How My Simple System Saves My Sanity: A Pastor’s Perspective

 Anyone who is a speaker, teacher, preacher, or even a student has to have a system for keeping track of resources and notes. For meSYSTEMS = SANITY!  I have learned that I need certain systems to make any traction in my life. Here’s an inside look at my simple solution.

SystemsI have a Master’s Degree in driving my wife crazy! Now she’s probably the most easy-going person I know but she does have a few pet peeves.One of her annoyances has to do with one particular drawer in my office. She continually threatens to deal with that drawer in her own way, and I have avoided it as long as possible. There’s nothing urgent or super important in there, just stuff that needs to be organized and filed, and that drives her crazy!

This bothers her because she is the organizational queen. That’s one of her gifts. She has the ability to find a place for everything and make sure everything is in it’s place. Some say she’s borderline OCD about it but you didn’t hear that from me! All I know is that she is good at it and that’s good for me – because I’m not!

PROBLEM #1

Filing and organization does not come easy for me. It’s something I have to really work at to make any progress. At the same time, I’m very analytical about pretty much everything and I love to learn new things. These characteristics force me to be very intentional about staying somewhat organized. To solve this problem I needed to develop a specific system that I could easily manage.

PROBLEM #2

As a pastor and preacher, I am constantly developing new messages, researching new topics, and compiling new material. So the necessity for an efficient system is always increasing.

I’m going to outline my basic system for filing sermons and lessons. Though this article is from a pastor’s perspective, it will work for anyone wanting to keep track of Bible lessons and studies. It can also be used to keep track of daily devotionals that you want to revisit or for saving notes from your own pastor’s messages.

One more thing, I’m not going to deal with the specific tools I use. I’ll do that in another article. This is more about the system. You can apply this simple system to folders, three-ring binders, or your favorite software. (I personally use Evernote – more on that at a later date). So here goes.

STEP ONE: IDENTIFY WHAT’S IMPORTANT ABOUT THE MATERIAL

If it’s important enough to file you must narrow down why. First, decide what part of the title it needs to be alphabetized under. Then, identify the topic or topics. (Such as: faith, mercy, etc.) Next, narrow down what biblical text it primarily deals with.

STEP TWO: LABEL EACH ITEM ACCORDINGLY

When I file actual paper resources this is where I stamp it. (Or, if I’m filing digitally I “tag” it) Some time back, I special ordered a custom stamp from Office Depot that has three items on it: Title – Topic – Text. Each one has a line after it to fill in the blanks.  This way me or my secretary knows where it needs to be filed. This is how I use those three labels:

1. TITLE

First, file by title alphabetically. I know this may go without saying but it is still vital to a complete system. I usually do not file by first word if it is an “a”, “and”, or a “the”.

2. TOPIC

Specify which topic(s) this message or resource best belongs to. Many times, there are more than one topic and that’s ok. If I develop a series of lessons on prayer, for example, it might also apply to the  “Discipleship” or even “Christian Living” category. Under the “TOPIC” heading I also have a sub-category for characters of the Bible.

3. TEXT

Here, make sure you include all applicable scripture references. I do not always include every one I may have touched on, but I do include the most obvious ones. The reason I do this is that I want to be able to consult my own personal commentary when preparing future messages on a particular Bible passage.

 STEP THREE: MAKE NECESSARY COPIES

(One exception: If you’re filing digitally you may want to use multiple tags instead of making different copies of the same files) Here’s where your labels come into play. The reason for this step is because at minimum you will be finding three different homes for each item. Some items will have multiple topics and multiple scripture references.

You can now place these in three-ring binders, folders, or whatever tool works for you. Just make sure it’s easy or you’ll end up abandoning the project!

I know many would say this system seems ridiculously simple, and it is! That’s why it works for me! I’ve shared it because I’ve met so many minister’s and teachers that had NO system. It is my prayer that this might be a helpful resource for anyone looking to improve and grow as a preacher, teacher, and even a student of the Word.

 

In a future issue, I’ll be sharing how I use Evernote and other apps to keep myself on track.

 

What are your tricks & tips for staying organized? I would love to open a conversation and exchange ideas through the comments section. If you’ve enjoyed this article please share with someone you know might benefit from it. THANKS!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, off-topic, or just plain ridiculous!

  • Carla and Steve

    Love this!!! I can only manage my life through organization. I use the “eat a frog” approach for getting things done in a day and lists, lots of lists the night before the next day so I can get a realistic amount of items done. Definitely believe a place for everything! Thanks for sharing!

    • Thank you so much for your input! I primarily use Evernote as my lifeline for keeping my personal & professional life in order. Which in my line of work I’m not sure where the line is 🙂

  • Carla and Steve

    Love this!!! I can only manage my life through organization. I use the “eat a frog” approach for getting things done in a day and lists, lots of lists the night before the next day so I can get a realistic amount of items done. Definitely believe a place for everything! Thanks for sharing!

    • Thank you so much for your input! I primarily use Evernote as my lifeline for keeping my personal & professional life in order. Which in my line of work I’m not sure where the line is 🙂