“Continuous learning” is a key principle for today’s leaders. Or, as Stephen Covey puts it, “sharpen the saw.”

Good leaders, more than anyone, realize they don’t know everything. As they lead, they must seek deeper knowledge for new situations – especially as their work becomes more fruitful. One basic way to learn is to read – a lot.

Leaders always need to read. We must constantly keep in tune with what’s going on in our church, in our world, and with the people we care for. We must keep seeking new ideas, new insights, new ways of doing things that will energize our work – for the benefit of ourselves, yes, but most importantly for the benefit of the mission of those we lead. To grow. To be more fruitful.

Read what? First, of course, is the Bible. II Timothy 3:16-17, a familiar passage, reminds that “all scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.” John Wesley was an avid reader of all kinds of literature, with the Bible being most important. While he kept up on contemporary news of the day as well as classical writings, Wesley still considered himself a “man of one book” – the Bible. Today, one of our core beliefs in United Methodist doctrine is that the Bible is “the true rule and guide for faith and practice” (Book of Discipline 2008, p. 67).

What else? For leaders in today’s church the list goes on and on. I’d suggest reading books that help increase knowledge of Christian belief and practice, the United Methodist Church, and new ideas for reaching people with the Gospel. The Book of Discipline’s section on our Methodist history, doctrine, and mission, pages 9-20 and 41-95, are most helpful. Of course, Bishop Schnase’s book on “Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations” and Bob Farr’s new book “Renovate or Die” are essentials for today’s Methodist leaders in Missouri.

Many leaders can point to their favorite books and new ones they’ve discovered. Perhaps you’ve seen some of those lists. Bishop Schnase continually inspires and challenges with his reading list. Several months ago he shared through a Review article and blog what he was reading at the time. Leadership books, of course, both religious and secular context. But many other things too to stretch the mind and heart with ideas, examples, inspiration, and just entertainment. Bishop Schnase often shares some of those ideas in his messages and meetings he leads.

The conference Lay Ministry Team periodically shares books they find meaningful. You can find several suggestions on the conference website, www.moumethodist. org, under the tabs “Laity Leadership”, “Lay Leader”, and “Reading List”. Also listed there are all 7 books for the Lay Leadership Development (“LLD”) course. Many other books would be on a comprehensive list of recommendations, but these are simply some that leaders mentioned they are reading now.

What are YOU reading that enhances your ministry? Please share your ideas on my blog under the “Laity Leadership” tab of the website. Hopefully you find yourself seeking new ideas, new insights, and new ways of doing things through reading, and then sharing with others. That’s one of the ways God is stimulating fruitfulness and a “New Thing” through your leadership, through your church, to reach people for Jesus Christ and transform the world.

Thanks again for your leadership in commitment to read and grow in faith and fruitfulness!

Brian Hammons, Lay Leader Mo. Conference of the UMC