Juggling Sheep
Welcome to Juggling Sheep, Jay Perry's blog about time management and personal productivity for pastors. Learn to balance work, life, family, and personal spirituality.

Share your best practices, tips and tricks, processes, sermon planning ideas, and resources. Feel free to email me: jaylperry[at]gmail[dot]com.

Friday, February 23, 2007

From Doer to Designer

I think one of the best ways to increase personal productivity as a pastor is to intentionally move from the role of doer to the role of designer. Moving from doer to designer is all about leveraging your time and energy.

Pastors complain all the time about the church expecting them to do all of the ministry. And pastors know that their real job is to empower others to do ministry. But the pastor isn't really doing anything about it. Even when the pastor thinks he is empowering others, often he's really just willy-nilly dumping responsibility on someone else.

So the pastor has to become a designer. I'm talking about the pastor becoming process-oriented, designing workflows, and establishing best practices. This means writing down every important detail of every regular church process and publishing it.

Note of Caution: I'm not talking about the pastor becoming the only designer in the church. The pastor doesn't have to write down all the processes by himself. But the entire church needs to become a place where well-designed processes and well-documented workflows are the norm.

Once the processes are designed and documented, they become great tools for training (empowering) people to do ministry. That way, people don't have to reinvent the wheel each time they do something, or scramble each time a ministry volunteer moves away. With a well-designed and documented process, you have an established standard for accountability. If the process isn't working, your document can be a great diagnostic tool to see where it's breaking down.

I really believe people want to be involved in ministry. And I believe they want to be successful. But too many times, they don't know what the job entails. They don't have clear outcomes and processes to look at. So they don't know what to do. And they don't do it. And they feel like they're failing at serving the Lord. And you wonder why people just aren't volunteering anymore.

The doer/designer problem is a major reason small companies fail to become large - the entrepreneur who started the business has all of the standards and processes. But they're trapped in the entrepreneur's brain. And when it's time for the business to grow, the small business owner is overwhelmed with so much to do and doesn't know the next step. The next step: go from doer to designer. Design and document all of your processes.

This will take extra time up front, but it will save you lots of time, energy, volunteers, relationships, and sanity in the long run. And who knows, it may just be what you need to move your church to the next level.

P.S. I really suggest going through the Ministry Advantage Pastor's Coaching System to help you make the transition from doer to designer.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Preaching Topigetical Sermons

adj. [syn. topositional]
"A style of preaching characterized by exegetical sermons preached in the context of a topical sermon series."
- Jay Perry's Exhaustive Dictionary of Made-up Words (JPEDMW)

Topigetical preaching is really the best of both worlds, in my opinion. It is a preaching combination of both topical and exegetical styles. It maximizes the strengths of both styles, while drastically minimizing their weaknesses:

Topical Preaching
Topical preaching is very good at being immediately interesting and relevant to the listener. You can preach a series about stewardship, marriage, The DaVinci Code, Understanding God's Will, The End of the World, worship, community, stress, etc.

Typically, one major problem with a "topical" approach to preaching is the sparse use of the Bible. Typical topical (typtop?) sermons would be the preacher getting up with a three-point outline, a joke, some stories, a poem(?), and maybe a Bible verse thrown in for good measure. (Hey, I used to go to that church).

Another problem with a "topical" approach to preaching is "proof-text" preaching. The pastor gets up with a three-point outline and 28 unconnected, out-of-context Bible verses. Give this preacher a gold star for owning a concordance. The real, underlying problem is that we're not engaging the Bible text on its own terms, in its own context. Just being able to find a verse "supporting" your idea does not make your idea biblical.

(BTW, "Line upon line, here a little, there a little" is also taken out of context, if we think it means we should be preaching proof-text sermons.)

Exegetical Preaching
Exegetical sermons are really good at finding out what the Bible actually says in context. The exegetical discipline is supposed to include a historical survey, word studies, context mapping, etc. as a way to understand the original audience and original intent of the biblical text. Hopefully, this leads the expositor to larger principles that lead to an overall biblical world view.

One problem I've seen with exegetical preaching is the pastor who thinks it's his job to impress the listeners with how much he knows about Greek, Hebrew, History, blablabla. This type of preacher can turn the biblical text into nothing more than interesting Bible trivia.

Another problem I've seen with exegetical preaching is the pastor (no names, please) who preached an entire 13-week series on the church of Laodicea (if the church wasn't "lukewarm" before, it certainly was afterward). Great word studies, amazing scholarship, thorough grasp of the historical context. Would have made a great book. Not a great sermon series.

