Request for ideas about getting a church family to read a common book

Just got an email from Emily Martin from Park Cities Baptist Church.

Here in Dallas, there are a number of organizations that have galvanized their constituency to read one common book. For example, SMU Reads, or Richardson Reads. I think Chicago has done a similar thing for the whole city.


I would love to do something like that here at Park Cities Baptist Church – select one book and encourage the whole congregation to read it. The idea of selecting one book and the effort to get everyone on board is pretty daunting to me. Before I try to reinvent the wheel, I wondered if you know of any churches or church libraries that have undertaken such a program. You might have some other ideas and wisdom that I’d be grateful to receive.

Any suggestions for Emily? Sounds like a great idea! I'm interested too.

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Emily, this certainly sounds like a unique idea; however, there are several questions that come to mind.  Would the library purchase the books for circulation?  Would individuals be asked to purchase their own book?    There are certainly many books that would be great for all to read.  Without  knowing more facts, it might be necessary to reinvent the wheel!  My thinking about how it might work in my church would be to select several books as a "must" reading list and to encourage customers to read those.  It could well develop into a reading club for adults such as  reading a  book a month with you suggesting at least half of the books.  We have had success with a reading club for adults but suggested categories instead of certain books.

The "common book" idea sounds like an excellent idea--even if we do have to reinvent the wheel!

Check to see if your church has a disciple making process or emphasis going on right now. The common book idea is perfect for that church wide emphasis. Also wondering how this idea could plug in to the read-through-the-Bible annual emphasis many churches do these days. In a way, that emphasis or strategy is the model for reading a common book. Just thinking outloud.

Central Baptist Church in Decatur, AL is reading together the ESV of the entire Bible.  Our church purchased them in paperback.  We sold them through the library and covered each one with KAPCO which makes them last much longer with daily use.  On Wednesday evenings our pastor  discusses the questions people have submitted during the week.  It has been wonderful.  There are also other groups in our church doing the same thing.    I think it would be great if the pastor recommended a book for all to read.  All the church reading a certain book could certainly be an inspiring thing to do.

You might be interested in a new book by C. Christopher Smith, Reading for the Common Good: How Books Help Our Churches and Neighborhoods Flourish (InterVarsity, 2016), and the companion ebook by the same author, 101 Transformative Books for Churches to Read and Discuss (Englewood Review of Books, 2016). The ebook is available for free at



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