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.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

First Big GTD System Tweak in Months

So I'm now on my second readthrough of David Allen's Getting Things Done. Thursday night I read on page 41 (also repeated on page 143):
The way I look at it, the calendar should be sacred territory. If you write something there, it must get done that day or not at all.

When I first started using GTD, I set up my Outlook Calendar to look like my office schedule. So my entire calendar consisted of larger blocks of time dedicated to one or two major work themes. My block schedule (see a sample or download the MSWord doc) has been a great way for me to remember major, recurring roles and goals.

But when I read that the calendar should be "sacred territory" and that calendarized items HAD to happen on the day and that my brain was probably taking back the job of reminding me because I had so many unnecessary things on my calendar... I had to change it.

Truthfully, I had started ignoring my calendar because it was so cluttered. Every day looked almost like the one before - the same big chunks of half-important stuff to do. The only way I differentiated between "hard" appointments and "soft" time blocks was that I would set the alarm for "hard" appointments.

I'm having a little bit of a hard time adjusting. This means that I will have to keep my block schedule on a printout somewhere in view. Friday, for instance, I didn't leave the office on time, because I had deleted the big 6-hour block that was "Personal Time." I think I may put an alarmed reminder back in, but it won't be the whole big block.

But this change also means that I will probably start using my calendar more effectively and trust my system even better than before.

Let the tweaking begin. Wish me luck.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Prepared for Preaching

Did you hear the one about the pastor who accidentally mentioned that he did all of his sermon preparation on the walk between the parsonage and the church? On the agenda for the next board meeting was a proposal to sell that parsonage and buy a new one 20 miles away.

Yeah, that's Jay Perry preachingA couple weeks ago in The Amazing Expanding Project, I wrote about short-scheduling your projects as a great way to manage time and beat procrastination. Unfortunately, the example I used was preaching. And upon further reflection, I have decided that I didn't really need to encourage pastors to spend less time on their sermons (in general).

In Thom Rainer's book Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, he points out that the first major reason for the unchurched to return or retreat is the impression they get of the pastor. And most of that impression comes during the sermon time.

The whole rest of your ministry can suck - you can quit visiting, quit evangelising, quit running effective meetings, quit planning, quit liking people - and people will still think you're a good pastor if you hit it out of the ballpark every weekend from the pulpit. (Wait, I know that pastor)

Conversely, the whole rest of your ministry can be great. But if you're not preaching well, people will think you're an idiot. (I know that pastor, too)

Obviously, you don't want either extreme. You want to be a great preacher and a faithful pastor.

But you can't be a great preacher if you don't spend enough time on it. You can't just think something up on the way to church and wing it every week.

Preaching is a sacred responsibility. It's not something that we should ever take lightly. It should weigh heavily on us. We are handling God's Word. Are we handling it faithfully? Or are we twisting it to fit our ideas and agendas? We are leading God's people. Are we leading them into His truth and will? Or are we just saying stuff that will sound impressive or not offend the saints?

Spend enough time really preparing to preach. Plan your preaching. Pray over your preaching. Read about preaching. Practice. Review your sermons. Analyze audio and video tapes. Evaluate your effectiveness. Improve. (It's a stewardship issue)

Prayerfully plan your sermonic year. (My Process)
Create compelling topical series. (Sermon Series Planning Worksheet)
Make each week's sermon Biblical, Interesting, Relevant, Balanced, and Christ-centered.
Take enough time each week to:
- Study your pericope and outline major themes and principles (early in the week)
- Find modern, relevant illustrations (early in the week)
- Decide what actions your listeners should take
- Find Jesus in the topic/text/theme
- Pray, pray, pray

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Enforcing Your Schedule

Last time I was getting my hair cut, the stylist was talking (I think it's part of their formal training) about my family and my job and what I do, blablabla. And she said, "Oh, I could never be a pastor. Being on call like that all the time..."

I've heard that sentiment quite a bit. I think pastors are only on call 24/7 when they allow themselves to be on call 24/7.

Does this stylist really think she can call and get in touch with her pastor at 3am? And does she think her pastor will actually do something for her at 3am? Maybe if her pastor is some weird, codependent, people-pleasing, enabler with no sense of boundaries...

