I was nine months pregnant with my first child when I took on a full time children’s pastorate at a church of 400.  But by the time my second baby turned 2, the church had grown to 1000, and the kid’s church had gone from 100 to 275 kids.  Fast forward another few years, and I had a marriage of 10 years, a 6 year old with some medical issues, a 4 year old, a fast growing ministry at a church of 3000, 600 kids, 276 volunteers, 5 weekly services, and five staff to manage. On top of that, I decided to finish classes for my ordination, write curriculum, take a missions trip to Africa and then write a book. Crazy? Probably.  But it has been a fantastic ride so far, and I wouldn’t change all of those things for all the world.

And believe it or not, my own mom had doubts I would even graduate college- not due to academic struggles, but purely due to my lack of organization!  She would always say, “You would lose your own head if it weren’t attached!!” My mother is an extremely neat and organized person, an amazing planner and skilled coordinator. My poor mom had ME for a child, whose room was ALWAYS a disaster, papers everywhere, face stuffed in a book, losing my things by the hour. So it is a miracle of God I am able to survive day by day (I love you mom!). For me ADHD is a ministry gift. But besides acts of God, there are a few tips I have learned along the way (many times the hard way) that have helped me with organization and time management.  If you are a naturally organized person who instinctively has it all together, than you already know these things, and God bless.  But for those of us who are “detail impaired” here are just a couple of survival skills I’ve learned:

1. Identify Priorities- It is very easy for creative people to get distracted.  We see an immediate problem and jump in to fix it. We want to please others and get sidetracked helping with THEIR priorities.   But can you answer this? Where does GOD want you and your family and your ministry to be in a year? In five years? You may not be able to answer that completely yet, but here are some things you DO know: You and your family and your ministry should be HEALTHY.  You should be winning lost people to Jesus. You should be reaching and stretching further than you are now.  You should be using your gifting in a bigger way and having greater influence in the future than you are right now.  And it won’t just HAPPEN.  Anything and everything in this world has a tendency to DEGRADE- to stagnate and sink downward without constant conscious work- your body, your marriage, your relationship with your kids, your ministry, your education etc.  Nothing worth anything just HAPPENS. “Just ignore it and it will go away” is very true when it comes to the good things in your life.  What do you want to do- identify those big priorities and put them down in writing.  I write them ON my dayplanner- because my marriage, kids and relationship with Jesus are much more important than whatever else I have to do today.

2. Use a planning system- Now a lot of creative people balk at the thought of PLANNING anything to far out. They may use the excuse “well I’m just not that organized.” That is a terrible excuse and reminds me of saying “Well I’m just not very athletic so I’ll never exercise.” We may have to work HARDER than detail people at being organized and planning way ahead- but it’s not optional.  If you want to SURVIVE in ministry and still have your family (and perhaps your sanity) intact you MUST become amazing at time management.  Excuses don’t get it done. You will feel better and your life will be so much less stressful when you tackle your schedule.  It is NOT insurmountable.  Procrastination will only make your stress worse. Pick a system and get started.  Some people love outlook, or a planner on their IPAD.  I like google calendar, but…..I still also have an old fashioned dayplanner that goes with me everywhere.  And yes I get razzed about it a lot. But I LIVE by that little booklet.  I cannot rely on my faulty overloaded memory to keep the onslaught of information together. I carry it with me during our church services, because parents or volunteers will catch me in the hallway and say, “Oh by the way, don’t forget to…..”  and by the time I turn the corner I’m already forgetting and another person is approaching.  I write EVERYTHING down right away.  Some of my friends take notes and then copy it later into their IPAD, google calendar etc.  I have a virtual notepad on my phone, and even a voice recorder to leave myself audio “notes”.  So which method is “right”? Depends on what words for YOU.  Some people are more visual (me), and others more audio driven. Find what works for you and then LIVE by it.

3. Learn to live backwards. This is a big one in family and ministry. Too many leaders I know start by working FORWARD, doing ministry week by week just hoping that someday “it” will happen, but they never did identify what “it” even was. What really works for me is deciding 9 months to a year ahead what I want to do, and then working BACKWARDS from that date, I set up timeline “road markers” all the way back to the present day.  For example, if you are wanting to do a great Harvest Fest, you should already be working on it NOW (November). And then working backwards, you first set the date for your event, then what you will need to get done that October, that September, that August and so forth, until you are up to today. That is a guarantee to pace yourself, and to get where you want to go, with a lot of excellence.  This also helps give you a “margin” of time to correct the mistakes and problems that WILL arise along the way.

The detail impaired CAN arise to the challenge and live a FULL and rich life. It just takes a lot of work.  But it’s worth it.

Stay tuned for even more in part two.