What I Learned Through Running a Book Club in my Church (and why every church should have one)

Claire Musters | July 10th 2018

I have been facilitating a monthly women’s book group, which we call Sensible Shoes (more on that later), for our church for almost two years now and even though I love reading and am an author of several books I am pleasantly surprised by how much we get out of it. Here are some of the benefits of a book club that I perhaps wasn’t expecting.

A Book Club Takes You Deeper And Wider

Right from the offset, the books* we felt drawn to work through have been ones that have necessitated a lot of soul searching and vulnerability within the group. And the wonderful result is that it has forged honest relationships across ages and demographics within the church (we have young mums through to grandmothers). It has allowed people to speak openly and freely and offer support, prayer, friendship and, where appropriate, advice and help.

Most importantly, the group gives us that space that we may not have on a Sunday morning (or even in our small group) to really wrestle with ideas and questions without always expecting answers. Somewhere where we can cry or laugh together without always needing to explain why.

We now have a Whatsapp group that is often used for prayer requests, which enables us to stay in touch easily in between our meetings.

You Get New And Shared Experiences

We have covered so many subjects: busyness (why we have a tendency to ‘do’ rather than rest); our perceived need to perform; the effect our childhood and difficulties in adulthood have had on our sense of self (and spiritual walk); as well as trying out spiritual practises.

Too often we can be consumers and/or individualistic in our spiritual lives, and our book group has helped to bring a wider perspective. Following a character or listening to an external perspective is a unique way to foster a better environment for understanding the roads that other people tread and in turn encourages greater honesty between the group. Hence the name ‘Sensible Shoes’ because it reflects the beauty found in walking alongside others in our spiritual journey.

It Teaches Us Relationships Over Activity

Church book groups are not just for those who have a passion for reading – they are for those who want to develop spiritually, but also come alongside others for that journey too. And of course we rarely stick to the subject of the chapter we are going through – if someone opens up and wants to talk and pray then we go with the flow.

Our regular meetups have become so important to us that we’ve booked a retreat for later in the year. It will be the first time we will have gone away together, but we felt we wanted to finish our book off in style, and have some focused time to reflect, share and pray while away from home and responsibilities, no doubt incorporating some of the spiritual practises learned from the book.

It’s So Worth It

As a pastor’s wife, mom, author and freelance writer/editor, it often feels like I have precious little time for anything other than the main stuff, but the book group is something I have felt stirred to continue. It ensures that I am reading for spiritual formation regularly, and helps me to continue to be connected with people in my church. I can honestly say that each time we meet, I come away encouraged and excited about what God has done, and is doing, in us and through us as a group.

What Others Say

“Church life can be really busy. We can have snatched conversations on a Sunday morning but we often crave that deeper dialogue and relationship and that takes time and investment. Having a book as a structure to discuss our spiritual journey and faith means it is easier to open up and to engage in deep conversations. It provides a framework and allows discussions to take place which might not otherwise.”  Louise

“Being honest, a book club really is the least likely activity I thought I’d ever join in with at church.  That said, I’ve been surprised by how much I’ve enjoyed journeying through a book with others. Having the opportunity to read and reflect on a chapter before discussing with others has given me much more confidence to share what God has been speaking to me about myself, and Himself.”  Vanessa

 “I am one of these people who finds the thought of regularly meeting up with a large group of women terrifying. Despite this I find myself regularly attending a book study – with a large group of women. Through my fears, and preconceptions, I have found it to be a safe place, a place of friendship and encouragement, a chance to build friendships with ladies I wouldn’t normally see, a place where Jesus is able to meet me and minister to my broken places and a place where I am able to come alongside others. Of course, all this is in addition to having a valid reason to make a hot drink, curl up on the sofa and lose myself in a book…”  Naomi


*(In case you were wondering which books we chose to go through, we began with a non-fiction book: Having a Martha Heart in a Mary World by Joanna Weaver but then moved on to a work of fiction: Sensible Shoes by Sharon Garlough Brown. Both come with suggested readings and questions for personal reflection – and then we look at group questions together when we meet.

We chose these books because they were a good match for our church, so do choose what will speak most meaningfully into your group and It would be a good idea to run them past your pastor first too.)

We launched #RenewYourMind to encourage everyone to pick up a Christian book this summer. We’ve created a short film, we’re discounting some brilliant titles and we’re sharing stories of our favourite Christian books to get you excited about reading! Take a look

Claire Musters

Claire Musters is an author, speaker and editor. Her book Taking Off the Mask is about learning to be more vulnerable and authentic with one another. She blogs at clairemusters.com.

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