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[Quick note: after I drafted this post last week, I heard from my friend Jason Young, who compiled the mother lode of guest services reading for the summer. You can find that list here or on Jason’s blog (which should be in your bookmarks, anyway). Alrighty, now on to the post…]

It’s that time once again, campers: time to dust off your beach bags and fill ’em with beach reads and head to the beach. Unless you’re like me – a guy who hates the beach – in which case you’ll stay inside out of the sunlight and as close to the air conditioning vent as is humanly possible.

There are plenty of bloggers out there who are offering up a fantastic eclectic mix of summer reads. Trevin Wax published his last week, and it’s been making the rounds quicker than a stomach bug in a first grade classroom.

I thought it might be fun to put out my seven favorite reads from the last year or so, all centered around guest services. And away we go…

Disney U: How Disney University Develops the World’s Most Engaged, Loyal, and Customer-Centric Employees, Doug Lipp. Lipp trained under Van France, the first to implement Cast Member training at Disneyland. Reading this book will inspire you to capture the same kind of magic for your church vols.

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, Atul Gawande. You will instantly bear the title of “nerd” if you order this book. But you’ll also thank me. Gawande is a Gladwell-esque style writer who uses fantastic stories to illustrate the ingenious importance of a simple checklist. Don’t love it ’til you’ve tried it.

Secret Service: Hidden Systems that Deliver Unforgettable Customer ServiceJohn DiJulius. I’ve never recommended a book on hair salons before. And chances are, you’ve never read one. But DiJulius has captured the essence of his chain’s service with one (paraphrased) statement: “We don’t provide $100 haircuts. We provide $25 haircuts with $100 worth of experience.”

Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, Simon Sinek. Sinek unintentionally explains one of our First Impressions plumblines: the why is more important than the what. Get a grasp on how you help your volunteers know not just what they do, but why they do it.

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration, Ed Catmull. We’re all fans of Pixar movies: whether it’s Toy StoryA Bug’s Life, or that classic kiddie movie about an old man whose wife died and left him to float away in his house, Pixar knows how to tell a story. Learn the method behind their team’s madness.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Malcolm Gladwell. Some research says that a person will make eleven separate decisions about you within the first seven seconds of contact. How can you use that knee jerk reaction for both your benefit and theirs? Get inside the mind of your guests – and your vols – with the help of a fantastic storyteller.

Why Church Buildings Matter: The Story of Your Space, Tim Cool. Tim walks the reader through what your facility – owned or rented – says about what you value.

What about an eighth? Or a ninth? Got any great guest services reads that need to be on my reading list for the summer? Comment below.

 

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The Art of Reading, Remembering, and Retaining More Books(via @Buffer) Speaking of speed-reading, you’ll have to do it to this lengthy article, but there’s some good stuff here.

 I look at books as investments in a future of learning rather than a fleeting moment of insight, soon to be forgotten. I store all the reviews and notes from my books on my personal blog so I can search through them when I need to remember something I’ve read.

 

Pleasantly Persistent: 5 Rules for Effectively Following Up(via @dailymuse) We all have to “circle back around” at some point. Here’s how to do it without being pushy.

The average person can get a few hundred emails a day. That makes it pretty tough to respond to all of them, and things naturally fall to the bottom of the list. If you don’t get a response, it doesn’t mean that someone’s ignoring you—it just may mean that he or she is too busy.

 

How Long Does it Take to Watch… (via @Premium Funny) Admit it: most of you are just as geeked about 24 coming back on as I am. Sadly, fans of Jack Bauer have wasted the most possible TV time of anybody out there. (Instead of “wasted,” I prefer “investing in crucial knowledge or else the terrorists will win.”)

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How To Keep A Library Of (Physical) Books. I love me some books (especially the ones that deal with grammar). Ryan Holiday schools us on how to organize an incredibly large library.

I’ll be real clear about the benefits of owning physical books: You own them. They are there, physically, in your house. You cannot forget about them. A different app is not one click away. You can see patterns. You can gauge your progress. You can show off your efforts (and you should–reading is something to be proud of). You can look for what you need, find it on the shelf and satisfyingly say “Ah, here it is” and find the exact passage you marked for this purpose.

The secret of the five top. (via Seth Godin) There are some great nuggets in here for churches. Newcomers’ events, anyone?

In my experience–I’m sharing a hugely valuable secret here–you score a big win when you put five people at tables for four instead. Five people, that magical prime number, pushes everyone to talk to everyone. The close proximity makes it more difficult to find a place for the bread basket, but far, far easier for people to actually do what they came to do, which is connect with one another.

Father and Four Year Old Daughter Sing “Tonight You Belong To Me”(HT Tastefully Offensive) This is quirky, sweet, and hilarious all at once. Makes me want to learn how to play a little pink guitar.

Yes, yes. I realize that summer break is roughly 1/3 over. But I’m just now getting around to some vacation reading, which means I’m just now getting around to my sort of annual suggested reading list.

“Why should we pay any attention to your book suggestions?!?” You shriek. Because Oprah is busy running a network and she doesn’t have time to oversee a book club, that’s why. Somebody has to step in, and I’m glad to do it.

So without further adieu, here are the top seven books I’ve read over the last few months. I highly recommend ’em for your beach reads…

Church Membership: How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus, Jonathan Leeman. Leeman gives a great view-from-the-pew perspective on why covenant membership is important. This is a required read for all of our Connections team this year.

Connect: How to Double Your Number of Volunteers, Nelson Searcy. Searcy is the king of church systems. He gives a great play-by-play of how to identify, invite, and retain the most important people in ministry: volunteer servants.

Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry, Paul David Tripp. Perhaps the most spiritually challenging book I’ve ever read, Tripp squares off against the pastor’s common enemies of pride and self-sufficiency.

The Honest Toddler: A Child’s Guide to Parenting, Bunmi Laditan. I finished this book a couple of days ago and was literally sore from laughing. I think I LOLed on all but about five pages. Seriously, if you’re a parent you have to buy this one. Funniest book I’ve ever read. Ever.

Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service, Ken Blanchard & Sheldon Bowles. If you serve retail customers or church guests, this book is a quick, easily-implemented read to change the way you look at both.

Red Letters: Living a Faith That Bleeds, Tom Davis. Davis’ Fields of the Fatherless was a game changer for me a few years back when Merriem and I were praying through adoption. He challenges the American church’s apathy towards the worldwide AIDS epidemic.

Sent: How One Ordinary Family Traded the American Dream for God’s Greater Purpose, Hilary Alan. This could be one of the most impactful “calling” books I’ve ever encountered. Hilary and her family are personal friends. I’ve had the privilege of observing them from God’s call on their family to their time overseas to their re-entry into stateside life. If you’ve never read a page-turning disciple-making story, this one’ll get you started.

What am I missing? What have you read lately that should be on my list? Comment below.