I love to read. Its a disease and its only getting worse.
I have always loved reading books – I have fond memories of Matt Christopher sports stories as a kid and then Star Wars novels as a teenager. In college I discovered the Wheel of Time series as well as A Song of Ice and Fire (i.e. Game of Thrones, before it was cool). Then as I moved towards a career in ministry, I began reading theology and church history.
I’ve spent the past ten years working in college ministry at Penn State Berks. Here’s the thing: there is a lot of downtime in ministry. Whether you are the pastor of a church or working on a college campus, it can be a solitary job. Sure there are meetings with people, but there is a lot of time spent in an office or in front of a laptop. Thus, time management is a vital skill to develop.
When I began ministry at PSU Berks I committed that I never wanted students to walk up to me when I was sitting in the library, student center or anywhere on campus and see me…wasting time. So if I am in a situation where I have finished work for the week’s Bible study, or a student has just left a meeting with me or if I am waiting for one to arrive, I will have a book out. There are a variety of reasons for this, I offer three positives and one negative below:
I get my salary from donations from individuals and churches and I owe it to them to use my time well.
I remember having a conversation with an alum and he asked me point blank about playing games on the computer. He remembered visiting a campus pastor while he was in college and it seemed like this pastor spent a lot of time playing Solitaire. This was in the days before the internet sped up enough to allow users to watch Netflix and Youtube. Either way, donors do not want to pay pastors to watch television and play games all day.
This is a big reason why I write reviews of books on my blog. I doubt many people read them, but it is right there out in the open for donors to see. The message I hope to convey is that I am using my spare moments to read and learn which will make me a better pastor and person.
I am in an academic atmosphere so I might as well be constantly learning.
One of the mottos of the seminary I attended was “lifelong learning.” They reiterated this message over and over again, calling on us to be lifelong learners. I loved seminary as it was there that I was introduced to so many subjects, books and authors who have continued to influence me.
Working on a college campus, I continue to be surrounded by ideas. To be able to engage with intelligent students and brilliant faculty, I need to keep learning. When we have a question and answer night, it will show if I do not know what I am talking about!
I realize the students will learn more from me by how I live then what I say
Many college students have poor time management skills. They tend to spend a lot of time playing video games and watching Netflix. It is one thing for me to encourage them to manage their time better. It is another to set a good example in my actions. If they see me playing games and watching Netflix this will set a bad example. If they see me reading a book, this sets a better example.
Sometimes I’d Rather Read then Talk to People
I admit that reading comes easily to me. I have always enjoyed reading. All pastors have different gifts and while I think all ought to read something, how much each reads is up to them. While reading comes easily to me, going up to strangers and engaging them in conversation may come more easily to others.
For me, especially when it feeds my introverted side, reading can become a distraction. The risk is that I might rather read a book then talk to actual people! There are some who have to force themselves to read, knowing it is good for their soul. Others, like me, must force ourselves to put the book down and talk to people, knowing that is good for our soul.
So come visit me on campus and chances are I’ll have my nose buried in a book. But say hi and I will certainly talk with you!