Just a couple of personal stories:
I had a member call around midnight once. The ringing woke me up (I had been in bed two or three hours already). I looked at the caller-id and saw it wasn't a family member. So I went back to sleep. I called the man back around 5:30am. I said, "I noticed on my caller-id that you called me last night. It must have been really important for you to call so late. So I'm returning your phone call." The man could hardly talk, he was so sleepy. And he never tried to call me late again. (That's me being a little passive-aggressive.)

A family transferred to Cornerstone from a different church. They are very active members with lots of energy and ideas. Unfortunately, those ideas seemed to desperately require my input every Sunday (my day off). Sometimes multiple times on Sunday. This went on for about three weeks [note to self: passive-aggressive behavior doesn't work with some people]. Finally, one Sunday when they called, I just said, "Look. Sunday is my day off and I'm trying to spend it with my family and not think about work (because a big part of the pastor's job is thinking). I'm excited that you have all these ideas, but if you need to get in touch with me, I'm available during the week. Please don't call me on Sunday unless you're dying." They seemed a little hurt and brought it up twice over the next couple of months, but they have never called me again on my day off.
Top 5 Ways to Enforce Your Schedule:
  1. Publish your work schedule. Write it out on a chart. Put it on the church office door. Send it out to all the members. Give it to all the new and potential members in your Membership Class. When it changes, send a new one out to the members, so they'll have an updated copy. Download my most recent.
  2. Don't publish your home phone number. Not even in the church directory. If you really think people may need to get in touch with you during non-office hours, get a cell phone. When you don't want to take business calls, just turn your cell phone off. Your spouse doesn't need to become your de facto secretary, constantly telling people to call you at the office or taking your messages.
  3. Make exceptions truly exceptional. If someone is dying, break your schedule. Otherwise, keep it intact.
  4. Be direct about your boundaries. Tell your church that they can't get in touch with you on date night. Tell people what you will and won't do. Tell them you're only willing to work 40 hours a week. If you don't tell them, they won't know.
  5. Quit micromanaging. For the most part, let your church members make their best decisions and let it go. If you have to control everything and make yourself indispensable, people won't be able to make a move without your personal blessing. If you have created that pastor-dependent culture, it's your own fault when people are hounding you for input 24/7.
Some links to previous articles:

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Church Planting, Moving, and Getting Things Done

Okay. Now there aren't enough hours in the day!

Last Tuesday I accepted a call to start a new church in the southern suburbs of the Twin Cities. For years, I've turned down other job offers. I believe in staying as long as I'm being effective (read my pastoral longevity rant). But this job is different.

Over the past three years, I've sensed a growing call to start a new church with my friends Matt Segebartt and [name redacted because he hasn't yet told his church]. Matt is amazing at Worship Leading and Team Building. [Name redacted] is incredible at Community Transformation and Discipleship. And they both have an exciting breadth of vision for starting new churches, transforming lives, and reaching communities for Christ. I can't wait to be in team ministry and concentrate my efforts in the areas where I'm most effective!

Over that same three-year period of time, the Minnesota Conference has been looking for a church planting team to do exactly what God has put on our hearts.

When our paths crossed last Spring, all of us really felt like God had been working on both sides of the equation the whole time.

So we accepted the call and will be moving in June.

Now we have to clean, pack, sell our houses, look for new ones, find part-time jobs, transition our churches to new leadership, etc., etc. Who has time to move and live and have a job at the same time?

I am so thankful that I've been using GTD now for 9 months. I think I would be a total wreck if I didn't know how to sort and file and turn projects into next actions. Just the initial ubiquitous capture helped me to declutter and feel good about getting rid of stuff. Exactly what I need for this moving process.

To see my personal vision statement, which includes the initial vision for this project, go here.

To hear this week's sermon, "Obedient to the Vision," where I tell my congregation, go here.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

New Free GTD Workflow Wallpaper

We're all familiar with the free GTD desktop wallpaper from anabubula.com. But lifehack.org is greedy. It wants more:
What I’d like to see is something similar to a desktop workflow diagram, where each area has an access point, or a folder. ie. Stuff is a folder, Projects is a folder or links, the recycle bin is Trash, the calendar box has a link to your online calendar and so on.

