I’d like to take a guess and say that administrative work is NOT topping the “My Favorite Things” list for most youth pastors. We do the paper-pushing because it seems like we have to; like it’s a “necessary evil” of our job description. When I started out in ministry, I was anything BUT organized. Because of that, I often found myself less than prepared for stuff I “coulda, shoulda, woulda” seen coming. Years ago, I created a skeleton that I hang every workday on (especially workdays in the office). You may hate acronyms, but this one has served me well: D.R.O.W.N. And the great thing is this works no matter what size church, paycheck, or office you have–even if you don’t have of those things!
D: Desk surface. Having a desk surface you can actually see is step #1 in having a smooth(er) day at the office. I’ve learned that the condition of my workspace is usually pretty indicative of the condition of my brain. So, the first thing I do is make sure I start the day with at least a semblance of order on my desk. I’m a “piler” by nature but I’ve gotten pretty good at limiting myself to one pile and actually knowing what’s in it. That helps my mind stay clear and uncluttered.
R: Respond to emails and voicemails. Let’s face it, nobody likes to wait. And whether you consider yourself someone who likes making calls or writing emails, the fact remains that the sooner you get back to people, the less they’re going to draw horns and blacked-out teeth on any picture of you they come across. I make it a rule to start with the most difficult/uncomfortable/awkward calls first. Putting THOSE off will only make things more difficult/uncomfortable/awkward later.
O: Objectives for the day. I married a list maker. Ipso facto, I have become a list maker. Whether you’re a hipster with an iPad or someone like me who still loves the feel of paper and pen, make a list of what you’d like to accomplish. Your emails/voicemails you just dealt with might add/change/take away from your objectives for the day. Then, there’s the wonderful feeling of crossing things OFF the list! The most important nugget of advice I can share about lists is BE REASONABLE. Writing “Create a 6-year curriculum plan then write every week’s lesson” on today’s list might seem ambitious, but it’s not. It’s insane. Keep to things you can realistically get done today.
W: Work. Yes, I know we all know it’s a calling to be in ministry, but let’s face it: there’s work to do! So, once you’ve got your objectives for the day set, go after them like you go after that middle school kid in dodgeball; the one who threw up on your sleeping bag at retreat. Among all workers–paid or volunteer–Christians should exhibit the greatest work ethic and the highest quality work out there.
N: Next Day. Start this one 10-15 minutes before you PLAN on leaving for the day. Do whatever you can to get set for a good start to the direction for tomorrow, whether that’s a jumpstart on a clear work surface to start the day with or jotting something down on tomorrow’s objectives list, be it something you didn’t get to from today’s list or something that the SYM podcast inspired you to do.
While administrative work might be as much fun for you as Chubby Bunny is for me, I hope that you can find a new level of productivity and efficiency during your time at the office.
Jerry Varner is the Student Discipleship Pastor at Southside Church in the Richmond, VA area and has been in full-time student ministry for 16 years. He blogs sporadically at jerrythinks.wordpress.com.