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Why Leaders Should Read Widely, and How to Do It

There are a lot of people in churches who believe they should be reading more than they are. They know that there is a unique enrichment available from good literature, but struggle to take advantage. Here are 10 quick suggestions that may be helpful:

1. Small blocks of time add up. If you read for 20 minutes per day, then you will start to move through quite a few books a year, even if you are a typical slow reader. If you aim for two hours a day, then you will probably not make it through the week!

2. Location! Location! Location! If you try to read at a busy desk with emails and Twitter pinging, then you won’t really read. Get that 20 minutes, or whatever, in a place where you can focus.

3. Redeem the time. Be ready to grab more minutes when you are in a waiting room, standing in a line, eating your lunch alone or wherever. Lots of time can be lost wishing you had a book with you (my kindle app on my phone is for this purpose only).

4. Beware frittered time. Cumulatively it is probably scary how much time is wasted on social media and half-reading half-decent stuff online. I maintain that even reading good stuff online is not as nourishing as reading the same authors in a book.

5. Read appropriately. Some books are designed to be skimmed. Others require some effort. Preview a chapter, look at the headings and conclusion. Use a highlighter in heavier books. Enjoy skimming light stuff and boring down deep into quality material (and learn to spot the difference!).

6. Read selectively. Too many people are in a stalemate with book buying. They won’t buy a wonderful book recommended by people they trust for them at this exact moment in life … why? Because they have some half-finished books. Don’t despise the meal cooked for you now because there are leftovers in the fridge that you aren’t enjoying. It makes no sense to be held captive by false guilt over not finishing a book (if it wasn’t good enough to keep you engaged, let it go to your shelf!).

7. Buy chapters. Just to reinforce number 6, think of buying chapters rather than whole books. If you found chapters 2 and 3 were stunning, but you’ve gotten bogged down in chapters 4 and 5, don’t stress about finishing chapters 6-10. You bought 2 and 3. That’s great, they were worth it. Now move on, don’t stop reading! An unfinished book is no shame.

8. Discriminate between recommendations. When certain people tell me a book is good, I will almost certainly buy it. When other people tell me a book is good, I will smile politely and thank them, but tend not to click “buy.”

9. Read with variety. So you’ve read everything from that one author, that’s fine. But have you read anything weightier, or technical, or historical, or from a different tradition, or something by someone not in your camp? Have you read a light paperback on your primary ministry area? What about a heavier textbook on it? How about something non-Christian? And fiction? Mix it up.

10. Give books away. Don’t just celebrate a great book, buy more copies and give them to people who you know will appreciate them. Let your growing love of good books be a ministry rather than merely a personal development strategy.  

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Peter Mead is involved in the leadership team of a church plant in the UK. He serves as director of Cor Deo—an innovative mentored ministry training program—and has a wider ministry preaching and training preachers. He also blogs often at BiblicalPreaching.net and recently authored Pleased to Dwell: A Biblical Introduction to the Incarnation (Christian Focus, 2014).