There are plenty of good reasons why a parish should have a book club and why parishioners should participate in one. Beyond the obvious benefits of encouraging time for fellowship, fulfillment, and faith, a parish book club is a great way to involve, educate, and affirm those parishioners who might otherwise be hesitant to become involved in parish life.
Luckily, after generating some awareness and contacting any interested parties, the process of setting up a book club is as simple as 1, 2, 3:
1) Pick a leader and a discussion format. The choice of a leader is closely related to the discussion format because the role of the leader will depend on the style of conversation. Will the meeting be more like a relaxed gathering of friends with the leader merely starting the discussion and keeping the group on task? Will the book club meet for a presentation on the book or topic with something like a question-and-answer session at the end (with the leader being responsible for the presentation or finding a presenter). Or will the meeting be somewhere in between, with the leader responsible for asking questions and guiding the discussion but not for formally lecturing on the book?
And should the same person lead for many sessions, or should there be a new leader for every meet-up? Will everyone taking a turn hosting? The meeting format and role of the leader may affect some members’ willingness to volunteer to lead, so while not everyone may be comfortable leading the group in discussion, there should be at least a couple of members willing to step up and take turns.
2) Pick a meeting location and schedule. The size of the group will probably be the biggest factor in determining a meeting location. Will the book club meet at members’ homes, a local coffee shop, or the parish center? If there are lots of people interested in joining the book club, it may be more effective to break them up into smaller groups-too large a group may intimidate some members and make it difficult for everyone’s thoughts to be shared. Meetings with a format that includes a lecture or other structured activity are more difficult to plan since they require more space and setup, but they can generally accommodate more people at once.
The trick to establishing a reading schedule is to leave enough time for members to purchase and read the selected book, without leaving so much time that members may forget about doing the reading or forget what they read in the interim. A meeting every four to eight weeks is probably the “safest” schedule. As for choosing specific meeting times (days of the week, time of day, etc.), that should be determined around member schedules, parish activities, and meeting location availability.
3) Pick a book. U.S. Catholic makes this easy with our monthly U.S. Catholic Book Club selection. Every month U.S. Catholic will spotlight and review a title we believe is worthy of attention. The Book Club selections and reviews can be found in the print magazine as well as online at https://www.uscatholic.org/bookclub. U.S. Catholic also offers monthly book reviews and a monthly book list, so take your pick-there’s bound to be something suitable for your group.
For more information on starting and running a book club, see https://www.spl.org/programs-and-services/authors-and-books/book-groups/book-group-how-tos.