By Dennis Wiggs

Being organized is simple, necessary and productive. Being unorganized is simple, too. Just don’t do anything and suffer the consequences. The young pastor will experience much more fruit from his labors if he knows where he has been and where he is going. Consider these easy-to-practice suggestions for better organization.

Learn to File

Even in this day of electronic storage, you will soon find folders a valuable and inexpensive tool. Purchase a box of regular file folders. File everything. Keep a stack of files near or on your desk. File anything that needs your immediate attention. Write the contents on the tab of the folder. As you check the mail, file information that needs your attention soon. Throw everything else in the trash. Thumb through the folders monthly and discard outdated material.

Second, place a filing cabinet near your desk. Establish at least three types of files: sermons, information, and church business. Under the sermons category, file items from angels to zoology that you may use in sermon preparation, counseling, or to provide information for others.

The files will grow as you continue in the ministry. Clip magazine articles, pictures, and illustrations. File anything and everything you may use in the future. As a young preacher, I began cutting and filing articles by J. C. Griffin from the weekly North Carolina magazine, The Free Will Baptist. Little did I realize that one day I would pastor the church Brother Griffin pastored when he wrote those articles.

Third, establish a file drawer (or continue the one begun by a previous pastor) for church business—budgets, financial reports, warranties, purchase orders, and building projects. Leave behind clearly identified files of everything the church did when you were the pastor, from baptisms to new members to church business items.

Clearly identified files will keep you organized today and throughout the rest of your ministry. It will save time digging through stacks of information!

Go Digital

In today’s electronic age, most young pastors are adept at using computers. However, don’t let the ease of technology lull you into careless behavior with your digital storage. For maximum benefit, organize your computer files to match the names and content of your physical files. This will allow you to use your physical sermon files to help you locate sermon information and vice-versa.

Create a digital index. As your sermon and resource collection grows, you may find it harder and harder to keep up with all of your files. Make an index of your sermons in Microsoft Word or Excel. List Sermons by name, content, Scripture passage, date preached, etc. Then list identify the file in which it is stored. Store all support information (clippings, pictures, illustrations) in the folders with the sermon. If you preach a sermon series, name the folder according to the name of the series. Create a system and put it to work. Your digital filing system may be unique, and that is okay. But it is crucial to have a system.

Back it up. Don’t lose 10 years of sermons due to a hard drive crash. Make a paper copy. Back up your digital storage on external hard drive or flash drive—perhaps two! Few things are more disheartening to a pastor than losing years of hard-earned sermon preparation in a moment. Consider buying a RAID-capable external hard drive, a hard drive that automatically backs itself up to a second external hard drive.

Keep a Notebook

Carry a small notebook or pad in your coat or shirt pocket. Write down everything—prayer requests, someone in the hospital, church member’s change of address, thoughts for a sermon, or an idea for next year’s church program. Each morning, go through the notebook and transfer the information to phone or computer.

There is so much to remember in this fast-paced society. A notebook can help you remember where to be, when, and why. Some young pastors prefer to record this type of information directly onto their phone. I am always amazed that they can use those tiny keyboards so quickly. How the information is recorded is not important. It’s the organization that counts!

Stay in Contact

For ease of contact, enter the names, addresses, email addresses, websites, and telephone numbers of church members, family members, and pastor friends into your computer. Include birthday, anniversary—any pertinent information available to you. This will prove to be an invaluable asset to your ministry. Keep the information up to date, and print out a backup copy in case of computer failure.

A Final Word

The young pastor has many things on his mind, places to go, responsibilities to fulfill, and so much to accomplish for the Lord. He must set goals, establish plans and be determined to live each day to its fullest.

Careful filing and a comprehensive, up-to-date contact list does not guarantee that the young preacher will not forget an appointment or fail to visit a sick church member. But his honest attempt to be organized will help him accomplish far more than if he relies on his memory alone.

Like most things, organization is not difficult if you form good habits early in your ministry. You will be glad you did.

About the Writer: Dennis Wiggs retired in 2004 after many years in ministry.

Adapted from Contact magazine, August 1998.