21 Must-Have Pastor's Tools: Books

Pastors who use a reading plan will benefit greatly.

Editor's Note: This is one of a continuing series of stories on pastor's tools from Ministry Today magazine's special May/June issue, MinistryToday 21.

What does it take to run a church today? The pastor just starting out in ministry may be surprised by the answer. While it's important to keep kingdom purposes at the forefront, experienced church leaders have found that a pastor's toolkit consists of many instruments that are helpful in doing the work of the ministry today.

We have pooled some of our own talent to answer that question and have asked a number of businesses to give their take on what 21 tools the pastor needs to know are available for meeting today's congregational needs.

Books

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Of making many books there is no end" (Eccl. 12:12). These words impact my to-read shelf immensely. The realistically wise sayings of Ecclesiastes often provoke dissonance that drives us to God, and the proliferation of books isn't just noise and vapor—as with all of life, it demands God-shaped wisdom.

I hope your to-read pile brings you great delight. But it can be a tyranny as well—all those books that should be read. Thus, one essential tool for ministry is the art of strategic reading. This includes not only carefully choosing what books to read (and why) but also being intentional in how we read.

Not all books warrant the same type of reading. Some can be dipped into, taking only half an hour (book reviews can orient us to the argument and point to highlights; print out reviews and stick them right in the book). Some warrant skimming, giving us the gist and the ability to mark key passages, or "bookending," reading the introduction and conclusion and only selectively throughout. Other books should be deeply pondered, savored in long sittings or read in small snippets daily or weekly (Tanak Tuesdays or Wesley Wednesdays can keep us reading things that may otherwise get pushed aside). There are books that should be learned from—read cover to cover, outlined in the margin, and summarized at the end to preserve the key ideas and flow of the argument. And there are many other types as well that warrant their own approach.

Whatever the category, we should be ready to adjust our plan. A book that seemed worth outlining becomes a book worth skimming. Or if we aren't finding the benefit we hoped, the book can be set aside. It is so much more important to preserve our reading time for long and deep reading of Scripture. Books should not be allowed to rule us.

Consider Lit! by Tony Reinke or How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler as helpful tools to hone your strategy. Above all, read wisely, heeding the conclusion of the writer of Ecclesiastes to fear God and be mindful of his judgments (12:12-14). Wield the wisdom of the ages to renew your mind, deepen your ministry and bring you joy, but don't let it squeeze out God and His Word.


James Korsmo is an editor of reference and nonfiction books at Baker Books.

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