It was Saturday night at 10:30 when I closed the back cover of the book I was reading. It was designed to help pastors become better preachers, but that’s not what it did for me. It went deeper. I didn’t just get a few handy dandy tips, I was challenged to evaluate myself as a communicator.
We all need this. We need to have our mind sparked, our cage rattled, our methods confronted. We need high ideals that keep us from settling for mediocrity. We need success stories to inspire us to persevere. We need challenges in all areas of life and ministry. And we can’t afford to drop $300 for conferences every month (plus travel, hotel, and meals—of course). So, what should we do? Why not pick up a book and save some cash?
A friend of mine once quipped, “A leader is a reader.” It may sound a bit preachy, but it’s true. Leaders who don’t read become stale, and nobody wants that. So, don’t stop reading once you’re out of school and in the real world. Keep growing through the knowledge and experience of others. Here are a few tips as you read:
- Avoid the reading rut. The reading rut is a place I often find myself. I get there by reading the same kinds of books over and over again. Here’s the problem: A lack of subject variety limits your growth as a leader. Instead, be intentional about variety by reading.
- Read different kinds of books. Books on theology, leadership, methodology, and more should be included as you seek personal growth. Even secular leadership books are beneficial, just dig through the corporate mindset to find the takeaway thoughts.
- Read different authors. This is hard because we all have favorites. There’s nothing wrong with this, but reading only one author can lead you to become a carbon copy of that pastor, teacher, or leader. But the only person we are designed to imitate is the Lord Jesus.
- Read different forms of literature. Don’t just read books, read magazines, newspapers, and journals. We lead in a specific cultural context, and being out of touch with culture isn’t an option for those who want to transform culture.
- Get the most out of it. In 2007 I set a goal to read 12 books in addition to the Bible. As I look over that list, there are a few books I barely remember reading. I just devoured them to meet my goal. Don’t do that! It’s a waste of time and energy to read if we don’t chew on the material, filter it through the teachings of the Bible, and apply the principles as needed. Use a highlighter, take notes, or talk about it with other leaders. Whatever it takes, get the most out of what you read.
- Don’t be afraid to disagree. I once read a book in which the principles laid out in the first half of the book were great. However, the application of those principles went against convictions I have about worship. If you’re committed to continually reading, you’ll run into things you disagree with—some will even make you downright mad. That’s okay! Running into opposition helps sharpen our convictions and drives us back to Scripture for answers. We are challenged to ask ourselves, Why do I think the way I do?, which is always a good thing.
- Share the wealth. Don’t read great books, digest them, and then keep them to yourself. Recommend them to others. Use them to encourage and invest in the lives of those you are leading, as well as other leaders in your community.
- Never neglect the Book. In the rush to stay current and learn more about leadership, do not neglect Scripture. It wont matter how great you are as a leader if you’re not walking in close fellowship with the Lord Jesus.
My Saturday night reading experience was Gods reminder that I need people to speak into my life. Leadership can be difficult and lonely, but reading is one way to find encouragement and help. So, get in your favorite chair, get out a book, and allow authors throughout history to speak into your life.