Healthy pastoral leadership requires the balance of various tensions. You have to provide guidance and care for the people in your flock, but you are also responsible for your personal growth and development. You have to be available for the people in your congregation, but not at the expense of your own family. People look to you to be a strong leader, a capable manager, and a spiritual savant.
The growth of a leader should never plateau, and if you want to continue to develop and challenge yourself, you need to be a reader—but what do you read?
We are drawn to the content that we are already passionate about. However, if you only read about what you enjoy, you will only grow in one direction. It is like going to the gym every day to do bench presses. You are only developing one muscle group—yet slowly becoming imbalanced.
How do you become more balanced in your reading life? You can create a reading schedule that focuses on different roles and responsibilities. The right reading rotation helps you maintain your leadership equilibrium. Here are some areas you want to hit regularly:
1. The Bible
As a pastor, you spend a lot of time in Scripture. It is easy for that time to be entirely focused on reading it on behalf of your congregation. As you read, you are thinking of sermons, counseling, encouragements, and the many different ways God’s Word intersects with the needs of your church.
You also need to spend consistent time in Scripture where you are the sole recipient of its encouragements, lessons, and admonishments. Your spiritual life requires that you spend time in the Bible as a disciple, and sometimes that means turning off the pastor part of your brain that reads on behalf of others.
Maybe you do not resonate with a lot of stuff on the bestsellers list (Christian or otherwise). It is still helpful to dip into it occasionally. By periodically throwing a bestseller or two into your reading cycle, you can better understand what resonates with the general public.
Tuning in to popular titles offers clarity into the questions people ask and the answers they receive. This understanding equips you to speak to them in ways that they find meaningful. The point is not necessarily to pick the latest books apart but to improve your perspective on people’s needs and interests.
3. Pastoral Leadership
God calls people into ministry, but that does not mean that it comes naturally. Every pastor still has things to learn about communication and leadership effectiveness. Thankfully, we can learn from those who have gone before us.
Pastoral leadership books help us learn from the experiences of others. When we avail ourselves of their advice, we save ourselves a lot of time. They will tell us what has worked for them, and more importantly, what has not. If someone else’s experience can help us avoid the pitfalls of ministry, it is worth it.
If you are not sure where to start, we have put together a helpful reading list for pastors.
As you know, the job of a pastor is not merely about spiritual guidance. There is some management involved as well. Running a church has some similarities to running other businesses. You have to care for your staff and volunteers, keep systems and procedures running effectively, and stay financially viable.
A lot of pastors struggle in this area. They got into ministry to shepherd their flock, and these other areas are not things that they feel particularly strong in or equipped for. That is why it is good to pepper your reading list with good management books.
Make sure to add some books on team development and business management into your rotation. The goal is not to make the church function like a business; it is to excel in those areas where the two intersect. The better you can handle the business side of running a church, the more you can devote yourself to providing spiritual direction.
As a pastor, you are called on to speak into people’s relationships. They want your advice for dealing with spouses, parents, children, and bosses. You also have your own relationships to maintain. Maintaining this balance can be a bit of a high-wire act.
Consider including relationship books in your reading cycle. Books about marriage or parenting not only help you, but they can also give you insights for others. Make sure to include books for relationships outside of your area of reference. If you are married, read books about the challenges of single life; if you do not have children, read about parenting. It is incredibly important to have windows into perspectives you cannot immediately relate to. It will make you a better pastor.
Something Old, Something New
Reading well requires a reading list that is not just based on whim or recommendation. You want to be intentional about your reading so you can capitalize on your strengths while developing some of your weaker areas. You need a strategic reading list.
As you put this list together, do not forget to look backward as well as forward. If you are only reading the latest books on ministry and spirituality, you are going to miss out on the wisdom of Christians and leaders who have gone before. Make sure you are reading cutting-edge material and classics.
Reading as a Team
Reading is not just an essential discipline for senior leaders—it will improve the cohesion, morale, and productivity of your entire staff. If you are interested in learning how to choose, read, and process books with your team, download a free copy of Start Reading for a Change.