4 tools to help busy pastors stay informed
How can a pastor stay informed without being glued to the news?
When I was growing up in the 1980’s, we watched the national news almost every afternoon at five o’clock. The only question was whether we would watch ABC, CBS, or NBC. The Mobile Press-Register arrived every morning and the Clarke County Democrat showed up every Thursday. We trusted our news sources and stayed relatively informed about important people and events in our culture. Nobody talked much about media bias and the term “fake news” was decades away.
Today’s media landscape is very different. We have access to more news and opinion then we could ever consume and yet it could be argued that we are less informed about what is happening in our world than we were thirty years ago. So much of the news we receive now is driven by the attention economy, so what we imbibe comes from what publishers think will draw the most attention. Therefore, we are rarely exposed to news and events that don’t have a “breaking news” feel to them.
Pastors need to stay informed about what is going on in our communities, our culture, and our world so that we can rightly apply God’s word as we preach to and disciple the people in our congregations. In addition, we need to know how to lead our churches through the shifting winds of culture and how to model praying for our leaders to them. Yet, we cannot stay glued to the news all day and have no business trying to have an opinion on every issue people discuss on social media, so we must learn to lean on a few trusted sources so that we can fulfill our callings to the ministry of the word and prayer.
In this post, I would like to suggest some potential sources for learning keeping up with the news and current events in our culture. However, I do not suggest that you consume all of what I am about to recommend. Instead, pick out a couple of ways to stay informed and then shut off the news for the rest of the day so that you can focus on other important things.
I still find something appealing about reading the newspaper over breakfast. While the newspaper usually contains things we have already heard about, it offers us a chance to sit and read something that does not have a screen.
If you live in a more rural or suburban area, you likely have a local paper that comes out once or twice a week. Subscribe to this and get to know the people and events in your area. I recently subscribed to our county’s weekly paper for $2.72 a month.
In addition, you might consider getting a paper from a larger city. This could be the closest city to you or you might look into whether or not one of the nation’s larger paper delivers to your zip code. Often, when we read through the paper, especially past the first page, we encounter many events and people that we know very little about and can become informed.
2. News Roundup
If you prefer to get your news in a quick-hitting fashion, you can get daily news roundups delivered to your inbox. I subscribe to a couple of these and find that they are a good way to get a brief glance at what is going on in the world. The short summaries of each story usually contain links where you can find more in-depth information.
There are more of these than I can list, but I have benefitted from Axios’ “AM,” The New York Times’ “Morning Briefing,” and The Wall Street Journal’s “The 10 Point.” These land in my inbox before I go to work. I read through one or two of these in the morning and unfollowed most of the news organizations I followed on social media so that I am not tempted to get sucked down a wormhole of links when I should be working.
3. News Magazines
News magazines offer a unique perspective on events that you often cannot get from a quick online news story. Their stories have been researched and edited more heavily and contain more information. They also tend to cover stories that you wouldn’t be exposed to if you got all your news from Facebook or Twitter.
In dealing with news magazines, you often run up against accusations of bias. You cannot get away from bias, so it’s better to know the ideological commitments of the magazine and read discerningly. On the conservative side of things, many people read and trust The National Review and The Weekly Standard. Magazines like The Atlantic or The New Yorker reflect a more liberal perspective. Even though the commitments of the authors are usually evident, these types of magazines give us a deeper insight into news, events, and the direction of our culture.
4. News Podcasts
The average American has a longer commute to work than they have in the past, making the necessity of redeeming this time even more urgent. Thanks to news podcasts, we can use this time to learn more about what is happening in the world around us. NPR News Now is a five-minute look at the latest news and updates every hour throughout the day. Also, the PBS News Hour updates with several segments every day.
In addition, Al Mohler’s podcast, The Briefing covers news and events from a Christian worldview. Dr. Mohler walks through stories that would be of interest to Christians and offers commentary to help Christians think through the issues. He usually covers several stories in each episode and they generally last between twenty and twenty-five minutes.
While I am on the subject of redeeming commutes, I would be remiss if I did not mention the magic of audiobooks. Instead of listening to talk radio, pop in a good book instead. I use Audible for my audiobooks and usually stick with historical biographies rather than the kind of book I would like to underline.
Keep it simple
You may wonder how you can find the time to stay informed, but really it’s simple. Stop scrolling through your phone throughout the day or keeping the news on in the background throughout the day. Choose one or two of the resources above for your news, learn about what is going on in the world around you, and then get about the business of leading your church for God’s glory.