How Leaders Can Read More

Reading_in_Practice_MALeaders are readers. As leaders, we hear and know that phrase well. But reading takes time and discipline that sometimes we just don’t have enough of. We have a list of books we want to read, but our schedules are so packed we don’t know when we will ever have time read them. For some of us, we just struggle with the discipline of sitting down long enough to read a few pages of a book much less an entire book. But if leaders want to be better leaders than they need to be readers. I want to share a few tips on how you as a leader, or as someone who may just wants to read, can read more books.

Make an effort to read at least 30 minutes a day. In college I had a friend who would read books left and right on top of his required reading for classes. At the time, I was struggling just to keep up with what I had to read for classes and the thought of reading books outside of that seemed impossible. One day he told me how he did it. He said he simply makes himself sit down for 30 minutes a day and read. Sometime he may go over that, but he would make himself read for at least 30 minutes. It sounded simple enough so I gave it a shot. To my surprise it worked! So much so, I still use this principle today. I have a sticky note on the wall near my desk in my office that says “30 min a day” to remind me. Leaders are usually very busy people, but reading 30 minutes a day is manageable and not hard to do. Give it a shot! You will be surprised at how many books you can work through if you read at least 30 minutes a day.

Understand the different ways you can read. There are many ways you can read. I recently have started trying to understand more about this and the different ways to read. What helped me was a recent article I ran across on Tim Challies site entitled “7 Different Ways to Read a Book.” I have learned the value in not reading every book the same. Based on the book and why you may be reading it, you may have to change up the way you read it. I would encourage you to look over the seven different ways you can read a book from the Challies article and apply that to your reading.

Always have a book with you. This is another tip I picked up in college, but this one came from one of my professors. He was teaching a class on Acts and part of the required reading he assigned was a commentary on the book of Acts. You normally don’t sit down with a commentary and read it cover to cover. But for this class we were required to do just that. The commentary he had us read was a pretty technical commentary so it was a pretty heavy thing to read through. He knew it was not an easy assignment and it would take a long time. Right after he told us about this assignment during the first class he said the key to reading a lot is to always have a book with you. He told us how he would always be carrying a book with him so even if he had a 5 minute window of time he could read. I applied that and finished that commentary quicker than I thought I would have. I still do this as well today. It’s a simple thing many people often don’t think about. Carry a book with you and pull it out when you have a few minutes here and there.

Reading is an essential part of growing as a leader. However, reading takes time and discipline. I have found that making time to read each day for at least 30 minutes, understanding different ways to read, and always having a book with me has helped me not only become a better reader, but has helped me read more books.

Books I’ve Read Recently

pic.001Overwhelmed by Perry Noble. This is the first Perry Noble book I have ever read. I really enjoy listening to him preach and reading/listening to his thoughts on leadership so I was excited to dive into one of his books. The overall theme of this book is pretty straight forward-we all face overwhelming circumstances that cause stress and anxiety, but through Jesus we can have victory. Throughout the book Noble uses the story of Daniel to illustrate how God can work in our overwhelming circumstances. One of the things I really appreciated about this book was Noble’s transparency and honesty as he shared about his story of depression and anxiety. As someone who struggles with worry and stress very often, this book helped me a lot and I would recommend it to anyone who feels overwhelmed (which is basically all of us). I plan to read Noble’s other book Unleashed soon.

Criticism Bites by Brian Berry. About two years ago I read Brian’s book As For Me and My Crazy House and loved it (click here to read my review). So when I saw Criticism Bites at SYMC this past year I knew I had to grab a copy and read it. Criticism Bites is a book about dealing with criticism. It’s written with youth pastors in mind so most of the illustrations and ideas are geared towards those in youth ministry. However, the book is still very applicable to those not in youth ministry. Berry dives into why criticism hurts us so bad and how we can effectively handle it when it comes our way. Youth ministry is a ministry that seems to attract criticism. You have parents, students, and other adults in the church who all have an opinion on how the youth ministry should be ran. Many times those opinions are very different than yours and usually are masked in criticism. Youth pastors need to know how to handle and respond to criticism. In this book, Berry does an excellent job at explaining how you can do that. I’d recommend this book to youth pastors and anyone who ever finds themselves on the receiving end of criticism.

A Youth Ministry Volunteer Speaks His Mind by Rick Williams. I picked this book up a few years ago, but have always left it on my shelve. It may be because the title scares me. I want to think I am pretty good at leading a team of youth ministry volunteers. I want to think I have it all figured out and that my volunteers think I am the greatest youth pastor on the face of this earth. But that’s not always true. I have a lot to learn when it comes to leading a team of volunteers and one of the best ways to learn is to listen to them. Ask them how I am doing and what I could do differently. What I loved about this little book is that it was like sitting down at a table with one of my volunteers and asking them to be brutally honest with me. At times, it made me mad and at other times it made me feel very encouraged. In this book, Rick Williams, a youth ministry volunteer since 1981, tells youth pastors what their volunteers are really thinking. I picked up a ton of practical things from this book on leading better meetings, recruiting volunteers, communicating to volunteers, and more. I’d recommend every youth pastor pick up a copy of this book and read it so they can better lead their volunteer team.

Up next on my reading list is to finish A Call to Resurgence by Mark Driscoll and to start The Starbucks Experience by Joseph Michelli. Reviews coming soon.

