In today’s world ministers need to be widely read professionals. Medical doctors keep up with the changes in their profession by reading the latest professional journals. Ministers do the same, though, of course, for ministers the methods and issues change, not the timeless truths of the faith. The larger the church the more a minister must read merely to keep up with the laity. Every week ministers meet laity who have read the most recently released Christian book and assume their pastor certainly would know about it too—after all religion is the pastor’s job!
Of course there is no hope of reading the 4500 new Christian books published each year. What a minister must do is be aware of the best sellers—the books the laity are reading—about 100 books a year will cover most of the lay reading. For a minister to admit their ignorance of these books would sully their credence as a ministerial professional. Imagine your dentist not knowing what a “root canal” is.
So how can a minister read two books every week or more? By learning to read a book in 10 minutes. You won’t master the book but you’ll be able to discuss it intelligently. And if you like the book you can consider your speed-read a “Pre-read” of the book then you can take it home for a better read. Some ministers do these 10-minute reads in a bookstore, or library. In larger churches with larger staffs the church often buys several hundred books a year and staff take turns reading and writing an abstract or “Executive summary” of the books. But a review is not as helpful as learning the skill of the 10-minute read.
So how to read a book in 10 minutes? The trick is combining the following tips into your own personal pattern, and adding others you discover along the way. Start with the following simple recipe then adjust to your own style. Soon you’ll be reading a book a day.
Memorize the title and author. Remember the writer—you need to know more than, “That guy from California’s book.”
Read the cover blurbs and recommendations—these often give a general sense of the book’s content.
Turn to the Table of Contents and get the gist of the book. Unless the chapter titles are too cute you will often find the general point of the book in the table of contents.
Find and scan the key chapter. Most books have only one chapter that is their contribution—find it and scan it. Sometimes it is the last chapter, but not always.
Find and read the secret clues. Most books have some sort of way of “giving away” what they are about. Find these clues and use then to figure out the mystery of the book. Some books close every chapter with a summary paragraph—reading the last paragraph of each chapter gives the reader the content of the book. Others use pullouts and diagrams to make their point. Page through the book to find these and read them fast—rapid reading does not reduce retention but increases it.
Solidify in your summary by writing and repeating it. Write a one-paragraph summary of this book’s contribution then tell someone (better yet several folk) what the book contributes.
Do all of this in 10 minutes. If you are just starting out with this skill take 15 minutes. Using this skill a minister should easily be able to have read 100 books a year.
Fortunately, many Christian books are so shallow that 10 minutes is quite enough time to get their contribution to the church and personal life. However once you develop the skill of the 10-minute read you’ll be delighted to discover occasional gems that whet your appetite so much you want more. Buy this book. And study it. Studying a book is being “deeply read”—this article is about becoming “widely read.” Becoming more widely read is the route to finding what you ought to read more deeply. A minister needs to know a lot about some things and a little about a lot of things. The 10-minute read is how we discover lots about a little—in the process we find a little we want to know a lot about.
© Keith Drury, 2005. You are free to transmit, duplicate or distribute this article for non-profit use without permission.
Keith Drury served The Wesleyan Church headquarters in Christian Education and Youth leadership for 24 years before becoming a professor of religion at Indiana Wesleyan University. He is the author of more than a dozen books of practical spirituality, including Holiness for Ordinary People, Common Ground and Ageless Faith. Keith Drury wrote the Tuesday Column for 17 years (1995-2012), and many articles can be found on his blog “Drury Writing.”
Keith Drury retired from full time teaching in 2012. Keith is married to Sharon and has two adult sons and several grandchildren. He is retired in Florida with Sharon and enjoys cycling.