By Chris Hefner
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young,” Henry Ford is claimed to have said. “The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”
The great automobile maker is right. Learning keeps us interested and interesting. If we stop learning, we can become stale and self-absorbed, significantly hampering our effectiveness.
Just as worship habits contribute to our spiritual health, so do our learning habits. Here are three learning habits for spiritually healthy pastors.
Habit #1—Make time for spiritual disciplines daily.
The quality of our spiritual lives will never grow beyond our devotional habits. For years, I’ve used the M’Cheyne reading plan for my devotions. Reading through the Bible in sections highlights the interconnected themes in all of Scripture.
Bible reading, study, Scripture memorization, prayer, journaling, fasting, meditating on God’s Word are commendable disciplines with manifold value. These disciplines are critical for our personal growth.
Too many pastors and church leaders who’ve failed morally or ethically can trace their failures to a barren devotional life. May we build habits that lead us to God’s Word and prayer.
Habit #2— Participate in a group weekly.
In our church’s mission strategy, we fulfill the learning step in Sunday school classes and discipleship groups. For some pastors who have multiple Sunday services, attending a Sunday morning small group is impractical or even impossible.
However, pastors must not neglect the habit of participating in the ministry of a group. A weekly discipleship group designed to encourage regular Bible reading, accountability, and prayer is spiritually healthy.
Even though we’re the under-shepherd of the church, we’re still sheep. We need others. We need their encouragement and accountability.
You’ll be blessed by the spiritual growth you witness when you make a weekly habit of growing with other believers in a group.
Habit #3— Read, think, and write regularly.
To be a leader is to be a learner. Too many pastors set their ministry on cruise control, failing to be challenged intellectually and spiritually.
In what’s likely the final letter Paul wrote, he asked Timothy to bring him books and parchments (2 Timothy 4:13). Paul’s example of continued learning at the twilight of his ministry is instructive and motivating.
Charles Spurgeon encouraged pastors to spend their leisure time reading the Bible, reading sound theology, or praying.
The spiritually healthy pastor will make time to learn by reading, thinking, and writing.
Reading reveals how much we don’t know. Thinking helps us integrate what we’re learning into our daily lives. Writing engages the mind, providing clarity, understanding, and application with what we’re learning.
You may argue, “But I don’t have time for this stuff.” Begin by carving out small blocks of time each day for reading, thinking, and writing.
As church leaders, we aspire to have an effective ministry. But a ministry with longevity and effectiveness will require habits of learning that’ll keep us growing.
In the spirit of this article, I’d love to learn from your feedback. What are some ways you’ve built learning habits into your life? Leave a comment below or send me a message on Twitter to @chrishefner.
CHRIS HEFNER (@chrishefner) is husband to a beautiful wife and fantastic mommy, Jean Hefner, daddy of two little boys, William and Nathan, and senior pastor at Wilkesboro Baptist Church in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. He’s also professor of Western Civilization and Apologetics at Fruitland Baptist Bible College and Ph.D. graduate from the Billy Graham School of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.