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?

Are You Protecting or Preparing Your Kids?

What is the main objective in parenting? Is it to protect your kids from the evils of this world or is it to prepare them to live in it? I’ll admit I’m not the most qualified to answer this question because I’m young, newly married, and have no kids of my own, but I have learned a few things along the way that help me answer that question. The main objective is parenting is not protecting your kids. Before you stop reading this and claim “I don’t know what I’m talking about” let me explain.

Take a greenhouse for an example. This illustration comes from Mike Calhoun’s book The Greenhouse Project. In the book, he compares a greenhouse to how we do student ministry, but I want to compare it to parenting because it’s very similar. Mike says, “The basic purpose of a greenhouse is to prepare plants for life outside the greenhouse. Plants are given food, water, sunshine, and heat to grow enough so that they can survive and thrive outside of that environment…The greenhouse is not the end result. It is a place of growth and maturity. It is a place of safety and security. The ultimate objective of a greenhouse is for the plants to make it outside.”

Did you catch that? Plants are prepared in the greenhouse to make it outside and thrive. The whole point of the greenhouse is to prepare them to get out of the greenhouse.

I believe our parenting should be the same way. I’ll even go as far as to say that this model of parenting is Biblical. Your kids will be out of your care and protection one day. They will leave for college, get married, and have a family of their own. They will leave your “greenhouse” whether you like it or not. But here is the good news. You have the opportunity right now to prepare them for that transition out of your “greenhouse.” You have the opportunity to impart God’s Word and the Gospel to them so they are prepared to survive and thrive on their own. Stop just protecting your kids, this will not help them in the future! Do something that will help them, prepare them!

As parents, you are called to love and pursue God personally, then pass that on to your children (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). You are commanded by God to teach them God’s Word and help them follow Jesus. This isn’t simply protection because following Jesus isn’t always safe. When your child tells you God has called them to go into a foreign mission field to spread the Gospel, what will you say? A parent that sees their primary objective to be protection may try to talk them out of it or find a way to make it more “safe.” A parent that sees their primary objective as preparatory will embrace it and be thankful God has chosen their child for such a noble task. There are many examples I could use here, but this is one. Parents must prepare their children to live and function with an authentic faith. This will require you to lose some control as they learn to apply their walk with Jesus to every area of their life.

So what are you doing parents? Are you protecting your kids or preparing them for a live of following Jesus?

Guest Post: Five Leadership Lessons that I Learned from Lincoln

I have always been fascinated with Abraham Lincoln. I first read about him in grammar school.  I remember my very first book and was intrigued with the pictures of a tall lanky young Lincoln. I was captivated as I learned about a boy from humble beginnings with a strong work ethic who defied the odds and changed the world.

Since that time I have read numerous books on Lincoln, perhaps more than on any other one individual. Even now I have two books that I plan to read this year. There have been 16,000 books published on Lincoln–125 on the assassination alone–more than any other American. It appears my fascination is shared.

There also have been volumes written about or extracted from Lincoln’s life on the topic of leadership. But, as I stated, I am intrigued by him and his abilities to lead. He even learned from those who were his greatest critics. So at the risk of redundancy here are:

5 Leadership Lessons that I Learned from Lincoln

  1. His leadership was a demonstration of his character. Repeatedly I have read how he was challenged, criticized or disregarded, but it did not change the way he led. Lincoln knew who he was and what he believed and acted upon it.
  2. He was not afraid to make the hard decisions even if they were not popular. His decision to abolish slavery was principled and costly, but he did not flinch.
  3. He was wise and mature enough to draw wisdom from everyone including his detractors and even his enemies.  I suggest every leader read Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin to see how Lincoln led with adversaries.
  4. His family was a high priority and had access to him. I remember reading accounts of his sons running into the Oval Office during “Meetings of State” to see their father and knowing they had that right.
  5. He never forgot where he came from which helped him maintain a keen sense of awareness of people. Even as President he was mindful of individuals and never seemed to be too taken with himself.

I do not believe Abraham Lincoln was the perfect leader. He did not make all the right decisions, but no leader does. His faith was important to him, but he was not the perfect Christian; however, his faith was one of the guiding forces of his life. I just know that every time I read another book about him I am inspired and challenged to be better than I am right now.

This guest post was written by Mike Calhoun. Mike is the Vice President of Word of Life. Mike has written many books and resources, most recent being 8 Reasons Why I’m Not a Christ. He also enjoys writing, teaching, and speaking. Click here to check out more of his thoughts on his blog.

Student Ministries Books Every Student Pastor Should Read

In my last post I reviewed a great student ministry book called The Indispensable Youth Pastor. I posted a link to the review in a Facebook group called Youth Pastor’s Only. It created some great feedback and conversations about student ministries books we should read and check out. I have been wanting to create a working list of student ministries books I recommend so I figured I would start here in this post. Here is a list of student ministries books I have read that I would recommend to student pastors, student ministry volunteers, and those studying to go into student ministry.

Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry by Doug Fields

Purpose Driven Youth Ministry by Doug Fields-This is an older book that was at one time “the youth ministry” book. It’s worth reading and contains some valuable principles for your ministry.

Speaking to Teenagers by Duffy Robbins

The Seven Checkpoints for Youth Leaders by Andy Stanley

Youth Pastor: The Theology and Practice of Youth Ministry by Houston Heflin-This books contains one of the best definitions of youth ministry ever given. You can check that definition out in a post I wrote about it called “Youth Ministry Defined.”

Youth Ministry 3.0 by Mark Oestreicher-If you want to get a great summary of the history of youth ministry, this book is for you! It explains where youth ministry was, is, and where it is going. I don’t totally agree with where Oestreicher believes youth ministry should go, but overall it’s a great little book.

Youth Ministry by the Book by Roger Glidewell-This is a student ministry book most have not heard of, but I would highly recommend you grab a copy and read it. This is the most Biblical based student ministry book I have ever read.

Four Views of Youth Ministry and the Church by various authors-I had to read this book for a student ministry class in college. It is a little older than most of the books I have mentioned, but contains some great insights about the different ways we appraoch youth ministry and the overall local church.

The Ministry of Nurture by Duffy Robbins

Youth Culture 101 by Walt Mueller-If your looking for a book that will help you understand the culture of youth today, this is the book I want. Also, I recommend suggesting this book to parents so they can understand the culture of their teen.

Raising the Bar by Alvin Reid-One of the top student ministry books in my opinion. I recently wrote a review of it here on my blog. Click here to see that post.

The Indispensable Youth Pastor by Mark DeVries-This is a book for somewhere in any stage of student ministry: just starting, been at it for years, or about to be done. Click here to see my recent review of the first part of the book.

The Greenhouse Project by Mike Calhoun-This book is a gold mine for student pastors. Each chapter is on a different area of student ministry and the book as a whole gives you a great summary of what a healthy student ministry looks like.

These are just a few of the many student ministry books out there, but these are the ones I have read and would recommend. Leaders are readers. If we want to be effective leaders in our student ministries we must be readers. Feel free to leave your thoughts on some of these books as well as suggest other books I may have not read it.