Download here. As Tim was in Grand Rapids this week to meet with Ryan, Andrew, and the rest of his publishing team at Zondervan, we recorded a first-ever face-to-face Connected Kingdom about his excellent new book: The Next Story. Ryan joined us for the discussion and then we all went for a Hibachi, finished off with fried cheesecake + fried ice cream (felt like I was back in Glasgow again!).
I started reading The Next Story while delayed in Chicago airport yesterday; and while I was hoping for good things, I have to say it has far exceeded my expectations so far. This is not a book you will quickly skim and forget about. I don’t think I’ve read a book so slowly for a long time, and that’s not because it is difficult to understand (far from it); it’s because it makes you think in fresh ways, deeper ways, wider ways, and longer ways about the impact of technology upon every part of our inner and outer lives. I already know that it’s going to join my small pile of “read every year” books.If you want to give us feedback or join in the discussion, go ahead and look up our Facebook Group or leave a comment right here. You will always be able to find the most recent episode here on the blog. If you would like to subscribe via iTunes, you can do that here or if you want to subscribe with another audio player, you can try this RSS link.
Does your desk glorify God? Can you glorify God in your administration? These are the questions I addressed with my Leadership class students recently when we discussed the problem of paper (or data). Some pastors seem to think that the power of the Gospel stops at their office door! But there is no area of life we can say to God, “No entry!” In this interview with Christianity Today, Matt Perman of whatsbestnext.com argues that administration is part of the good works we do to glorify God. The Beauty of Organization We are used to thinking about mountains or lakes or Apple Macs when we think about beauty – but not about administration. But I believe orderly administration is beautiful because:
It portrays the image of God (Gen.1:27)
It obeys the mandate of God (Gen.1:28)
It gives pleasure to God (Gen.1:31),
It reflects the nature of God (1 Cor. 14:33, 40).
Sin, by way of contrast, is anomos, lawlessness, disorder and chaos.
The Benefits of Organization Efficient organization is not only beautiful, it is also beneficial.
Available time increases as we spend less time looking for things. Matt Perman quotes To do, doing done, “Clutter sucks creativity and energy from your brain.”
Our peace increases because we are not always worrying if we missed something. We enjoy our work a lot more.
The effectiveness of our witness increases because if we fail to answer correspondence or keep appointments we lose credibility and people’s confidence.
You might say that the cultural mandate “Rule and be fruitful” begins with our offices. Here’s a great series on How to set up your desk by Matt Perman.
The Barriers to Organization As we would expect in this fallen world, anything beautiful or beneficial is not going to come easily. There are a number of obstacles to organization, not least of which are our own sinful hearts.
Our sinful hearts: Some people enjoy portraying themselves as Kings of their chaos. The monotonous drudgery of organizing puts some off, while others claim that a clean space would spoil their creativity! We do get attached to our things and resist getting rid of them. “It may be trash, but it’s my trash.”
The sins of others: Maybe we are married to chaotic people and we cannot get them to cooperate. Perhaps we have been given an impossible workload that prevents us ever doing anything well.
Changes: Sometimes we feel that we just get settled into a good routine when the next change comes along and all the balls we’ve been juggling fall to the floor again. Whenever we change computers, or have to get used to new software, our organizing is going to take a backward step. And any change in study or living location is obviously going to engulf our studies as well.
Storage: Sometimes our problem is simply that we do not have enough storage space, or it is not close enough for us to use it. Others, however, set up such a complex storage system that it just puts them off using it. We also need simple storage solutions for electronic information.
Yes, even our administration needs to be redeemed. Tomorrow we’ll look at a Blueprint for Organization, and the Balance of Organization.
UPDATE: “Tomorrow” has been postponed until Monday
“Bonus Gospel” is an introduction to a new series of ten films on Christ’s appearances in the Old Testament as the Angel of the Lord. The series is called CrossReference and aims to help Christians discover and enjoy Christ in the Old Testament.