Book Review: Parent’s Guide to Understanding Social Media

A-Parent-s-Guide-to-Understanding-Social-Media-Oestreicher-Mark-9780764484636In preparation for a parent seminar on social media I am doing this week, I picked up a copy of Mark Oestreicher and Adam Mclane’s  little book Parent’s Guide to Understanding Social Media. I was blown away by this book! It’s a short book (I read it in about 45 min.), but it’s loaded with facts about social media sites, what teens are doing on those sites, and practical advice for how parents can handle social media when it comes to their teens.

This helpful book informs parents about everything they need to know about social media and their teens. It tells them what social media is all about, what teens are actually doing with social media, the psychological impact of social media on teens, what parents need to remind their teens about social media, and of course practical advice on how to deal with social media and their teenager in regards to their parenting.

The main thing I enjoyed about this book and why I would highly recommend it to parents is how Mark and Adam wrote it with preparation in mind rather than protection. “The focus of this book, then, isn’t ‘circle the wagons’ mentality. If you want a book to tell you the internet is evil, you can find that elsewhere. Our goal, instead, is to move from building walls of protection to shaping a focus on understanding social media and earning trust that moves your teenager towards adulthood” (page 8-9). Did you catch that? Mark and Adam says the main goal of parenting is not just protecting your kids, but preparing them to move towards adulthood. I couldn’t agree more. I too believe that parents must move from a mindset of protecting their teens to a mindset of preparing their teens. Click here to read a post I wrote on this topic a few months ago.

Another thing I liked about this book was the amount of practical advice Mark and Adam shared. They wrote a whole chapter on practical ways you can parent your teen when it comes to social media. Some of the advice they give is things they did or do with their teens or something they have heard of other parents doing. Either way, they share easy ways to help understand and communicate with your teen about social media.

In my opinion, this is a must have book for parents of teens. Teens are on social media networks and that isn’t going to change anytime soon. Parents cannot just hope it will go away and pray their teens use it wisely. Parents need to understand and engage social media in a way that they know what their teens are doing as well as to know how to prepare them for adulthood. Now go grab a copy of this book for yourself! Click here to purchase it for only a few bucks on Amazon.

How Should Leaders Read?

people-reading-books-photography24You have probably heard it said before, “Leaders are readers.” This catchy leadership principle comes from Harry Truman who said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” If you want to be a good leader, than you better start learning how to be a good reader. Reading is essential to effective leadership. I believe everyone who finds themselves in a leadership position knows that, but the question many of us ask is what does it look like to be a good reader? How does a leader become a good reader? What kind of books should I read? How often should I read? These are all great questions and worthy of discussion, but I want to offer up a few thoughts on how leaders can become good readers.

These thoughts will be directed towards those in leadership within local church ministry, but are applicable to anyone in a leadership position outside the local church as well.

Read broad. If your going to be a leader who is a good reader than you must learn to read broad. What I mean by this is don’t get into the rut of reading one type of book or books on one subject. For example, I am a student pastor. It’s easy for me to only read books about student ministry. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. To be an effective student pastor I need to read good student ministry books, but that’s should not be the only thing I read. I need to read books on theology, leadership, church ministry, and books that are not even Christian or church related at all! Whatever leadership position you find yourself in, read beyond that specialization. You want to be a well-rounded leader, and to do that you need to be a well-rounded reader. A particular note to others in Christian leadership is needed here. As Christian leader’s, we often only read “Christian books.” But this isn’t always a good thing. Some of the best leadership books, and books in general, are not “Christian.” Read them, but filter what you read through God’s revealed Word. At the end of the day, Scripture is the best leadership manual, so filter what you read through it.

Have a plan. Reading takes time and if you don’t intentionally plan to read you probably won’t. If your going to be a leader who is a good reader than you need to have a plan. If there was a perfect reading plan out there I’d share it with you, but there isn’t. Everyone’s plan will look different and will be based on personal interest and fields of leadership. However, Mike Calhoun shares some of the best information I have ever read on creating a personal reading plan in this blog. In that blog, Mike talks about creating a reading plan that is based on your interest and desired field of learning. I am in the middle of creating my own personal reading plan and would encourage you to do the same. Also, just having a list of books to read over a set time, such as a year or six months, is a good place to start. As an example, check out my friend Josh Evan’s book list for what he is planning on reading this year in this recent blog post.

Read consistently. After you have a personal reading plan, commit to reading consistently. To be a leader who is a good reader it’s not enough to read broad and have a plan, you must commit to reading consistently. I’d suggest reading daily. Have a certain amount of time each day that you set aside to read. It doesn’t have to be a long time, but enough time to read a few pages. If you only  read a few pages a day, everyday, you will be surprised at how many books you will make it through. I had a friend in college who read everyday for thirty minutes. It was incredible how many books he would get through by just reading thirty minutes everyday.

Engage with others about what your reading. As a leader, don’t keep what you read to yourself. Engage with other leaders about what you are learning through in your own reading. One of the ways I do this is through my blog. I regularly post book reviews of the books I read. However you do it, make sure to engage with others about what your reading. This will help you think through and digest what you are reading. A good idea might be to read a book along with another leader so you can discuss it as you read it.

These are just some thoughts about how to be a leader who is a good reader. I want to continue to become a better leader through the discipline of good reading. What are some thoughts you would share with other leaders about how to be a good reader?