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Ministry Organization

60 Tips for Organizing Your Ministry

Somebody needs to invent a Deluxe Ministry Organizing Machine. Press the button — and voila! Instant organized ministry. Flip the switch and you’ll never have to hunt for that information again. Maybe Instant Ministry Organizer Powder would be better — just add water and your desk is immaculate as papers shuffle themselves into files. Or hire the Robotic Ministry Organizing Personal Assistant and it will whip your leadership team into shape —you get a convenient scapegoat when things go wrong, too!

Unfortunately, these tools are not yet available in the twenty-first century, so we have to rely on advice and good old elbow grease. Below are some tips and resources that will help you be better organized and more effective in your ministry.

Organizing Your:

Leadership Team
Event
Ministry Workspace
Desk
Paperwork
Project
Time
Volunteers
Teaching
Resources
Meetings
Marking

Organizing Your Leadership Team

Do you have a team meeting with you to plan an event, program, or ministry? Streamline your team efforts by following these tips:

  • Clarify the position’s responsibilities. Provide a written ministry description, including a list of responsibilities, whom the people report to, what kind of authority they have to make decisions, and the expected time commitment. This will help everyone to get the job done and avoid confusion later on.
  • Schedule all your meetings at once. People are busy and it’s hard for everyone to get together at once. At the very first meeting, get out your calendar and schedule your meetings for the rest of the year. Then if you don’t need to meet, cancel the meeting and everyone will be grateful for an extra time slot.
  • Pass out big-picture schedules and task lists early on. Create a master calendar with the tasks of each team member for the entire year or even and pass it out at the beginning so that people can know what needs to get done when.
  • Distribute information in the form of charts, lists, and bullets instead of text. It’s harder to read blocks of text, so break up any information into formats that are easier to digest and follow. Charts, visuals, and lists are great.
  • Follow up frequently. People are awfully forgetful, so schedule in time on your calendar to follow up on decisions and see if tasks have been completed. If you check early, you’ll keep the entire team and schedule on track.

Resource

The Christian Conference Planner: Organizing Effective Events, Conferences, Retreats and Seminars, by Angela Yee
“Chapter 5: Conference Staff” gives step-by-step instructions for organizing a team to plan events, including pages with sample job descriptions. Individual chapters cover the tasks of each team member.

Organizing Your Event

The more organized the event is, the more smoothly it will function. Ideas to consider:

  • Always have a single point person. To reduce confusion, one person should take the responsibility for the final decisions. Each area of the event (program, logistics, etc.) should also have a single person who makes the decisions regarding his or her area. Communicate clearly who makes what decisions and where that person will be.
  • Have a clear goal and purpose for your event. A successful event is built upon focusing on the goal and purpose. Knowing why you are holding the event and what you hope to achieve helps you make wiser decisions in every area of planning.
  • Recruit a leadership team. Don’t try to plan the event yourself. Having a team provides valuable feedback, builds ownership in the congregation or community, spreads the load, and makes it a lot more fun too! See tips above in “Leadership Team.”
  • Plan minute-by-minute but be prepared to change everything. A detailed plan helps people to know what to expect and keeps volunteers organized. But if the Holy Spirit leads by prompting a change, be ready to respond and see the wonderful things God will do!
  • Evaluate your event afterwards. If you’re doing another event, evaluation is key to improvement. Review your goals and see if you met them. Ask attendees, volunteers, and your leadership team what kind of experience they had to know how to improve for next time.

Resources

The Christian Conference Planner: Organizing Effective Events, Conferences, Retreats and Seminars, by Angela Yee
Plan your event easily with step-by-step guidance in every area of planning, with checklists, forms, and examples.
The Ultimate Guide to Successful Meetings, Corporate Events, Fundraising Galas, Conferences, Conventions, Incentives and Other Special Events, by Judy Allen

A detailed handbook of planning for corporate and non-profit events.


Organizing Your Ministry Workspace

Configure your workspace in a way that will help you be more efficient with accomplishing your work. Here are some suggestions:

  • Analyze space usage patterns. Space planning can be more effective when you analyze who uses the space, how it used, when it is used, and how often it is used. Put frequently used items closely together to reduce walking and wasted time. Rearrange furniture so that most used items can be accessed within arm’s reach.
  • Figure out what kind of environment in which you are most efficient. If you’re a people person, leaving your door open or putting your desk in view of the hallway may be distracting and inefficient. Set up your office to minimize distractions.
  • Have a place for everything. The majority of clutter is caused by people not knowing where something goes. Commit to finding a home for every item and putting it away immediately.
  • Store items by purpose and usage. Put all your copying supplies together, your writing and research materials together, or the items you use only occasionally together.
  • Split larger storage areas into smaller areas. If you have a large shelf or storage area, break it up into smaller units using magazine holders, boxes, or baskets. This helps items avoid shifting about and makes things easier to find.

Resources

The Office Clutter Cure: How to Get Out from Under It All, by Don Aslett

Clear out your office with this easy-to-read, motivational and practical book.

Organizing Your Desk

Is your desk a candidate for a National Disaster Area? Try these ideas:

  • Analyze what causes your desk to be cluttered. Is your desk messy because you don’t know where to put things? Or because you don’t have an organized filing system? List reasons your desk is messy and what you can do to resolve those issues.
  • Know your working style. If you like to have everything in sight, don’t think that being organized means everything must be put away. Find a system that works with your preference, such as literature sorters or rolling carts to place projects. If you don’t like clutter, use furniture with cabinets so you won’t be stressed and distracted by all the clutter.
  • Process each sheet of paper immediately. Act immediately when a paper crosses your desk. Toss it, pass it on to someone else, put it in your to-do pile (which should also be organized!) or put it away.
  • Assign a location for most frequently used items. Only have items you use every day on your desk. The other things that you use less frequently can be kept within arm’s reach, but don’t keep them on your desk surface.
  • Use drawer dividers. Break up your drawer space with drawer dividers to avoid items mixing together and making a mess. Small boxes are another great way to break up drawer space.