However, you can buy the digital download of the whole series here for $5. Or visit Ligonier’s online store in the next few days for the download and also to pre-order the DVD and Study Guide.
And every Wednesday for the next ten weeks, check out Challies, Ligonier, or HeadHeartHand for a time-limited streaming version of each episode. And feel free to embed the videos on Facebook or your own blog too.
I hope your heart will burn within you as you discover and enjoy Christ in the Old Testament (Luke 24:32).
(RSS readers may have to click through here to view the video)
Want to find and worship Christ in the Old Testament?
Need a weekly Bible Study that’s doctrinal, devotional, and doable? Trying to help your children study the Bible on a Sunday afternoon, but they aren’t great readers? Looking for a Sunday school series that marries “old” theology with new technology?The CrossReference series of films from Head Heart Hand Media may be for you. The first DVD & Study Guide will launch on April 12 at the Gospel Coalition Conference. But come back tomorrow for pre-launch preview and special offer. HeadHeartHand Media.
Here’s part of the lecture I gave to the students in my Leadership class on managing time in pastoral ministry.
I’ve given you a theology of time and a devil-ology of time. In the light of that, let me now give you 10 practical ways to manage time. 1. Peace The most important time of the day is first thing in the morning. Get up early enough to have a quiet time for reading the Bible and prayer. Those first moments of peaceful orientation of the mind and soul are the foundation of a successful day of ministry. And the key to getting up early enough is getting to bed early enough the night before. If you are finding it impossible to get up early enough for an undistracted time of Bible reading and prayer, you are going to bed too late. 2. Plan After your quiet time, use paper, a whiteboard, or electronic means to list all the things you have to do in the day. Or, ideally, pick up the list you prepared the day before. Someone once said that for every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned! Slight exaggeration but a lot of time is saved if we pause to get organized rather than just plunge into the first thing that comes to mind. And make sure you have only one to-do list!I keep that list with me all the time and keep adding to it. Some items are for that day and other items will be for the future. But everything that needs to be done goes on that list. I try not to carry anything about with me in my head.3. Prioritize You are not going to get everything done, so you have to let the less important things wait. Organize the list of to-do’s into the following categories: Urgent: There may be phone calls, visits, or emails that simply have to be done that day.Big: Make sure you do something substantial in the study each day. It may be a few hours on a sermon, or a few hours writing an article, or a few hours of focused study, etc. It is very easy in the ministry to let the little things squeeze out the big. The little things are less demanding on the mind and soul and give a sense of “I’m getting things done!” But time must be set apart for the longer-term, substantial things. It is usually best to do this first thing in the morning, after personal/family devotions.Daily: There are some routine things that happen every day, or should do. They are not urgent and the world won’t fall apart if you don’t do them; but if you let them build up, then you will eventually become overwhelmed. Some examples may be answering emails, making phone calls, organizing your diary and coordinating it with your wife’s, balancing bank accounts, and backing up data (or use Dropbox). Visits & Meetings: Are there any pastoral visits or meetings planned for the day? Work out the most efficient way of combining these to minimize travel time. What other errands can I do on these trips?Long-term: Eventually you will be asked to write articles, review books, contribute to reports, deliver lectures, etc. Try to find one slot in the week that you dedicate to these more long-term projects. It is usually best to schedule these projects for completion every 2-3 weeks rather than let them build up on you, so that you have five to do in two days time! If you don’t schedule it, it won’t get done.Andrew Carnegie once asked a consultant, “What can you do for me about time control?” The consultant said, “I’ll make one suggestion, and you send me a check for what you think it’s worth. Write down what you have to do on a piece of paper in order of priority, and complete the first item before you go on to the second.” It’s reported that Carnegie tried it for a few weeks and sent him a check for ten thousand dollars. 