Choosing a Bible for Your Pastor
I am often asked what to buy a pastor as a gift for Pastor Appreciation Month (which is October btw). One of the best gifts you can buy a pastor is a Bible. A pastor, more than anyone else, needs multiple Bibles. Even if they have several they can always use one more. Pastors actually need several Bibles to suit various purposes. No one Bible can suit every purpose perfectly. In this article we’ll look at some ideas for buying a Bible for your pastor. I’ve even recruited a few reviewers, preachers, and pastors and asked them to give advice from their own experiences and preferences (my apologies to all of those I missed).
A pastor needs a Bible for:
- storing thoughts
- creating notes
- pastoral duties
No one Bible can do all of these tasks perfectly. The typical reference or study Bible is a multi-tool. They can do a lot of things but they don’t really excel at any of them. Specialized Bibles, such as those for journaling or reading, are better for a specific purpose but that’s really all they can do. Sometimes a pastor needs to use a Bible with Greek word studies, while other times the pastor needs a Bible with room to write notes, or a Bible to carry to hospitals, to preach from at their home Church, to preach in other Churches when they have to pack light, to preach on the streets, to read with no distractions, to help them through difficult situations, to help them help others, with succinct commentary, with detailed commentary, or other study tools.
Remember that Bible design is a series of compromises. No one Bible is going to do everything perfectly. I use several different Bibles in situations where each is most effective. – Matthew William Bassford
Rather than trying to find one Bible that can suit all of these purposes I recommend a Bible that excels at one purpose. Let’s take a closer look at each purpose.
A reading Bible would place the emphasis on the text. Ideally it would remove all of the distractions – references, footnotes, and even chapter and verse numbers. If it has these features they would be secondary and blend in as much as possible. The layout would improve readability rather than hinder it. Single column paragraph format is a popular choice for improved readability.
For private reading- I personally love the Pitt with my readers. For a sermon, the Cambridge large print text unless you are open air preaching. I like the large bold print and verses starting on a new line. I also like a totally uncluttered page for preaching. I don’t preach from notes in my Bible- they are more reflective. I use a leather bound nice spiral that is not as big as standard notebook paper. – Wayne Dodd
Choices include the ESV Reader’s Edition, 6-volume set, Holman Reader’s Bible in KJV or NKJV, or even Bibles such as the Single Column Legacy or Heritage. Even the Clarion series makes for great reading Bibles because the verses numbers tend to be invisible.
Carry Bibles are great for reading the Bible on the go, ministering in hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, etc. They don’t need to have study tools but a few topical lists or references might be helpful. The smaller and lighter the Bible is the easier it is to carry it around. Of course this also means smaller fonts or fewer features. Thineline and compact editions are great choices and you can get them in almost any translation and with or without references. Unless the pastor requires larger print it’s best to get 8-point or smaller.
In my opinion, the Thompson Chain Reference Bible KJV is the best study bible with study helps and references. It also still has a little room for notes that I think every minister should own. Because the TCRB is not a very convenient size to carry, I also think that a minister should have a hand carry size bible to be able to carry wherever he goes. My favorite is the Cambridge Emerald Text in French Morocco because it is a red letter edition with a advertised 8pt text that looks like at least a 9pt, especially when set next to the 8pt print of the TCRB. It is an easy carry at only 5.2 x 1.4 x 7.5 inches, and just a plain boldly printed Bible that’s easy to read and nothing extra to carry. – Benjamin Vannoy
Great choices include the Pitt Minion series from Cambridge, Cambridge Cameo, the Holman Pocket Minister’s Bible, the Cambridge Standard Text, TBS Windsor, Zondervan Skinii, TBS Pocket Reference, the Holman Compact series, etc.
Even in our digital age there are still a lot of pastors that prefer printed books. Even if the pastor prefers digital tools there are times when digital just isn’t available. Study Bibles are great choices because the have a lot of study tools. They often have commentary, word studies, topical tools, references, concordance, maps, charts, etc. These tools are often slimmed down, so they won’t take the place of specialized tools such as a 10-volume commentary set, but they will be helpful for study and sermon prep. For studying and preparing sermons, the more information the better, so it doesn’t hurt to have more than one Study Bible.
If it’s a Bible for them to use when speaking, make sure it combines readable print with portability, black, with quality leather. If it’s more of a Study Bible, it would need to be one they don’t already have in their preferred translation. – Steve Waldron
There are several different types of Study Bibles. The most popular type is generalized. They’re made for specific denominational groups but they cover general information from that viewpoint. Others focus on a specific topic such as Creation, archaeology, spiritual warfare, or prophecy. Another type gives you the tools to do your own study. These usually have topical lists, dictionaries, etc. If your pastor has one type of study Bible you could get one of the other types.
Don’t purchase the type of Bible that is beyond your interest level or grasp. A majority of the time that one will collect dust. – Phillip Gillins
Wide Margin Bibles can be considered the ultimate Study Bibles. They don’t come with all of the study notes… the person doing the studying has to add that themselves. They’re great for keeping quotes, notes, lists, sermon outlines, etc. The pastor can compile the information they need into a Bible that ends up being a custom Bible made just for them. Many even use them for preaching.
Amidst all of our many duties, pastors must do two things well – study our Bibles and preach the Gospel. A wide margin Bible is the single most important tool I own. It is at once a living study folder and a ready reference suite. My wide margin Bible has become both my study desk and my pulpit; in a strange way too my ministry companion and lifelong friend. – Matthew Everhard
In my opinion every pastor needs a Wide Margin Bible. I recommend getting the highest quality possible as they are great for heirlooms.
