. Thanks to Jeanne Bell, Jan Masaoka, and Steve Zimmerman, helpful insights are available. This book offers practical, concrete steps that can help organizations develop their own unique paths to sustainability without compromising their mission.


Surviving to Thriving: A Planning Framework for Leaders of Private Colleges and Universities—Joanne Soliday and Rick Mann

During these turbulent times, navigating the education landscape presents a multi-dimensional challenge to leaders of private colleges and universities. While some institutions close their doors, face declining enrollment, or struggle with a lack of direction, others work carefully and intentionally to hone their leadership team, plan for the future using targeted research and tools for accountability, and meet students where they are to provide them with the best tools for learning and success. This book will provide private college and university leaders plan for the future and shape the story of their respective institutions.


Turnaround: Leading Stressed Colleges and Universities to Excellence—James Martin, James E. Samels & Associates

More than one-thousand colleges and universities are facing major challenges ranging from sagging enrollments to budget shortfalls, This comprehensive handbook draws upon the wisdom and experience of higher education leaders who provide the tools that are needed to put fragile institutions back on the road to success. The book outlines how board members, presidents, and other administrators can identify their institutions’ weaknesses, implement plans for improvement, and mitigate existing damage. Turnaround is valuable resource for all higher education administrators who are called upon to lead during difficult times.


The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out–Clayton M. Christensen and Henry J. Eyring

The Innovative University illustrates how higher education can respond to the forces of disruptive innovation and offers a nuanced and hopeful analysis of where the traditional university and its traditions have come from and how it needs to change for the future. A thorough examination of Harvard University and Brigham Young University-Idaho, as well as other stories of innovation in higher education, the authors decipher how universities can find innovative, less costly ways of pursuing their uniquely valuable functions. Topics that are addressed include: curriculum, faculty, enrollment, retention, graduation rates, strategic planning, and budget adjustments.


Faith and Learning: A Handbook for Christian Higher Education—David S. Dockery (editor)

The calling of Christian higher education is to reflect the life of Christ and shine the light of truth. That distinctive mission cannot be forced into an either/or framework but rather a both/and calling. It is a commitment to Jesus Christ himself who is both fully God and fully human and who for Christian educators is both light and life.

This multi-authored volume, with dynamic contributions from entry-level faculty to seasoned scholars, explores the question of the Christian faith’s place on the university campus, whether in administrative matters, the broader academic world, or in student life.


Of course, this article would be remiss to not include a summary of McKinney’s book on the history of the Bible college movement.

Equipping for Service: A Historical Account of the Bible College Movement in North America—Larry J. McKinney

History, a study of the past, helps us to define the future. This is quite true with respect to biblical higher education. The Bible college movement grew out of a period of Protestant revivalism of the late 19th century in response to the changing needs of the Church and higher education. This educational phenomenon continued throughout the 20th century as churches and religious organizations continued to develop training institutions that were committed to equipping leaders for the Lord’s service.

While biblical higher education has undergone many changes, particularly during the past fifty years, the colleges, universities, and seminaries that grew out of this movement continue to have a profound influence on the church and the world in the 21st century through leadership, scholarship, and service.



  • Larry McKinney

    Dr. Larry McKinney is a higher education consultant specializing in institutional effectiveness, strategy, and change for Christian colleges and universities. Past positions include president of Simpson University, executive director of the Association for Biblical Higher Education, and president of Providence University College & Seminary.

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