“As long as you live, you learn; and as long as you learn you live” (Howard Hendricks). Reading is an event that combines learning with stress alleviation. Dr. Hendricks words capture a life reality and reading is one of the avenues to fulfill this reality. It is incumbent upon us to continue a level of personal growth through active engagement in reading. Personally, I try to be very intentional in my reading and as a result, I read a lot, but there is one regret I have: a lack of dialogue and deliberation about what I have read or am reading.
In some ways, this blog gives me an opportunity to share with others what I am reading, either by directly referencing and sharing what I am reading and learning or incorporating some of the principles into my writings. But due to the form that ministry has taken for our family in the last six years, discussions with others about what I have been reading are infrequent, at best. It’s taken me awhile to realize that it comes at a price and so my recommendation to others is don’t just read, read with others.
Reading with others does not mean you have to read word for word with others. Instead, reading should help to initiate insightful dialogue with others that cause you to think through what you are reading and lessons should be incorporated into daily living. There are several ways in which this can be done, including the following:
Apply It: For practical books, application is key. It’s better if you have an accountability partner, but at the very least knowledge is useless if it is not transformed into wisdom. I recently (re)read Howard Hendricks area book Teaching to Change Lives (hence, the quote above) for the express purposes of preparing to teach an upcoming class on hermeneutics. If reading is going to cause godly growth, then it must be put into action.
Informally Discuss It: Take what you are reading and weave it into conversations with others. What you are reading can be great teaching points or conversational points. A person does not even have to mention that he or she is reading it in a book, but simply share the point and initiate a conversation. It helps you think through what you are reading and compels others to consider something they may not have been considering otherwise.
Form a Reading Group: One of the most obvious ways to discuss what you are reading is to form a discussion group. Choose a book that you will read together and formalize how the group will function and get reading. It’s a simplistic way to learn from your reading and perhaps compel others to read to.
Form a Reading Group: Wait, a minute, I just said that! But there are more ways than one to form a reading group. One unique idea is to form a reading group but everyone in the group reads a different book. You could pick a theme or each person could simply choose a book that they have been wanting to read. When coming together, highlight key points, interesting concepts, or whatever it may be and then discuss it as a group.
Email/Online Groups: Any of the above options can be done electronically. Personally, I think this is a ‘last resort’ option. Getting people to mentally commit to something like that that requires depth and intentionality is difficult. Most people look at electronic communication to be informal, quick, and with as little engagement with cognitive abilities as possible. So it makes this option hard. However, if there are no other options, then utilize it.
I am certain there are more ways, but each of these can be changed, adapted, or built upon.
The point is to engage with what you are reading and engage others in reading. It will cause growth in your life and growth in others. The more senses you can engage in your reading the better. Therefore, being intentional in discussing your reading will cause you to analyze the truthfulness of what you are reading, help you remember it, and encourage you to apply it. So don’t just read, but read with others!