How to Create a Reading Culture in Your Church

On a recent trip to Scotland, I held an Ask Me Anything event at FM Bookstore and Cafe in Edinburgh. One of the questions I was asked was “how do you create a reading culture in your church?” Here is my answer.

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How do you create a culture of reading in your church?

Yes, so, how do you create a culture of reading and learning in a local church? Speaking from the experience in our church, that’s probably all I can share, but, we’ve done a few things. So, one, we do a lot of book giveaways. So, we have a morning service, which is a very formal, typically, maybe reformed baptist kind of church service. Our evening services are more centered around catachism, training, they’re a lot less formal. So, the evening services, we do book giveaways. And what we’ll do is we’ll sometimes just get individual books if we can find them, we get the free ones at conferences, or whatever, or buy some, and we’ll just give them away in the evening. Here’s a book on this, who’d like to read it? What we’ll often do is give two or three away at once and say, are there two or three people who’d like to read a book together? Here’s a book recommendation. Sometimes we’ll say, we really want you to read this book, you know, like, if you’re going to take it, we’re expecting you’re actually going to read it. More often we’ll just give it and assume that at some point it will be read.

Another thing would be to create reading clubs and so one of our associate pastors now is, every Wednesday night you can come to the church, he’s working through some of the Christian classics, I think they’ve started with JI Packer’s Knowing God. So they’re going to read that book together, whoever wants can come, your commitment is only until the book is done and then you can walk away and he’ll start another book, you can come out for that book. So that makes it more interactive and it also gives some leadership and then just a little bit of peer pressure to, you know, you said you’d read this book with us, how are you doing, are you keeping up with the reading?

I think those have been effective and then just having people who read, talk about reading. So, sometimes in our evening service, I’ll have someone come up and just share about a book they’ve read. That does two things, first, it shows somebody being excited about a book they’ve read, but it also leaves another recommendation about a book. So, I read this, here’s what I benefited from in reading it, maybe you’d like to read it too. So, I think just creating that culture, but, for all of that, we want to emphasize that we’re a church that we want you to come and hear the Word of God. Our whole service is structured around the Word. The very first words and the very last words we want people to hear in the service are from scripture, a call to worship and a benediction. In between, we’re praying the Word, we’re preaching the Word, we’re singing the Word, we just, we want people to come to the worship service on Sunday morning and go deep into the Word. The more people can be in the Word, the more they can benefit from sermons, the more they can sing the Word, the more we think they’ll just want to get more of it into their lives. So, that will come of course through personal devotion, but it also comes by reading good books. So, through all that, I think we’ve got a church that reads quite a bit and enjoys reading, and I think those are probably the factors there.