Posted: 4/28/16 at 8:00am. Article by Darrell Cook.
As a young campus minister, I read several books on time management and organizing, and I also picked up tricks and tips from observing others who organized well. The things I picked up seemed to stick and turn into habits only when I used them to change my thought patterns. Like in so many other areas of life, when I change my mentality, my actions are more likely to change. That being said, here are three key places where shifting my way of thinking really helped me to be wiser at organizing:
- Value planning and organizing as a spiritual venture. Don’t feed the mentality that oversimplifies by separating ministry into spiritual parts and administrative parts. We often act like there is nothing spiritual about planning and organizing, but remember that Paul lists administration among the spiritual gifts (I Cor. 12:28). Yes, there are times we can get too tied to our desks and devices. No, I have never started a story about God’s fruitfulness in our work with students with the phrase, “It all started when I was doing my monthly report…” But when I have prioritized and done my administrative work well, I am less distracted and can fully dive in to the other parts of ministry with better focus and purpose.
- Don’t just absorb administration. I have observed that a lot of people either avoid or absorb administration. As a young minister, I often put off planning and attention to details so I could do the “more exciting” parts of ministry. Planning, evaluating, and organizing would only get the leftovers of my schedule. The better we get at administration, the more we understand the importance of it and can stop the patterns of avoidance; on the other hand, there is a problem with the other extreme—when I absorb administration so that others don’t have to deal with it. As I work with staff members who are half my age, it is so easy to think, “I’ll let them dive in with the relational parts and I’ll keep the systems and details organized.” But to do this regularly is to rob them of the chance to learn how to lead and organize well. The same is true with the students that I lead; I must leave room for them to try (and sometimes fail) to organize well—coaching them through the details instead of doing those things for them.
- Practice saying “no,” and celebrate when you successfully do. Is anyone out there a people pleaser? I see those hands, so you can put them down now. (Mine is raised too, by the way.) A dozen or so times a month, I am asked by various people to do things that don’t fit our vision or mission. The people-pleaser part of me wants to say yes to each request, to save the day for someone, to not risk being labeled “unhelpful.” What do these moments have to do with organizing well? A friend of mine says often, “The secret to concentration is elimination.” When I choose to not be discerning and say “yes” to everything, I am adding more plates to spin and cats to herd, hence my ability to focus on the parts that matter most is diminished. And I need to celebrate from time to time when I am able to deliver a wise “no,” because my people-pleasing roots run so deep that even after that “no” is spoken, I can still feel guilty for not “making that person happy.”
Many of the young adults that we minister to are stepping out into independence and becoming students of the “how tos” of life. So as a minister to young adults you are, whether you like it or not, a modeler of many things. Have fun growing in your own stewardship of organization, because the ripple effect in the lives of those watching can be significant.
Darrell Cook is the Baptist Collegiate Minister at Virginia Tech.