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GUEST POST: Making the Best of Your Time at the Desk

Josh Griffin —  February 4, 2011 — 2 Comments

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.


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2 responses to GUEST POST: Making the Best of Your Time at the Desk

  1. Great post! Thanks Josh. You’ve made it very clear that administration is NOT your gifting. I’m curious what you would say to a youth pastor who senses that administration is his/her gifting. How do you organize your day so that still get the administrative work that needs to be done, and yet balance that with “face time” with your students? Obviously it would be different for each youth pastor, but what do you do? A youth pastor who is gifted in administration does almost exactly what you dread–spend time in his/her office (sometimes way too much time). Could you shed some light on this matter?

  2. Hey Michael, Jerry here (writer of the guest post). If you don’t mind, I’d love to throw in my 2 cents on this.

    I totally get what you’re saying. As I’ve grown in ministry, I’ve actually come to enjoy the administrative side of things. And believe me, I can definitely be guilty of too much “desk time” and not enough “face time” with students. While there are lots of suggestions I could give, it really comes down to making sure you keep in the forefront of your mind that we’re here for PEOPLE. I’m embarassed to say that I’ve even been guilty of being slightly annoyed when someone interrupts what I’m trying to accomplish with a “human” problem! So, trust me, I know how out-of-whack things can get!
    To answer your question, I’d suggest incorporating a very specific item into the “Objectives” part of each day. Something like “Meet ______ after school for a taco” or “Send a postcard to ______ to let them know I’m praying for him/her.” or schedule your day (perhaps a couple times a week) so that you can stand up and walk out at 2:30 to head to the high school to catch volleyball practice for example.

    As far as being gifted in administration, I say praise the Lord! If you’re gifted in planning, then PLAN those intentional contacts with students! Put it on the calendar and treat it like your most important appointment (because it is!) God gave you the gifts you have for the purpose of helping you in the ministry He’s given you to lead.

    If you’re anything like me, you count on worship events, social events, and small group/Sunday school for some of your face time with students, but I really believe that we’ve also got to get face-to-face with our students as much as possible. Few things will convey our love and build our impact in their lives more than that.

    Other thoughts:
    –Have your sr. pastor or other staff keep you accountable by “kicking you out” 2-3 afternoons a week so you can get with students.
    –Make an announcement from the front that Starbucks after school is on you this week and watch them line up to schedule a time with you!
    –Set a standing alarm on your smartphone to call a student just to connect.

    Hope any of that helps, Michael!

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