Preachers should surround themselves with good books. Not as decor but as devices that facilitate personal growth. Pastors are leaders and leaders should read.
Reading is one way to heed Proverbs 13:20 — “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (ESV). You can choose foolish books, but good ones will serve as wise companions to aid you. Good books are your “friends.” Charles H. Spurgeon understood this and so should we.
I’ve found that if I don’t make a plan, I won’t read much. I’ve also found that without a plan I won’t read well. Not every book is worth reading, and I don’t have time to read every worthy book. I’m particularly slow in my reading, so I have to be even more selective. A plan allows me to read both consistently and discriminatingly. Here are a few suggestions for creating a reading plan that will aid you as a preacher.Pastors are leaders and leaders should read. Click To Tweet
1. Determine your capacity.
It shouldn’t take long to figure out what your ceiling is. If you keep a good pace, given your schedule and ability, how many books can you read a year? A month? A week? It might be better to count pages rather than books. I count books figuring that some are short, some are long, and they all sort of even out in the end. Once you can determine your reading capacity you are ready to make your first goal: how many books will you read by the end of this year?
2. Create annual categories.
Once you know how many books you’ll be aiming to read in a given year, you can decide the kinds of books they will be. We all have our defaults. Some of us, if left unfettered, would read only fiction or only theology. Perhaps poetry or biographies. But no matter what major one might choose in college, other subjects are still required and there is a reason for that.
After seminary I decided I wanted to continue reading in the categories that comprised the Master of Divinity curriculum. Then I added other genres that I felt would keep me rounded and challenge me in other ways: fiction, biography, world history and social issues are some examples.
3. Be highly discriminatory.
The greater your reading capacity the less selective you need to be. But given the sheer number of good books out there, we all need to be rather choosy. This is a discipline to develop. Not every book that is recommended to me or is handed to me is going to get read. There are so many must-reads out there I simply cannot bog down my progress with books that are not at the top of my list.
Some important filters might include:
- What are the top books recommended on a subject related to a particular sermon series I have coming up?
- Who are some of the Christian thinkers that are simply must-read authors?
- What areas of my theology need some shoring up?
- What current topics are buzzing in my congregation that I will need to be able to speak to in an informed way?
4. Do the math on time-sensitive reads.
Some of my books come with due dates. For instance, I may be reading a book that is helping me prepare for an upcoming sermon. Obviously it will only help me if I read it before the day the sermon is preached. I belong to a book discussion group at my local library — I can’t discuss what I haven’t read. I also get together with local pastors and we review books together. Another deadline.
Take those books, count their pages and divide that number by the days you have before the deadline. Skip one day a week in your counting, preferably your day of rest. When I map out my reading at this level, I get a lot more done than I ever could if I just read a little here and there. And I feel like it’s the responsible thing to do when others are counting on me to have read it. I hardly ever miss a reading deadline when I take a couple of minutes to chart it out.
5. Consider using Good Reads.
If you’ve not discovered Good Reads you might want to take a look. It’s a great way to stumble upon new books or old books you’ve never heard of. You can invite friends to see what you’re reading and you can see what they’re up to as well. You can read reviews from other bibliophiles, write your own reviews, rate what you’ve read, join groups, make recommendations and track your progress through books.
Two advantages I find helpful:
You can create different shelves. Some create many. I keep it to three: books I’ve read, books I’m reading, books I want to read. If I want to know what I rated a book I’ve read or if I want to decide how to blow through an Amazon gift card, I can reference my shelves.
The Reading Challenge.
You can plug in how many books you want to read by year’s end and it will track your progress. Sadly, it does not allow categories — it simply collects your finished books in one place. But you’ll see a progress bar visually indicating how you are proceeding. Others can see your challenge and encourage you as well. Go to their website or download their app and see if it might be a tool you can use to keep your reading on track.