In a room that was more of a parlor than anything else, there was a bookshelf. And on that bookshelf were books, books that could be checked out to church members. Looking back, I now realize there weren’t that many books, but as a ten-year-old avid reader, I was just delighted to find a new source for reading. I think I started at the top of the bookshelf and systematically checked out and read every book.
Many of those books opened my eyes to matters of faith in ways that were much more understandable to me than the Bible. As I’ve grown and moved into ministry, I have continued to search for books that speak of faith, of life-and-death issues, of living as God would want us to live, and of seeing the power of God in life around us. Yet today many churches have abandoned the idea of church libraries. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
If you are a book lover who wants to revive your church library or encourage people of all ages to read, here are some tips for you.
- Set up an area where people in your church can borrow books. This can be a room, but if space is an issue, purchase a cart or designate a shelf in an area where everyone has access.
- Include various versions of the Bible (including easy-to-read Children’s versions), as well as books for all ages. Make sure there are a wide variety of genres, fiction and non-fiction covering a variety of topics.
- Provide periodic book talks and discussions about books. Ask people who are willing to read a specific book (approved by you or your education committee), to lead a discussion. Let people know which book will be discussed, and encourage those who wish to participate to read the book prior to the meeting.
- Give books as gifts for events in the lives of families or lend books to families both for pleasure reading and for addressing times of need.
- Put together packets of two to three books around a theme. Pass these from family to family. After each family reads, ask them to enclose a “we liked best” picture or writing for the next family to enjoy. You may want to select special themes related to what children and youth are studying or the sermon series.
- Include reading as part of group activities for church-wide camps or retreats, or intergenerational classes.
- Use children’s books for children’s times and as sermon illustrations.
- Cultivate a “top” list of books to read. Publish this list every year, including both old favorites and new discoveries. Encourage children, youth, and adults to nominate books for the “top” list and ask for reviews to publish on your church website or newsletter.
- Include audio books and, for the tech-savvy readers, provide electronic books or downloads that can also be included on your church website.
Whatever, you do, don’t give up on reading. Encourage everyone in your church to develop a love for books by providing a wide range of resources and opportunities to read. In doing so, you will help introduce and possibly nurture a life-long habit that will help everyone dig deeper into the mysteries of the faith and grow closer to the Lord.
Related article: Church Resource Libraries