The Productivity Vacuum

Leneita Fix —  March 13, 2014 — 1 Comment

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I work in what one would call an “open office.”  For some it would be a “good” thing not having walls around their desks, giving them the ability to be highly relational and creatively collaborative all of the time. When I come to the “office,” I am there to get the administrative “stuff” out of the way. I have tasks I need to get out of the way. This would be fine, except I work with others who see “office time” as “connection time.” What this means is that I rarely feel like I can be productive in getting my “check list” accomplished.

Fortunately, I figured out how to remedy this atmosphere that is a “productivity vacuum” for me. It involved communicating with my staff about our different office time needs. I also need to take the time at least once a week with my team, to meet that relational need. It got me thinking about those universal ways we can be unproductive:

Plan Your Work & Work the Plan

A mentor of mine taught me this awesome saying, “Plan your work and work your plan.”  The “plan” is not the accomplishment. We have to take steps to FINISH the plan. Follow through brings momentum. I actually believe that getting the admin stuff under control gives more time for relational building.

 Tyranny of The Urgent:

We are working our plan when BLAM something blows up. All attention is diverted to put out the fire. This is fine in times of crisis.  However, it’s easy to never work our plan and ONLY be a firefighter. Learn the difference between a real and perceived emergency.

Prioritize:

This can be the hardest part of all we need to get done. There are times when we people need us and it’s true that they are more important than the “stuff” that needs to get done. HOWEVER, we also need to learn what should be at the top of the list and order what needs to be done well.

 

Jack Of All Trades and Master of None: 

It’s my job to do it all!  An inability to delegate is one of the worst blows to productivity. No one person can accomplish everything. Nothing is getting done with excellence while everything is a little bit mediocre.  Make a list of all of your responsibilities.  What MUST you do yourself?  What does your leadership say HAS to be in your hands?  Then what is left?  This is what you delegate. You’re right no one will ever do it as well as you do. However, the more you give away, the more others become invested.

There are so many other ways productivity is lost. I can think of times when my vision for ministry wasn’t clear or when I failed to communicate that vision.

The point is to identify what gets you “stuck” and then to work on that ONE thing first…

What is your productivity vacuum?

Leneita

One of the joys of working with youth is how spontaneous and creative the ministry can be. It feels so free flowing and easy going. Most youth pastors cherish this aspect of the ministry, but there is another side that a lot of us youth leaders fear and struggle with: administration.

The stereotype for youth leaders and youth pastors is that they are wild, free-for-all types who lack organizational skills. Often, this stereotype is closer to the truth than we’d like to admit. Yet this is unfortunate because there is power in being organized. Some examples from Scripture come to mind. Joseph’s knack for planning caused Egypt to become the most powerful nation on earth. Nehemiah organized the impressive construction project of rebuilding the walls in Jerusalem. Paul led a network of churches that spanned hundreds of miles even before the days of technology. None of these great feats could have been accomplished with a leader who was disorganized.

I know that organization is a skill that comes easily for only a handful of people. But it is something we all must address. An organized youth leader is able to accomplish more because he/she is on top of things. Events go more smoothly because they are well prepared for. Less students fall through the cracks because we can track their participation. Growth is easier to measure. Volunteer leaders become more dependable because they are not always frustrated. Students are better cared for because you know where they are it. Teaching is more well-rounded because you have a scope and plan for your material. There is a whole host of benefits to being well organized.

If you are not very good at being organized, you need to learn from or delegate to someone who is. It is too important a skill to be careless with. Here is a list of questions to help you get thinking about being organized:

  • Is your event schedule planned at least three months in advance?
  • Do your volunteers have job descriptions?
  • Do you have mission, vision, and value’s outlined on paper?
  • Are you keeping track of attendance?
  • Do you have a way of contacting parents at a moment’s notice?
  • Are you aware of exactly how much money you’ve spent from your budget, and on what?
  • Have you set any short and long term goals?
  • Are you keeping track of your Bible teaching so that you can confidently say you are teaching the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27)

Hopefully these questions will give you an idea of where you need to improve organizationally. It might feel at first like the task is too daunting, but the truth is that once you do the hard work of putting the right systems in place, being organized is a lot more enjoyable than winging it all the time. It is freeing. So get organized and get ‘er done!

Jeremy Edgar is the Youth Pastor Bible Fellowship Church in Sault Ste. Marie Ontario, Canada
-GS

 



Have you ever felt that your job was like running a marathon through a swamp?  No matter how hard you worked, you just feel like you are sinking and bushwhacking through mess after mess?  When you turn on the lights of your office in the morning you groan at the piles of paperwork?  You ever just want to delete all the messages in your inbox?  And you wonder, “How am I going to get anything done with all these meeting?”  Yep, that can be youth ministry.

If you feel like you are stuck in circles or never going anywhere in your youth ministry it could be for a variety of reasons.  Some are as simple as taking a vacation, while others are something more serious like a conversation with the pastor.  But, before you can follow through on the solution you need to understand the problem.  To move forward you need to know what’s actually slowing you down.  The reason you could feel like you are running through mud is due to a:

  1. Lack of Organization – Do you have a plan for your week or day?  When you walk into your office you need to have a strategy to how you are tackling ministry, otherwise it will be tackling you.  Too many times youth ministers are reactionary to what is going on around them, all this creates is chaos.  By having a plan (With some flexibility) you can create systems that will keep your inbox empty, your creativity flowing and your ministry healthy.
  2. Shortage of Accountability – While you want a pace that’s comfortable for you, you need people who are going to push and challenge you through the difficult times.  When you face problems solo, the burden will slow you down.  You need someone to share your triumphs and trials with.  You need a support team that will help you move forward when you can’t do it on your own.
  3. Drop In Communication – Lousy communication means lousy ministry.  If your emails are rants, your messages are ill-prepared and you only say things once, be prepared to find yourself frustrated.  When you clearly practice effective communication you begin to learn the power of delegation.  You will see how your words impact productivity.  You will grow as a leader.  Effective communication is one of the keys to mobilizing your ministry into a movement.
  4. Disconnect In Spiritual Growth – If you don’t have a healthy relationship with God, then what do you really have?  This is the easiest place for a youth minister to be hypocritical.  You tell your teens to engage in scripture, to tithe, to share the Gospel and go to worship; however, you don’t even do it yourself.  You can struggle with those habits; however, if you are not at least engaging in them, you’ll find that you’ve lost your calling.

In order to approach all these areas you need to find the time to address them.  That means scheduling an hour or so each week to look at your organization, relationships, communication and spiritual growth.  If you aren’t taking the time to analyze these areas, then you will once again find your productivity and effectiveness take a hit.

What else could slow down your ministry?