My advice is to purchase a Smythe-sewn bible, which lays down flat even if open to Genesis 1 or Revelation 22. Additionally, I’d recommend a bible with sufficient room in the margins to write notes or helps when preaching expositionally. If you preach topically, this is probably not as important as you’re more likely to preach from notes. Marginal notes is more conducive to expositional preaching in my opinion. – Ryan Gustason
Bibles for preaching don’t need to have the same tools as Bibles for study or reference. In fact they really only need the biblical text. Large print Bibles with no distractions are my favorite choices for preaching. Some prefer verse-by-verse because the verses are much easier to find, while others prefer paragraph because it helps keeps verses in context. Many pastors want a little bit of margin space for short notes.
The typical concerns when it comes to choosing a Bible in the pulpit — type size, legibility, handy references, room for notes, opening flat and staying open — are all practical, yet the Bible in the pulpit is a symbol, too. By its presence alone, it signifies, and the details speak as well. The Bible in my pulpit, more often than not, is the Cambridge Clarion, both for practical reasons and symbolic. It’s small enough to fit in the limited space available, sitting next to the notes and papers I use during the sermon. The Clarion also represents the kind of edition I want my listeners to use. It sets a good example, so to speak. – J. Mark Bertrand
I typically prefer a larger text than the one I carry around in the car. Many pulpits don’t have a lot of room for large Bibles to sit beside notes. This makes a personal size large print a good choice. Consider how your pastor uses the Bible when preaching. Do they read lots of Scripture? Do they give a passage and then walk away from the pulpit? Do they carry it around while preaching? Does the Bible need to share space with notes on the pulpit?
A few, “Must have” features a Bible should have for use on a pulpit are, font between 10pt-12pt, modern digital typeset, sewn binding to allow it to lay flat, (nobody likes to fight the cover, or to use something to weigh it down.) Nice opaque paper, generally a heavier weight at 32 g.s.m. or more, verse format, so that you can find your place easily during your exposition, a durable and supple cover material to protect the Bible and make it easy to use, and some room in the margins for some short notes. – Bob Snyder
I think each preacher needs to ask himself about his eyesight, adaptability, and mobility. Eyesight: Even for those with good eyesight, I think a 10 point font or greater couldn’t hurt. It makes it so you don’t have to hold the Bible as close or peruse as much to find your place. Adaptability: If you’re good on your toes, you might do fine with a single column paragraph Bible at the pulpit. But if you are easily flustered on a stage, then you might want a verse by verse layout to make verse location as easy as possible. Mobility: If you move around the stage a lot, a three pound Bible like the Quentel might be deadweight. Maybe you want a large print thinline instead. If you keep your Bible on the podium, then weight should’t be an issue. Finally, a liquid binding that lays flat is a preaching essential, as it makes for less fumbling with a Bible that closes on itself as you speak. – Jeff Mellema
Even if your Church only uses one translation your pastor can benefit from using several. They shed light on passages which helps in preaching and teaching, and can help when discussing passages with others.
Most pastors have their “go to” when it comes to bibles. In most cases, they probably already have the one they use as a main Bible. However, adding new ones to their library is never a bad thing. As a pastor, I like to have as many translations as I can, for study purposes. Different languages (Greek, Hebrew, etc…) with word meanings is also very helpful. – Joe Guinta
Maybe even consider a translation the pastor doesn’t currently have but you know they would like. You might even consider one from a different translation philosophy or family than they currently use.
I currently use the NKJV as the core for most of my studies. But I love to cross reference the Message, NIV and the NASB. I have found that God often uses these alternative versions help me get a fresh perspective on the verse that I had not seen before. – Geno Quiroz
There are several great choices for a general use all-around Bible. These are typically reference editions with some basic tools. You can get them in various sizes. They’re more like a multi-tool and are often used as a primary Bible. Every pastor should have one.
Buy ESV Verse by Verse Reference in top grain leather. Otherwise Choose wide margin, literal, decent size print and the highest quality leather you can afford. Choose a solid reference system and good helps i.e. Concordance dictionary – Matt Sherro
The general-use reference Bible is probably the most popular Bible and if the pastor only has one Bible it’s likely to be this type.
I find out what he is currently using first, and then ask them what they don’t like about it. Version, column format, reference and note-taking preferences, etc. It’s easy to reverse engineer it from there. Getting the basics right improves the chances of picking something that will actually be useful, instead of just another gift bible – he probably has a shelf full of those. Same as buying a bible for anyone, by the way. – Bobby Hanson
Pastors use their Bibles a LOT. The higher the quality the longer it last. Bonded and imitation leathers wear out quickly with use. Paste-down liners, especially with cheaper Bibles, will tear and the Bible will have to be replaced or rebound. Many pastors love edge-lined goatskin, calfskin, or cowhide. These Bibles range from close to $100 to over $200.
The pastor likely has the resources and helps that he wants, so consider his enjoyment in the Bible above its utility or study benefit. Quality in craftsmanship or a unique Bible, perhaps a limited edition or antique, may be more appreciated than the study Bible that a layperson would love and grow with. – Derrick Seagraves
Pastors love and appreciate Bibles – their most important tool. Even if your pastor already has a Bible they use they can benefit from another one. Pastors have plenty of uses for various Bible and there are plenty of Bibles available to fill those needs no matter how specific they are. Using the tips here you should be able to find your pastor a Bible they will love and cherish for years to come.
My thanks to the pastors, preachers, and reviewers that gave us tips along the way. Do you have any tips to add?