Fred Craddock, in chapter 4 of Preaching makes a series of suggestions for cultivating and guarding a life of study. I’ll share five of his ten suggestions in these two posts, with comments added:
1. Inform your congregation of your study schedule, explaining that study time is time spent with the whole congregation. It is better to plan times of study than to try and fit them in around other things. If it is in the schedule, then try to treat those times as you would another appointment – keep it and don’t be interrupted whenever possible.
2. Be realistic in your expectations of your study life. You cannot read every book on every subject relevant to your role. However, hunt out the key landmark books in each field and know them well. Each key book will be followed by dozens of other books that interact with the key book. Try to get at the source of the discussion. This would apply to Biblical studies, counseling, homiletics, pastoral ministries, church growth, cultural analysis, systematic theology and so on. Find the key books and interact with them.
How do you find key books? Ask experts in the field, or well-trained peers. Be aware of helpful tools like John Glynn’s Commentary and Reference Survey (currently on 10th edition). Read introduction’s to journal articles, skim book reviews, etc. The lists of required texts in seminary book stores are also valuable. A little time well spent in hunting will save a lot of time reading secondary texts.