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A Survival Kit for the Disorganized

“Our pastor is a nice guy, but he’s not very organized.”


This coming from the guest speaker I invited to fill in for me mid-week while I was away. I guess I was hoping he’d sing my praises in my absence. But, I found out later, from him, he was confessing my weakness.

If only I had the maturity in those days to receive a rebuke, rather than be defensive. Truth is, for those of us not natural, or spiritually gifted, in order and organization, we’d better learn to compensate. Disciplining ourselves with systems moving forward prevents a leader’s natural talents from getting buried under piles of clutter.

If you’re a leader and you know you simply have to compensate with disciplines, consider putting together for yourself an “organization survival kit.”

The following essentials will help you make it through the wilderness:

  • Communication Neatness. Don’t let things get sloppy here. For instance, I don’t prefer phone message “slips” which get buried under just one paper and found two (or five!) days later. I find it works better to get phone messages on texts with a return number. In order to get everyone called back promptly, here’s the top five on phone calls: Caller? Time? Subject? Number? Who took the message? No one goes 24 hours without a return call. Emails and texts returned promptly reward you with an awesome empty inbox, which allows you to now unleash your powers on other projects.
  • Smartphones really help with calendar, and once something is scheduled, never be late to appointments, even those you make with yourself.
  • Running Task List. I’m always thinking of stuff. It’s a burden I bear. To make sure an idea doesn’t become “homeless,” I jot it down on a post-it, then transfer a full post-it to a master list of tasks, from which a few items are selected each day to schedule. If it sounds tedious, try it. Pray and reflect over priorities in a prayer journal so they become spiritual. When lifted one by one from the master list to my schedule for the day, it’s amazing how many, sometimes all, of these can get accomplished. Look at your task list over a week’s time instead of a daily guilt list, for flexibility with interruptions, which of course can often be your main work.
  • Projects Laid Out In Spreadsheets. Major projects need real estate for data and details. Going over these project planning sheets can be a great way to keep the team informed and the work moving ahead.
  • Neat spaces. I actually threw my whole bedroom closet in the middle of the floor and ripped out the hardware, which made no sense, bought some cool closet things and installed them. It took a few days, but my closet was a thing of beauty afterwards, like a Van Gogh. It has remained about 98 percent neat for the last 15 years. The order virus spread to other areas, my garage and my office spaces. Not perfectly, but I’m getting there, and I’m finding order makes life so much better. I know instinctively where something is when I need it. It really is well worth the time.

I have to work at all this a little harder than those who are more intuitive. I keep these tools handy. As it says in I Cor. 14:40, a life lens for me, focuses order to a kind of worship: “let everything be done decently, and in order.”

Dr. Chet Haney is the senior pastor for Highland Terrace Baptist Church in Greenville, Texas. He is a graduate of Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where he played offensive end for the Bears. While at Baylor, he met his wife, Terri, with whom he has three married daughters.
He has a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Baylor, a Masters of Divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Before accepting the call to Highland Terrace in September of 2013, he served as Senior Pastor of Parkside Baptist Church in Denison, Texas. Chet also served as pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodville, TX, and Midway Baptist Church in Big Spring, TX. Prior to that, he was a youth minister for several years.

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