By Shannon Upton
You don’t have to be an “organized” person to be a marvelous pastor and serve Jesus Christ in powerful way.
But it helps.
You know it does. Time management, administrative skills, and uncluttered office spaces all help pastors do their work more efficiently. And as a pastor, you have unbelievably important work to do: introducing people to Jesus Christ and inspiring them to grow closer to Him every week.
Despite great intentions, even pastors can get bogged down by the clutter in their schedules, workplaces and hearts. We all chase our I should and I’ve got to remember thoughts, but rarely catch them. We worry that we should be serving Christ more and better than we are. I call these kinds of thoughts, and the anxiety that comes with them, spiritual clutter.
The answer isn’t “getting organized,” it’s getting intentional about serving the Lord. We can all choose to live in His abundance rather than in an abundance of stuff. No matter how structured or unstructured you are in your life or your ministry efforts, you can use a little organization to clear out your spiritual clutter and further your work for God’s Kingdom.
Paul tells us in I Corinthians 14:33 that “our God is not a God of disorder, but of peace.” When you create order in your ministry work, you clear frustration out of your spirit and make room for peace—the peace that comes from doing your best for God and the people you serve. You can make some small tweaks to your systems and office space that will help you to claim that peace.
Awesome Administrative Systems
I feel like I just did this… but I didn’t save it, so now I have to start from scratch.
Oops, I forgot to do that… again!
I should really set up a system for this.
As a pastor, there are plenty of things you need to do in a repetitive way. When you complete these reoccurring tasks without an effective plan, you clutter up your spirit with frustrated thoughts about your inefficiency and lack of memory! Instead, you can set up fantastic systems to help your ministry run smoothly. Here are some ideas to get you thinking…
Forms: Is there an email message that you find yourself typing over and over to different people? Keep a computer “file folder” of form letters that you can copy, paste, and then quickly personalize for each recipient (or add them as email signatures so you can use them even more quickly). And what other ministry work are you doing in a similarly repetitive way? Take the time to prayerfully create forms or templates that you can use again and again. A little work now will save you a lot of time in the long run!
Records: Great records will set you up for success in so many areas of your ministry. When you do something well, keep a record of your process so you can refer to it the next time. For example, take clear, specific minutes in your meetings this year to help you plan for next year. If you speak at the same event every year, make a record of topics you’ve covered so you won’t repeat yourself. When it comes to records, ask yourself: how can I make this easier on myself the next time?
Checklists: Along those same lines, create effective checklists for yourself. Make checklists of things you need to take to the places you regularly visit, so you’ll always have what you need. For an important monthly meeting, take the time to really think through all of the things you do to make it a success. Then make a Meeting Checklist with sections for “One Week Before,” “Right Before,” and “Follow-Up.”
You could also make a checklist for the first of every month to make sure you’re keeping up with “housekeeping” duties, like turning in your receipts for reimbursement, checking in with your volunteers and leaders, following up on parishioner emails, and anything else you’d like to do on a monthly basis. You could write a similar weekly or even daily checklist of ministry work you want to accomplish on a regular basis!
Calendars: Find a simple, generic calendar and write on it the tasks you’d like to complete regularly each year. For example, maybe you’d like to take a weekend retreat every May, complete an inventory every July, plan a leader’s retreat every October, and set aside some time to work on the budget every January. Your Ministry Calendar will keep those things from sneaking up on you.
Schedule time this week to prayerfully assess the ministry-related tasks you complete on a daily, weekly, monthly, and even yearly basis. Don’t let those things get away from you, filling your spirit with Oops, I should have thoughts. Instead, create practical systems that will help you serve the Lord with a calm, centered heart.
Wonderful Work Spaces
Once you’ve thought and prayed about your systems, you can to tackle your office.
Actual physical clutter can clutter up our spirits with anxious thoughts and to-dos. When we waste time and energy looking for things, our stuff causes us frustration and distracts us from our God-given purpose. In other words, our belongings can become a serious spiritual issue—just ask the rich young ruler.
In Proverbs 14, King Solomon tells us that “a wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” Rather than “tearing down your house” by storing things in haphazard ways, choose to build your office with both hands. Every thing in it should support your regular ministry tasks or bring you joy.
No matter how structured or unstructured you are in your life or your ministry efforts, you can use a little organization to clear out your spiritual clutter and further your work for God’s Kingdom.
No matter how messy (or neat) your Mission Control is, you can use a little organization there to make your ministry efforts more effective! Just a few minutes spent clearing out the physical clutter will help you to clear out the clutter in your spirit. Here are some tips for organizing your ministry space.
Start by creating systems for the paperwork on your desk. Hang a corkboard above or behind your desk to hold the papers you refer to on a regular basis, such as your checklists for meetings and events, important phone numbers, and a running list of prayer requests. Then use one of your desk drawers for a simple file system with folders for all of your transient paperwork needs. If a certain group of papers is too big for a file folder, try storing it in a labeled three-ring binder.
Once you have these paperwork systems in place, create a functional workspace by clearing off the top of your desk. As a general rule, only the things you use every day should be on your desktop. Things you use fairly regularly should be in the drawers and cabinets and on the shelves that are within easy reach of your chair. Things you use for occasional reference should be stored on higher shelves or elsewhere in your office.
Since some of the things you had on your desk are undoubtedly bound for your filing cabinets, tackle your long-term files cabinets and storage spaces next. Chances are that you’re keeping more stuff than you’ll ever use and haven’t looked at most of it in ages. The goal is keep your cabinets, drawers, and shelves at less than full capacity so you’ll be able to store things with ease.
When sorting through long-term items, let go, let go, let go. Surrender the minutes from meetings that happened three years ago. Donate unused resources (like books you’ll never read again) and let them bless someone else. Take a moment to smile over unused gifts, mementos, and other “sentimental” items, and then let them go so you can make some great new memories in your newly organized office!
Once you know what you’d like to keep, group like things together and clearly label it all so you’ll know exactly where things are. If you store items in your office that other staff members frequently use, make a space for them by the door. Put your reference books together on the same shelf, and ideas for future sermons in the same binder. Dedicate one drawer of your desk to personal items like your devotional, prayer journal, Bible, and a small memory box filled with personal notes of thanks or encouragement.
Once you’ve cleared out the physical clutter in your space, you’ll find you have more room in your mind, as well. A little organization—both in your office and in your administrative systems—will help you to tackle your ministry work with new vigor. You’ll clear out your spiritual clutter and make room in your heart for the joy your ministry brings!
Shannon Upton of Organizing You Ministries is a Christian speaker and the author of two Christian organizing books with free accompanying Bible studies. She helps Christians use a little organization to clear out their spiritual clutter and grow closer to God and their families. You can find out more about her speaking and writing ministry at OrganizingJesusMoms.com