Each year I go to Metro Youth Ministers meeting which is a meeting of large church youth ministers. Every year, they ask me to present my “Top Ten Reading List” and when I do, at least one of them asks me, “When do you have time to Read?”
Those conversations reveal two important things to think about in ministry. First, if you don’t read much at all because you say,
a) I barely finished college
b) I only read stuff with pictures
c) I don’t need to read anything but the Bible to do my job
d) I don’t have time to read
There is always some truth in humor, so maybe you laughed nervously when you read the one you have used. Maybe you added a few more to the list. Maybe you don’t even need to finish this article because you have a regular reading program.
Regardless of your “maybe,” let’s talk about why and what we should read. It goes without saying that we should start with the Word. Articles have been written on the importance and authority of the Bible, but let’s agree that we understand that it is the most important book on our shelf. All of us need to be reminded to read the Bible regularly, systematically (have a reading plan), devotionally, and actively. By actively, I mean that you should be reading Scripture even if you are not getting ready to teach or preach.
Theologian Karl Barth is credited (falsely) with saying, “a preacher should preach ‘with the bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.’” I have not been able to find an actual source for that quote, but I did track down a reference to a Time Magazine piece on Barth published on Friday, May 31, 1963. The article says that He “[Barth] recalls that 40 years ago he advised young theologians ‘to take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.” Also good advice.
The takeaway from the Barth quote hunt is that we should have reading material that is timeless and current and that we should interpret the contemporary literature in light of the timeless truths of the Scripture. We should be reading material that keeps us current, fresh, and challenged intellectually. So that this article doesn’t get too long to read in one sitting, let me reduce my thoughts to bullet point paragraphs.
Enlist an adult to be your “reading specialist” – find a person who has access to magazines and newspapers. Maybe it is a librarian or a business person or anyone else who reads lots of different things. Ask them to make you copies of anything that has to do with religion, church, or the youth culture.
- Meet with a group of people on occasion to discuss your top ten or your “what are you reading now”.
- Set goals. Establish a plan that you will read a biography or a history or a non-fiction book each month or year.
- Read instead of watching TV. Occasionally turn the TV off and spend the evening reading. You will be amazed at how much time you get back.
- Read for pleasure as well as for work. If you like mystery novels or science fiction, identify an author who keeps it clean, but can tell a good story. You stretch your imagination when you read stories that are creatively crafted by a good writer.
- Read a newsfeed. If you’re opening page on your computer, it is a customized news feed. You might identify additional reading that will stimulate your creativity and your awareness of the world that needs the Gospel.