As church leaders who are required to speak, write, and lead our people with excellence, we know the importance of a regular reading habit. Whether it’s online articles, blogs, or even good old-fashioned hardbacks, reading expands our knowledge base and enlarges our perspective on life, faith, the world, and one another.
Today, however, in our fast-paced, digitally-driven culture, the practice of reading seems to have taken a back seat to videos and other forms of visual/auditory learning. Certainly there is excellent material on YouTube and video calls are breeding greater connectivity between individuals and within groups. But the longevity and permanence of reading cannot be replaced.
As leaders, it is our duty to encourage our people to read. Carving time out of every day to invest in our personal growth through the printed word is an essential discipline. How can we help our people create the needed space to include reading in their busy lives?
1) Cultivate a culture of reading.
Our people need to catch a vision for reading personally. This will take some concerted effort on the part of us as leaders to make sure our people are aligned with this vision and have had the opportunity to learn for themselves of the short- and long-term benefits of a reading habit. This will take time and determination to ensure that the culture of reading we are aiming to cultivate is relevant to each individual, no matter their life stage or type of learning style. Offering personal coaching in reading and leading by example are two great places to start. People will follow your lead. Talk about what you’re reading and the meaningful difference it’s made in your life both personally and professionally. Inspire those you’re leading to follow you in this habit and praise them when they make progress.
2) Suggest relevant titles.
Sometimes people don’t read because they don’t know what to read. Or maybe they aren’t interested in what’s being offered to them. If you’d like to get your people reading, get to know them and then suggest some books that they might like. Different people will have varying interests. Suggest books that are relevant to them, no matter their reading level. To be able to recommend a wide assortment of books, it will take discipline on the leader’s part to be reading widely and to be current on available reading material. This takes time and commitment, but is a natural part of any church leader’s crucial role in the lives of those who follow. Your people will know that you care for them when you make the effort to propose books that will surely make a difference in their own journeys.
3) Encourage a variety of mediums.
In today’s culture, reading traditional hardback books is no longer the best or preferred method for ingesting information. We live in a digital age where computers, tablets, and e-readers are increasingly popular and meet the needs of people whose learning styles stray from the conventional word on a page. There are numerous options from which people can choose when they want to increase their knowledge and take advantage of the excellent resources available. Digital books are the way of the future and offer people a convenient way to acquire a large number of books at a lower cost and without taking up space in their luggage or in their homes. Audio books provide a way to redeem the ever-increasing commuter drive time. Book clubs offer people a source of accountability in their reading, as well as a place for them to talk about and process all that they’re reading. Or, perhaps you have people who find it challenging to read an entire book. Point them to online blogs or articles. These shorter pieces of contemporary literature will help them grow and develop personally and professionally, without consuming a lot of time or burdening them if reading is difficult. Remind your people that reading does not have to be tedious. There are options today that make reading easy, modern, and fun.
4) Offer accountability.
Many times people don’t read because they don’t feel pushed to do it. One simple way you can encourage your people to read is by holding them accountable. Ask them what they’re reading! Tell them about what you’ve read lately. Offer to meet them for coffee and discuss the latest book. Suggest reading a book together. Connect them with others who enjoy reading and encourage them to meet up for good group conversation. An accountability relationship will press people to do things that may be difficult for them to do on their own. Your encouragement will push them to develop their personal habits in such a way that they can include reading in their lives. They will be thankful, and your congregation will begin to grow as together you make reading a priority.