I am a newlywed and a fulltime youth pastor. The statement “I am busy” may be an understatement. Planning events, creating permissions slips, creating sermon series, preaching funerals, visiting schools, visiting hospitals, going to student’s plays and games, and still having time to establish a new home with my beautiful wife can be difficult. I often remind myself that busyness is not equivalent to success. Spending time with God and others is.
One important aspect the Lord uses in my life as a huge growth mechanism is READING. On reading John Piper states “Few things frighten me more than the beginnings of barrenness that come from frenzied activity with little spiritual food or meditation”. Reading books, especially Christian non-fiction, enhances our devotional and spiritual life. When an author is biblical and Christ-centered they can truly push us even deeper in the Scriptures.
But here lies the dilemma. We are busy and have the attention spans of puppies in Pet Smart. How do we make time for something so essential to our growth? Here are a few tips I imperfectly practice myself.
- Stop– This is the first step. Stop being busy with things that simply don’t matter. There are literally thousands of things that take up our time on a daily basis that could be used more effectively. Cut out a TV show, decrease time on social media, say no to proposals that are not important. Remember, busyness is not spiritual success. Spending time growing in God and serving others in the gospel is a success. Reevaluate your priorities and then schedule them.
- Read Books That Interest You– Its ok. I know I know. The hidden guilt of unfinished books still lingers in your heart. Ditch it. Throw it away and move on. Don’t let the guilt perpetuate your non-reading habits. We don’t feel pressure when we turn off bad or uninteresting movies or documentaries. I don’t feel bad when I end a podcast or sermon that didn’t captivate me. And the same is for books. Sometimes, we profit from forcing ourself to complete task and and read difficult material. But you do not benefit when you force yourself to read something that doesn’t profit you, help you grow, and stalls the process that will lead you to the other great reads that will will enlighten your heart and mind.
- Read Multiple Topics– Diversify your reading. I am a youth pastor and much of my reading is dedicated to care for my soul and refine my craft. Therefore, I treat books like classes. I want to have a balanced diet of topics that are important to me instead of waiting a month or two on pertinent topics I need to be aware of now. This helps me keep a healthy interest in my reading selections and increases the effectiveness/timeliness of my selections. On Mondays, I typically read something on preaching to encourage me after Sunday’s sermon. On Wednesday, I may switch to something more theological and biblical to prepare for bible study or Sunday School. Fridays are for me. I read what I want and turn to something typically dealing with African American culture, Christian bios, or something that I consider “junk food” reading. Saturdays and Sundays are typically utilized reading books on Christian living and counseling to prepare myself and sometimes gather illustrations for preaching. Do what works for you. What I have noticed is that I read way more books this way. I may go a couple of months without one completed book read and then in one month I could have five to six completed.
- Read Practical Books– Read books that challenge you and give you a to do list. This way, the book is incorporated into your life and actually helps you become more productive or Christ-Centered. Look for books with discussion questions, challenges, suggestions, templates, or exercises.
- Take A Book Wherever You Go– Sometimes we end up waiting. Our temptation is to turn to our Newsfeed and waste fifteen minutes. Instead, bring a book. Bring your kindle or Ipad and spend that time reading a paragraph. One time, I went with my wife (fiancé at the time) to go shopping. While I waited and waded through stores, I literally finished a book on Church Planting.
- Strategically place books in the regular rhythms of life- I have restroom books, office books, and home books. In the car, I have audio books. With technology and ebooks this has become easier than ever before. However, I do suggest actual books; though I am not legalistic about it. But here is why. Your tablets and IPads have other functions that battle for your attention. A book is a book. I can read it or stare at the wall. There are no social media outlets calling my name. Physical books increase your intentionality and block out distractions.
- Join A Group– Find groups or create a group that will study a book and keep you accountable. This can happen within the context of small groups at church but you can also form groups or join groups of non-Christians. If you enjoy a particular topic that unbelievers would enjoy as well then join that group. This is a great way to make relationships with evangelistic potential.
What tips do you have for reading in this busy world? Let us know!
For God’s Glory,