The problem here is not taking into consideration the actual life issues of the congregation. Preaching must be a divine intersection between the word and the world, between the truth of God and the authentic needs of the people.

Topigetical Preaching
As you can see by now, the answer probably lies somewhere in the middle. When you preach a topigetical series, you are operating within the larger framework of a topic that is actually going to be relevant or interesting in the life of the listener. When each sermon in that series is exegetical, you are making absolutely sure that the core of your teaching is radically biblical - coming from a disciplined study of the text itself.

In an article called Pulpit Evangelism, Outreach Magazine called this "topositional preaching:"
Brian Mavis, former pastor and general manager of the pastoral resource Web site SermonCentral.com, suggests that pastors combine an expository and topical method to be both biblical and relevant. He describes the style as “topositional” preaching.
I think this middle road is more difficult. It means you have to understand what the needs are in your congregation and community. And you have to know your Bible well enough to see larger biblical principles faithfully in context. It means you must be connected and disciplined.

But who said being a faithful preacher was going to be easy?

GTD - Beta Test for iCommit v3

My wife has a bit of a problem with "Productivity Pr0n", when it comes to implementing GTD. She's tried out goal makers and list makers and has invited me to join all of them (because she wants to be able to "share" tasks and projects with me - thanks, Honey).

Well, she's been trying out iCommit v2 for a while. The interface is a little clunky, but she LOVES the iCommit weekly review module. She says it's very complete and useful.

Yesterday she showed me the iCommit v3 preview trailer. It actually looks pretty impressive (if a bit dramatic). I think it's going to be a subscription service only, but right now there's a sign-up for beta testing going on. You can become a beta tester by emailing beta@icommitonrails.de. Beta testing is starting early '07, according to the response email.

I admit it. I signed up for beta testing. So there I am, caught up in a life of "Productivity Pr0n."

Here's the trailer for your viewing enjoyment (it may load a little slow):

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

How to Get Out of a Conversation

Have you ever been in a conversation that you really needed to get out of? And you just couldn't figure out how to end it?

Maybe you have some place to go, someone to call, or the conversation is just going nowhere and you have to get on with your job.... Maybe a church member is monopolizing your time when you really need to be talking with a visitor.

Here's what to do:
  1. Startle.
  2. Say, "Oh, thank you for reminding me! I need to... [something else]"
  3. (It doesn't have to be related to anything they actually said)
  4. Do that something else (call someone, leave, get out some papers... anything).

Their presence and their conversation did remind you that you needed to be doing something (anything) else. And they feel good about helping to remind you of something important.

Note: This only works a few times with the same person.
Note 2: Don't try it with someone who has read this post.
Note 3: If you don't really have anything better to do, don't be a jerk.

Getting Things Done - Weekly Review in Under an Hour

There's a great post on zen habits about How to do a Weekly Review in Under an Hour

Now that's what I'm talking about. A weekly review in under an hour. My weekly GTD reviews are taking me about an hour now, but I'm only allotting myself 1:15 anyway (see my previous post on short-scheduling your projects).

I used to never get done with my review - partly because I was waiting until review time to try to process my inbox and empty my brain, partly because I had a Palm Pilot list reconciliation issue, and partly because I wasn't very familiar (and at ease) with the review process.

Now I get my entire review done, including a GTD Mastery 100 review, in about an hour.

If you don't already have it, download David Allen's weekly review checklist to keep yourself on track.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Amazing Expanding Project

Here's a time management principle: Projects will naturally expand to fill all of the time we dare to give them.

If you set aside 20 hours of your work-week to spend on your sermon, your sermon will be more than happy to use up all of that time. Because you have allotted so much time, 1) there's no sense of urgency, so you're more likely to procrastinate; 2) you'll spend a lot of time on a turn of phrase, an illustration, or finding graphics (all nice things, but really worth the time?). And you'll wonder why you have no time left for your ministry, your spiritual life, your friendships, your reading, or your family.

If you are a preaching pastor in a multi-staff church, 20 hours worth of prep may be the exact right thing for you to be doing with your week. But if you are a lone pastor in a smaller church, there's ministry to be done.

So I suggest that you short-schedule yourself on major projects so you won't waste time. If you set aside 6 hours for your sermon, it may take 7 or 8. You may go over, but you won't have wasted all of that time doing unnecessary things.

You work better under pressure, anyway. Don't you?

So, there's my Time Management Tip for the Day: Short-schedule your projects so they don't gobble up your life.

(Don't worry, I'll do a post later about building margin into your schedule. Just for balance.)