4. Pick Pick the right time for the right tasks. If you don’t set aside time for tasks, they are unlikely to be done. Make sure you choose the right time slot for each task and allocate enough time for it.Devote large blocks of time to important tasks. Squeeze less important tasks into smaller blocks and consolidate smaller tasks into one block to release larger blocks for important tasks.And don’t multi-task. Glen Stansberry says: “Every time you switch your attention, there’s a cognitive ramp up time. It can range from a few seconds to a few minutes. So, if you constantly cycle between checking email, IM, twitter, texts, voicemail, calendars, blackberries, apps, scores, stock quotes, news, current projects and more, then respond to each, the time you lose to incessant ramp-up becomes substantial. Instead, minimize time lost to non-stop cognitive ramping by batching your time and focusing on individual categories of tasks with intense, yet discrete bursts of attention.”5. Perform I’ve written on procrastination before (here, here, and here)6. Pace Some pastors live life at Wall Street trader pace. Others go for the “let it all hang out” pace. Neither helps the pastor or his people. Somewhere between these two poles is where we should find ourselves; and pace will vary from person to person. Find a pace that allows you to get a good amount of substantial work done, that will allow you to have time for people, and that will not discourage people from seeking your time.Set yourself time limits on work like sermons. You can spend an endless amount of time perfecting a sermon. If you are to have time for other duties, you have to draw a line somewhere. You also have to be able to distinguish between tasks that require a much higher quality of work than others. For example, a sermon for a nursing home on a Sunday afternoon does not require as much preparation as the main preaching sermon of the week.Pace your to-do list as well. If you have ten extra things to do this week, do two a day rather than try to do ten on day one. That breaks up the mountain into small manageable steps. One way to speed up the pace at which you do mundane tasks (if not all tasks) like email, is to use a stopwatch or timer.“Pace” is the best place I can find to also mention exercise. Glen Stansburry said: “It sounds counter-intuitive, but you have to spend time exercising. Research has shown that exercise boosts cognitive function, creativity, problem solving and productivity. In fact a NASA study showed employees who exercised daily worked at 100% efficiency after 7 hours, while those who didn’t saw a 50% drop, meaning it took them twice as long to accomplish the same thing. So, exercise, in effect, creates time.”Build in buffer time so that you have space to accommodate if something interrupts or goes wrong. If you don’t and something does set you off-schedule, then it will be impossible to get back on track and you will lose momentum.And get enough sleep. It helps boost your memory!7. Purge One of the benefits of the class time-management exercise is that you will hopefully have identified a number of time-wasters in your life. Probably just the exercise of recording your time was revealing to you and had its own corrective effects. There’s no question that the biggest drain on pastors’ time now is the Internet. You will have to find a way of controlling this either through self-discipline or with the help of time clocks and filters/blockers.8. Protect According to Julie Morgenstern, the average information worker is interrupted by another person or by technology every 11 mins and it takes 25 mins to fully refocus. So, if you are ever going to get quality study time and sermon preparation time, you will have to protect the time you set aside to do this. Mark out “study appointments” in your schedule as if you were visiting with someone, and make it non-negotiable. I found the mornings were the best for this. I usually protected 8am to 1pm, Tuesday to Saturday. I protected the time by informing my elders of my study time (which also percolated into the congregation), putting the phone on the answering machine, shutting down email, etc. I made a point of returning all phone calls at lunchtime. You have to balance accessibility with productivity.You will want to have a notebook nearby to jot down “to-do” and other thoughts that occur while you are preparing sermons, so that you don’t think, “I better do that before I forget.”9. Pause You need a Sabbath like everyone else, a time to take a break from work and take time out for yourself and your family. When we home-schooled, I took off every Monday. My wife was strict about this. Only twice did I persuade her that I really needed the extra day to work. In both cases, I accomplished no more by the end of the week than if I had taken the time off and rested.10. Pray Pray for help to value time and to use it wisely for the eternal welfare of your own soul, and that of many others too.