How to Read Better This Year

stink-pickle-398375-unsplashOne of the goals many people have each new year is to read more. As someone who loves to read and believes in the importance of it, I always enjoy hearing people make an effort to read more themselves. But the goal of reading is not just reading more books. An important part of growing as a reader is understanding it’s not just about quantity but also about quality. With that in mind let me offer up a few suggestions on how you can read better this new year with both quantity and quality in mind.

Set a goal. Just making a goal to “read more” won’t cut it. A lot of people make that their goal and end up reading the same amount of books they have always read. If you want to read better, which includes reading more books, you need to set a goal of how many books you would like to read this year. Be sure to take into account your schedule and pace of reading when doing this. Don’t just copy what others are using as their goal. Set a goal that is attainable for you but will also require you to push yourself throughout the year.

Make a reading plan. Having a goal without a plan is futile. Stephen Covey said it like this: “Goals are pure fantasy unless you have a specific plan to achieve them.” Let me share a few ways to go about making a reading plan. One way you can make a reading plan is by listing out the individual books you want to read throughout the year. This is by far the easiest and simplest way to create a reading plan. All you’re doing is making a list of the books you want to read. I did this for many years and it worked well. Another way you can make a reading plan is by making a list of the categories of books you want to read. This is what I like doing the best and will be doing this year (click here to see my reading plan for the year). If you’re doing a plan like this make sure you have a good variety of categories so you are forced to read many different types of books. More on that later. One more way you can make a reading plan is by using one that is already made. There are many reading plans you can find online but one I’m pushing people towards this year is the 2019 Christian Reading Challenge by Tim Challies. This plan includes multiple options based on the number of books you want to read as well as forces the reader read from a variety of book categories. The most important part of having a reading plan is to use it. Don’t throw it out mid-year or give up when you get behind. Stick with it and as you do you will experience better reading throughout the year.

Read broadly. This is one of the reasons a plan is so important. Most of us naturally lean towards reading certain types or categories of books based on our interests, careers, or favorite author. Those aren’t bad things but one of the ways to read better is to broaden your reading. This means reading books you don’t normally read. For example, I have found I often don’t read books by women. I don’t have anything against women authors but over the years I’ve noticed the books I tend to migrate towards are written by men. So this year and last year I intentionally put on my list to read a book written by a woman. Another example from my own reading is church history. I don’t enjoy the subject of church history as much as other subjects within Christianity so I don’t naturally pick up church history books to read. So this year I have on my list to read one church history book. Don’t get stuck reading one type of book this year. Make sure your plan forces you to read more broadly.

Read differently. I came across this blog post a few years back that really challenged the way I read books. Basically the idea is that you shouldn’t read all books the same. Some books require more of your attention and time while others do not. Determining how you read each book will not only help you read more but will also help you read better. I’d encourage you to read that post.

Keep a list. I once had a pastor, who reads a ton of books each year, tell me that he keeps a running list of all the books he has read. He said this helps him not only remember what books he has read but also allows him to use it as a tool to recommend books to others. I started doing this as well (click here to view my list) and I have come to understand what that pastor was saying. It’s been super helpful for me and if you plan to read more I’d suggest you keep a list for your own reference as well as to recommend books to others.

These are just a few ways to read better this year. I hope you not only increase your reading in quantity but also quality. Happy reading!

Book Review: Leadership as an Identity

9781575673073_p0_v1_s260x420I recently finished reading Leadership as an Identity by Crawford Loritts. Out of all the books I have read on leadership, this by far as been my favorite. Loritts approaches leadership in this book very different from most books on leadership. The leadership theme that runs throughout this book is leadership is not necessarily about what you do, but about who you are.

Most books on leadership, even Christian leadership books, tend to talk a lot about how leaders can develop and become better at what they do. Skill and professional development is the focus. Those things aren’t bad and leaders need to focus on those areas, but for Christian leaders they are not the priority. The first priority of a Christian leader is not really about their leadership at all, it’s about who they are. It’s about being a man or woman who is following Christ and growing in their relationship with Him. That is the point of Loritts book. In fact, Christian leaders don’t even have what it takes to get the job done. The assignment God has given them as leaders is too big for them. Loritts says, “It’s good to be reminded that we are most useful to God when we realize that in ourselves we don’t have what it takes to get His assignments done” (page 39). Christian leaders must be walking with Christ in order to do what He has called them to do because they cannot do it apart from Him. In John 15:5, Jesus reminds us, “…apart from me you can do nothing.”

Loritts breaks this book down into four main parts. Each part covers a characteristic that should be true of every Christian leader. The four characteristics that make up the four parts of this book are: brokenness, uncommon communion, servanthood, and radical and immediate obedience. I’d love to share what Loritts says about each of these, but I want you to grab a copy of this book and read it for yourself.

I would recommend anyone who finds themselves in Christian leadership to read this book. It’s challenging and will remind you that who you are as a leader is more important than what you do as a leader. Do yourself a favor and read this book.

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?