How to get more out of what you're reading

Kara Powell | Mar 28, 2012

Yesterday I started teaching a spring course at Fuller in Pasadena. It’s called Youth Ministry Communication, and it’s capped at 17 students because the students actually give two different talks during class time as part of their workload. I love this course for many reasons, one of which is that I get to know 17 Fuller students pretty well over the course of the quarter.

The other reason is that I learn more about good communication every time I teach it. Yesterday, we spent part of the first course watching a video by Dr. Howard Hendricks, a long-time Homiletics/Communication professor at Dallas Theological Seminary. I play this video every time I teach this course, during the first day the course meets, because of its focus on who the communicator is, and the importance of who that person is in the midst of the communication process.

Hendricks says that to be a good teacher, you need to have a consistent study and reading program. No surprise there. Like Hendricks, I agree that readers are leaders, and leaders are readers.

But then Hendricks takes his argument a step further. He claims that we read too much and reflect too little. He invites anyone who wants to teach others to adapt a new pattern of reading: read for 30 minutes, and then reflect for 30 minutes, and so on.

I’ve never been able to follow that advice but it does match a mantra in my head that bears out to be true almost day in my life and ministry: Less is more.

So often I will read a book and then a month later try to summarize the main points of the book to someone else, and I can’t. Why? I can’t really remember much of what the book said. Why? Because I’ve probably read 4 books since then.

I don’t know that I’ll be able to do the 30/30 plan that Hendricks recommends. But I’m guessing that even if I did 10 minutes - or even 5 minutes - of reflection for every 30 minutes of reading, I’d remember more. And be transformed more.

Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.


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