Productive Pastor 26: How to Read for Maximum Effectiveness

Productive Pastor 26: How to Read for Maximum Effectiveness

Welcome to the third season of the Productive Pastor. I am really excited about this season and I want to share a few things with you before we jump into the episode.

New Content: I am working up a great way to feature different folks in the productive pastor community. One of the things I am fascinated with is other peoples work flows and space. Look for the “How I Pastor” series coming out soon.
New Conversations: The Productive Pastor has always had an undercurrent conversation about call and a theology of time management. We will let this conversation come up for air a little more this season. Until then-here are two great episodes for background information.

1. Episode 4: Starting a Theology of Time Management.
2. Episode 5: JD Walt on Sabbath

New Resources: I am committing myself to putting together 3-4 new resources this season for you and give them away. Most of these are in development right now.

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How to Read for Maximum Effectiveness

Most of us in ministry are readers. If not, you need to be. Readers are leaders and leaders are Readers. It is a cliche…but totally the truth. The best pastors and ministry leaders are the ones constantly learning.

Reading can easily be a drag. We don’t know what to read or how to go about retaining the information. There are services out there giving you book summaries…but let’s be honest. Most of them are barely passable.

Maximizing your reading is all about developing a system for reading.

What really opened my eyes up over the last 6 months was a series of articles by Ryan Holiday.

1. How and Why to Keep a Common Place Book
2. The Notecard System: The Key to Remembering, Organizing and Using Everything You Read.
3. Read to Lead: How To Digest Books Above Your Level. 

Let me be honest with you. I first read these articles in the summer and spent to much time digging around the rest of Ryan’s archives. But the secret I found really isn’t a secret. Tons of other people manage to read an inordinate amount of material and keep ahead of it…all while managing other jobs.

The secret to reading for maximum effectiveness is to intentionally (and strategically) plan your retention.

1. Map out your reading. 
I did this for 2015. Other books will fall in with this, but I have a reading plan. Think of it like a course list for college or seminary. I have a path.

2. Find a time.
For me it is in the mornings after my walk and in the mid-afternoon. This is when my mind is at a “reading mode” the best.

3. Have a system.
Just working through a book and randomly highlighting, flagging and marking won’t get you anywhere. Figure out a way to truly mark up the book and then save it. I use my own system of flags, notecards and evernote.

4. Process your reading.
Once a month I process all my reading. I go through the analog notes and input them into evernote. If it is a Kindle book-you can route them into Evernote (HT: Michael Hyatt). I follow my markup system and if anything needs it’s own special note in Evernote, I make it. Each book also goes into it’s own note.

This sounds laborious, but imagine what it can be like in 10-20 years when you have an extensive research library you can search, right at your fingertips and it is your own thoughts.

The Back Matter

The Bookshelf: Over the last two weeks I have been reading 2 great books I want to recommend.
1. Simplify: Ten practices to Unclutter your Soul by Bill Hybels
2. Strange Leadership: 40 Ways to Lead an Innovative Organization by Greg Atkinson

Michael Lukaszewski (episode 19) has a great new company called Church Fuel. Their main product is a year program focused on systems. It looks great.

Our next episode will be a conversation with several people about call, time management and how their own personal theological development of productivity has affected their life.


Remember to sign up for the Productive Pastor Insider List. Get a great FREE productivity resource and the inside scoop every other Friday.


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2015 Reading Plan

2015 Reading Plan

Last year I consciously decided to read frequently. I took part in the #emptyshelf challenge. I normally read a good bit, but last year was something else. The first 6 months of the year had me averaging around 4-5 books a month (here is my complete list read with a short review). There were a few books I didn’t put on the list. I learned how much reading both relaxes and challenges me. I think and lead better when I am reading at least once a day.

While it was a great year of reading, I think I can do a better job. Last year I read whatever seemed interesting. I didn’t have a plan. Most of the books were really interesting. I usually just bought whatever captured my mind. This year I decided to try a little different of an approach. Late in the fall I realized there were two/three subjects I wanted to make part of my 2015 reading.

I decided to plan out my reading this year in an intentional pattern. Leadership, Missional movements and strategic organization were on the list of priorities (since I am in the middle of planting a new church, Foundry). I also wanted to take the time to do a little more academic reading in the fields of sociology and formational faith. I think planning out my reading will help me make the best use of the time as well as learn the most since it won’t be as scattered (categorically) as last year.

My 2015 Reading Plan

Divided into quarters

Personal Leadership, Incarnational theology

Culture Creating/Strategic Organization

Missional Leadership/Discipleship


A couple of these seasons are exciting. I am reading 5 different Alan Hirsch books this summer. I have never closely read anything of his and I had the chance to meet and interact with him at New Room this past year.

I don’t expect to stick absolutely hard and fast to this list. I will progress to the next section when the time comes and if a book pops up in the middle of something I will probably read it. I also started reading some fiction and historical non-fiction this past year and I really enjoyed it. I will end up adding a few random books from these sections throughout the year.

So what’s your reading plan for 2015? Tell me about it in the comments.