Margaret Fuller (1810-1850) was not only a journalist, she was the first female full-time book reviewer in journalism. By the time she was thirty, she was considered the best-read person in New England (male or female) and she became the first woman who was allowed use of the Harvard College Library. She was also a staunch women’s right’s activist. Margaret is the author of the famous quote ‘today a reader, tomorrow a leader’.
I couldn’t agree more with what Margaret Fuller said. If you are a leader, if you want to be one, you have to read. It’s not a bonus, it’s an absolute requirement. You cannot grow in your leadership without learning from others and that requires reading. Naturally as a Christian leader, you should read the Bible above all else, let’s be clear about that. But to gain more knowledge, to grow in wisdom, to acquire new insights, you have to read as much as you can.
I love reading, I always have. My mom made me a member of the local library when I was two or so because I devoured books. Not that I could read at two, but from the moment I could read, I’ve been reading multiple books a week. And I have learned so much by just reading. I have learned from world leaders and politicians, from pastors and laymen, from military commanders and business leaders, from novelists and simple house wives. Leaders are readers, if you want to learn, you have to read.
What should you read as a youth leader?
So what should you read as a youth leader or a Christian leader in general? I’d say as much as you can. If you read with the intention to learn, you can learn from just about any good book you read. You can either focus on improving your weak points or on reinforcing areas where you’re already strong. You can try and gain insights from new fields or seek new ideas from those inside your own fields. You can seek to learn from presidents, businessmen, generals or pastors. It doesn’t really matter, as long as you keep feeding yourself with new knowledge, new ideas, new inspiration. I can’t really tell you what you should read therefore, but I can share with you the kind books I read.
Personally, I read very different things. In fiction I love romances, inspirational fiction and historical fiction, but I’m also a fan of good (legal) thrillers. I usually love reading young adult fiction. And believe me, you can learn from fiction as well…Let me just name Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love or The Last Sin Eater. Mind blowing, deeply touching books that has a profound impacted on me.
But there’s another reason to read fiction. Stories enthrall us as humans, we love hearing and reading great stories. That’s why using stories in a sermon is a good way to keep your audience’s attention. Telling stories is a means we should use way more often in youth ministry to get our point across, to inspire and encourage students. I’ve found that reading fiction has improves my storytelling skills and has given me a better idea of the ‘mechanics’ behind telling a good story.
In non-fiction I also have an eclectic taste. Obviously, I read a lot in youth ministry in the broadest sense as I try and keep up with what’s happening in this field. Purpose-Driven® Youth Ministry is one of the books on youth ministry that really made an impact because it changed my view on why I wanted to do youth ministry.
I also like books on Christian living and Christian biographies and there have been many good ones here. Charles Swindoll’s The Grace Awakening comes to mind, as does Brennan Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel, but there have been many more.
History and biographies
Other than that, I read a lot of history books (I have a degree in European and Dutch history), especially about the Second World War, US history and biographies of US presidents. The latter is a bit of a project of mine, I want to have read at least one biography on each American president. You can learn so much from good biographies (more from biographies in my opinion than from autobiographies, as the latter tend to be more self-justifying and ego-centered) on decision making, (political) processes, leadership, etc. My favorite biographies here include Truman (David McCullough) and Lincoln (David Herbert Donald).
Leadership and business
I also read a lot about leadership, both Christian and general. Biographies, business leadership books, books on aspects of leadership like negotiating, or dealing with resistance to change, all of these interest me. There have been books that have really changed my life, my views, or the way I work. Examples are for instance The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Getting Things Done and The Power of Focus.
And every now and then, I read something completely different. Like the hilarious F in Exams: The Very Best Totally Wrong Test Answers my husband recently bought for me, which lists hilarious answers from students to exam questions. Helpful? Not really, but it’s incredibly funny!
My point is clear I think. Today a reader, tomorrow a leader. To inspire you to read more and to help you find some good books to read, I’ll be doing regular books reviews from now on. I’ll be discussing any books I think are interesting for youth leaders and I won’t be doing ‘just’ youth ministry books. Because I want to demonstrate how you can read with the intention to learn from it, I’ll be sharing a ‘lesson’ I learned from each of the books I’ll be discussing, in the hopes that you can benefit from it as well. Because to quote Margaret Fuller one more time: “If you have knowledge, let others light their candles at it.”
What are some books you learned from or were inspired by as a leader? Please share in the comments!