The Long and Winding Review

I was alarmed this morning at what I read on the Cranking Widgets blog:
One of my most difficult hurdles in implementing GTD has been a consistent weekly review. My schedule is somewhat erratic at times, and while I normally have ample time on Friday nights to do the review, I often have a hard time mustering the energy to delve into a 2+ hour endeavor.

What? 2+ hours? Every time? Why does your weekly review take 2+ hours? Is it because you aren't doing a complete review often enough? Or because you really aren't working the system the rest of the week? Or you're just not thinking well on a Friday night? Or you don't have a good review system in place? Help me understand...

I don't think I'd make time for my weekly review, if it took a whole blessed two hours! I think I'd just chalk it up to another lost cause and forget it.

How long does your review take?

Monday, February 19, 2007

My Review Broke Today

So, in the middle of my weekly GTD review, a church member came in to my office very distraught that her daughter had been incarcerated and was being held without arraignment for a while because it is President's Day.

All that to say that my GTD review didn't get done today! But also to say that maybe I do need to remember that a big part of my job is to comfort the afflicted, and sometimes that can't wait.

I've been meaning to post on the weekly review for a while, because it is, IMHO, the single-most important factor in keeping the GTD system working properly.

That said, I want to point you to a new post on zen habits. It explains the review process nicely. And it makes a major case for going on to the last step of the review, into higher-level thinking and the goal review. Enjoy the post.

Sermon Relevance and Altar Calls

I originally posted this over at apokalupto as a response to whether or not pastors should be making altar calls:

After a couple of years preaching, I came under the conviction that I was actually training people to ignore God and Biblical Truth by NOT calling for commitment. Essentially, I was opening up the Word of God, preaching, applying, and then letting them leave. "Good sermon, Pastor."

The more people hear the Word of God and DON'T make a commitment to act or change, the more we are just training them to ignore the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

That is why I will never do another sermon without asking for some kind of commitment (even at weddings and funerals).

The hardest sermon for me to preach with any kind of personal commitment or application is State of the Dead.: What... I will never tell a "so-and-so died-and-went-to-heaven" joke again?

I have a very hard time asking for people to come forward or stand up. I feel that a lot of Altar Calls are manipulative (especially as I've been trained to do them in Evangelistic Meetings).

But I went to a church once that had the sermon first! And then participating in the rest of the service was a default response to the sermon time. The music, the prayer, the offering, the sign-up for ministry, the announcements - everything was couched as a personal response to the sermon.

That touched me. And when I realized that it's the only church service model that takes into consideration that true worship is a response to what God has done or taught, I was hooked. It wouldn't work well at my current church, but...

Sunday, February 18, 2007


I just ran across this video from the show with ze frank. I thought it would be worth your time to watch... while you're putting off doing something really important. Enjoy!

Preaching With PowerPoint

PowerPoint SermonsEver since the beginning of my ministry, I have used PowerPoint for my sermons. There. That shows you how old I am.

Over at Genuine Curiosity, Dwayne writes about how he uses PowerPoint to focus his presentations:
  1. Pick 3 to 4 points you want your audience to remember.
  2. Create 1 slide for each major point.
  3. Create 3 bullet short, crisp points for each slide (yes, get it down to 3 - not 4 or 5).
  4. Practice using these slides as a sort of "teleprompter" to deliver your message and test the soundness of the message:
    • Does each point add real value to your message?
    • Is each point essential in achieving your communication objectives / desired outcome?
    • Do you have the fact to support each point, if questioned?
    • Is the order / flow correct?
    • etc.
  5. When you formally deliver your message, you can either have a "6 up" handout view of the slides as a guide, or print the Outline view.

This is basically how I use PowerPoint for my sermons (Although I don't necessarily keep it to only 3 bullet points, depending on what the text is trying to say...).

Illustration for Main Point
Text 3:16
Bullet Point (principle from the text)
Bullet Point (principle from the text)
Bullet Point (principle from the text)

And then for each bullet point, I state the principle, show where I found it in the text, explain it or illustrate it, and then apply it to real life. Then I go to the next bullet point.

This is a great way to make sure the sermons are biblical, sound, focused, and relevant.

I also publish a sermon handout (fill-in-the-blanks) sheet in the bulletin every week to make it easy for people to follow along and have something to "take away" from the service.

Here are some links to show you how this looks in my last week's sermon:

(Feel free to use any other sermon material you find on my site. That's why it's there.)

BTW, I haven't always done my PowerPoint this way. When I originally started, I used to spend hours and hours finding just the right pictures or putting all of my Bible texts on the slides. Back then, I spent more time on the look than the content. Don't fall into that trap.