We recently hosted some old friends. I grew up with him, so I’ve known him for many years. In fact, his father informally mentored me as a teenager. Kelly (name changed) was a hardworking farmer—a salt of the earth kind of guy. He became a Follower of Jesus as an adult. And although he’s made considerable spiritual progress over the years, he admits that his growth is hindered because he struggles to read—especially God’s Word.
I tell this story because it relates to one of my ongoing challenges in pastoral ministry: reading. Now happily reading Scripture isn’t the issue. I’ve developed a good rhythm for that. I cherish my daily time of solitude and silence with the Lord. But sometimes I find it difficult to read pastorally and professionally. There always seems to be another telephone call to make or a dozen email messages to answer, not to mention another sermon to write. And yet, as I look back on my life, I realize the books and articles I’ve read have made a significant impact on me, especially those written by certain authors.
But I’m not as concerned about particular authors today as I am strategies for reading. Knowing how important reading is for my personal and pastoral formation, I’m determined to be more intentional with this spiritual and professional discipline. So I’ve employed a few strategies this year. First, I’ve begun to read electronic books in addition to traditional paper books. This way I can keep the book “up” on screen whenever I’m writing email messages, studying a Bible text or writing a sermon or lesson. I find this helps me to read between tasks.
This relates to another strategy. I know it sounds a bit rigid, but I’ve found it helpful to read in 15 minute intervals. I try to carve out one or two 15-minute intervals for pastoral reading each day, which allows me to keep the conversation going with one or two authors at a time.
Finally, I’ve begun to harvest quotes in a database, which encourages me to read carefully and record a line or two that captures the essence of a chapter or section, and also allows me to review the salient points of a book/article in the future.
Is pastoral/professional reading important to you? If so, what strategies do you employ to assist you in this work?