This might create an environment where everything you do on your computer is plotted in your GTD workflow, and so it becomes easier to integrate that with your ‘real world’ GTD processes.

It exists! Over at johnlawrence.net. It's this great wallpaper to actually organize your desktop. Drag your icons onto the correct spots, and waladu! Instant computerific GTD.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Why I Blog Meme

Beth (over at My Simpler Life) just tagged me in the "why I blog" meme.

There are several reasons why I blog:
  • It keeps me accountable to GTD and best practices.
  • Pastors desperately NEED time management and personal productivity.
  • I thrive on developing others.
  • I learn best by teaching.
  • It's storage for my best thoughts, ideas, links, processes, and documents.
  • The community sharpens me.
  • It could enhance my career.
  • It might make enough money to pay for itself.
  • My wife encouraged me to do it.
  • It keeps me moving forward.

GTD Review with a Palm Pilot and Outlook

Sorting my tasks to print them out so I can do a good GTD reviewMy primary GTD system is my Palm Pilot. I like it. It's small, easy to use (except I can't write the letter "k"), and I can carry it with me everywhere.

So the Palm Pilot was the obvious choice when I started using GTD (I mean, I already owned it and everything).

But when it came time to do my weekly review, I had a problem. It was almost impossible for me to reconcile my task lists with my project master list. I was constantly having to switch between screens - do I have a next action for this project? what about this project? where was I? Back and forth, back and forth. It was maddening.

The next step in my Palm Pilot GTD evolution was syncing with Microsoft Outlook. When my Palm Pilot was synced, I could sit at the computer when I did my weekly review. I would look at the project list on Outlook, and see if I had a next action in my Palm Pilot. Still a little clunky.

Now? I print out my project and task lists from Outlook (syncd with my Palm Pilot) so I can reconcile them more easily. Whoever invented paper deserves mega kudos.

In Outlook, I only want to see my "Active Tasks." So I choose that from the left sidebar.

And I want to see them in Categories (but if I click on the "Categories" column header, it says I can't sort by that field. whatever.). So I right click the header >> Arrange by >> Categories, and I'm good to go. Look at the process in the screen grab.

So I still use my Palm Pilot as the core of my system. But when it comes to the review, I go to the computer, sync my Palm Pilot, open Outlook, go to tasks, print out the list, and then work from paper.

And now I don't dread the reconciliation part of my weekly review.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Pastoral Longevity

Okay. So this blog is about time management and personal productivity for pastors.

Today's time management tip is really a part of my big soap box rant about pastors staying long enough to make a difference in a local congregation.

The average tenure (meaning "ten years") of a pastor in North America (across all denominations) is less than five years.

Back in 1954, a pastor could walk into a new pastorate and have all of the respect and "positional authority" to make a difference. Pastors were authority figures, often with much more education than anyone else in the congregation. They were recognized leaders in a trusted profession. They could make a difference in just a few short years.

That was then. Times have changed. Pastors no longer walk onto the job with positional authority. Pastors must earn that authority. Pastoral ministry is no longer a trusted profession. Because of this, it now takes much longer to become a productive pastor than it used to.

On average, it takes about 4 years until you get that kind of trust and authority in a local congregation. At year 4, leaders in the church will start testing your boundaries, seeing if they can really trust you, seeing if you'll buckle (just like two-year-olds do with their parents). They don't even know they're doing it. But they're trying to figure out whether they can trust you to become the real leader of the church.

Unfortunately, most pastors sense this pushback as an attack. So they start looking for other jobs. And they take the first one that looks half-decent (emphasis on half).

If you'll just stay put for a year, you'll get through the testing point. And you'll finally have all the authority you need to start being productive.

Here's a quote from the George Barna Group:
"Our work has found that the typical pastor has his or her greatest ministry impact at a church in years five through fourteen of their pastorate. Unfortunately, we also know that the average pastor lasts only five years at a church - forfeiting the fruit of their investment in the church they've pastored."

So, if you want to be a truly effective pastor, you must stay put long enough to earn enough authority to actually become effective.

Not only that, just think of how much time you waste preparing your house for sale and finding a new house to buy in a new community. Think of the time you waste having to just get up to speed in a new congregation or new community.

That said, after seven years at Cornerstone, I will be leaving in June.