Thursday, April 5, 2012

Leaders are readers

I still remember when I was a child one of my favorite times was going to the library.  We lived on farms and didn't go into town too often, but when we did we usually went to the library.  Each summer I would sign up for some reading contest and would always exceed the goals we had for the number of books we read.  During school times the library bus would take books to the area schools, and I would always check out one or two books to read.  I can't count the number of times I read Tom Sawyer and The Hardy Boys series of books.

Today my reading list is much different, but my enjoyment of reading hasn't waned.  I will average reading one book a week and have done so for years.  I usually have two or three books I'm reading at the same time.  I don't go to the library very often any more as I prefer to own the books I'm reading so I can highlight helpful material and write in the margins, so my study is lined with filled bookshelves.  Two years ago our daughter gave me a NOOK for Christmas so much of my reading is now done on that.

I share all of this to admit my bias for reading.  This makes it very hard for me to understand why so many people read very little.  According to some studies 20 percent of Americans will read no books this year, and of those who do read they only average reading 4-5 books per year.  The majority of clergy will do much better than that.  According to some research, 20 percent of pastors will purchase 50 books per year, and an even greater number will purchase at least 24 books.  We will assume most of them are read  This is good news as it demonstrates the desire for ministers to know what is going on in the culture and the latest trends in ministry.  Both of these are important for an effective ministry.  Reading has also been shown to be a key element in pastors remaining at their church for longer periods of time.

What are your reading habits?  How much of your reading is for sermon preparation and how much of it is for your own personal growth?  Reading good books will help you grow as a leader, and the more you grow the further you can lead your congregation.  That's why I insist that leaders are readers.  Reading is not an option, so if you have not been a reader in the past I encourage you to become one.  If you only read one book a month you will be far beyond what most people are doing.

Books do not have to be expensive.  You can save money by buying e-books.  I have found good books at the local Goodwill store for $1 and $2 each.  You can purchase used books for pennies on the dollar on  I have bought cases of books at auctions and found some wonderful books which I kept and then donated the rest to Goodwill.  You can purchase books at library book sales.  A few years ago I bought the two-volume Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament at a library sale for $2.  Of course, there is still the local library.  No one can use the cost of books as an excuse for not reading more.

In closing, last week at an event I attended someone asked me what I was reading.  That's the first time anyone has ever asked me that question.  If you're interested, I'm currently reading The New Testament (NKJV) for my devotional reading.  Also on my desk is Lou Dobbs' book Independents Day.  On my NOOK I'm reading Leonard's Sweet's book Viral: How Social Networking is Poised to Ignite Revival, and in my car I have Bill Hybel's book Just Walk Across the Room which I read when I have to wait in traffic or when I arrive at an appointment too early.  This gives me a variety of reading options and ensures that no matter where I am I have material to read.  I hope you'll do the same.  Happy reading!

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