Organizing Your Paperwork

The majority of us look forward to the day when we are in heaven and won’t have to do paperwork anymore. But for now we will have to remember these tips:

  • Keep your system simple. The easier it is to remember, the easier it is to use and find items. But simple doesn’t mean “one big pile on the desk.” Whatever filing system you use, keep items in slim piles or folders. If your folders get too large, subdivide.
  • Toss as many items as possible. The majority of paper that people collect is never looked at again. If you plan to file something, ask first, “Can I get this somewhere else?” If so, toss it!
  • Use broad headings and subdivide. Divide your filing system by grouping your folders according to broad headings. For example, have a “Denomination” section for all folders related to denominataion-related business. Have another section for “Teaching,” and break down into topics.
  • Don’t have a “miscellaneous” folder. You’ll never be able to find what you’re looking at, and it will quickly become too full. If an item you want to file doesn’t fit into any folders, create a new broad category.
  • Keep a master list of all your files. Every time you are going to create a new folder, check this master list. It’s also helpful for when you need to find an item quickly.

Organizing Your Project

Whether your project is a long-term or short one, complicated or simple, keep these guidelines in mind:

  • Have clearly defined goals before you begin. Clearly defined goals enable you to plan clearly and efficiently. You’ll know where you are going and what you are doing. Get all people and tasks on board towards that single focus.
  • Get the support of key leaders in the church or organization. The success of a project hinges on the support of important leaders from the get-go. Spend time building support and buy-in by leaders by presenting the positive benefits of the project.
  • Find out organizational policies and guidelines. Knowing what the do’s and don’ts of your organization will help guide your planning and activities, as well as avoid future trouble.
  • Define broad stages, then break down into steps. Divide the project into stages. Then break them down into manageable steps. Schedule these stages and steps into a realistic timeframe.
  • Communicate frequently. Communication is key to a smoothly-functioning project. Keeping everyone on the same page is crucial to avoid wasted time and effort. Use e-mail and phone calls to keep everyone up to date on what is happening.

Organizing Your Time

Everyone has the same amount of time, but those who are effective in their ministries have learned to manage their time more wisely. Some tips that might help:

  • Know your job description. Having a clear job description will help you focus your tasks and know how to spend your time. You can avoid tasks that you really shouldn’t be doing and instead spend your time effectively on the tasks that are really important.
  • Keep a time log to analyze your time usage. Take a week to write down in fifteen-minute increments how you use your time. You may be surprised to see where your time is going! Take a look at the percentages of where you are spending your time. Are they in the areas where you should focus? If not, some adjusting may be in order.
  • Eliminate time wasters. Your time log can also point out activities that reduce your efficiency or waste your time. Are you tempted to answer the phone every time it rings? Turn the ringer off during your productive time periods. Close your door to avoid chatty office workers (but don’t go too far – remember, Jesus took advantage of interruptions to minister to people!).
  • Find a calendar system that works for you. Find a system where you can keep appointments, contact information, and your to-do list. Whether you use an electronic organizer, paper organizer, or even a scratch paper notepad you carry around, whatever system that helps you get things done and remember important information – use it!
  • Block out sections of time to accomplish your key tasks (sermon preparation, planning, etc.). Schedule these in the time of day that you are most alert and most creative. Avoid scheduling appointments during these times so you can be accomplish your tasks more quickly.

Organizing Your Volunteers

What a joy it is to have volunteers with willing hearts and step in and serve! Here are some tips that will make your job easier:

  • Have written job descriptions. Written job descriptions give your volunteers clear expectations of what they are to do — before they start. They’ll know what they are committing to and what needs to get done.
  • Recruit early. People are busy. The earlier you recruit, the greater selection you’ll get and the more chance that people will be available. Recruiting early gives them more chance to consider it too, instead of feeling the time pressure of a decision. It’s easier to plan meetings then too!
  • Know what motivates them. Volunteers work better when you appeal to their motivations and passions. Are they motivated by recognition, relationships, or rules? Knowing what makes them tick is an important part of developing a great relationship with your volunteers and putting them in a position where they will thrive.
  • Place volunteers according to giftedness and passion. When determining where to place your volunteers, consider their spiritual gifts, abilities, and passions. When they are in a position that is a good fit for how God created them, they will serve joyfully and with fulfillment.
  • Keep a handy list of phone and e-mail info. Many leaders have a list of contact information but don’t give the list to other team members so that people can contact one another easily. Pass out a list and if there are changes, notify everyone on the team.

Resources

The Christian Conference Planner: Organizing Effective Events, Conferences, Retreats and Seminars, by Angela Yee
Includes a chapter about coordinating volunteers for events, with information for recruiting and motivating volunteers. The book can be used for volunteer leaders in the areas of program planning, food, and volunteer coordination (as well as others).
The Equipping Church, by Sue Mallory

Details the principles and practices of building effective volunteer equipping ministry within the church.

The Equipping Church Guidebook, by Sue Mallory

A practical and comprehensive handbook for planning an equipping ministry, with samples of information used by other churches.

Organizing Your Teaching

Preparing for teaching, whether a class, sermon, or presentation, requires advance preparation for an organized and effective talk. Keep these pointers in mind:

  • Clarify the date, time, length of talk, subject and location. Don’t forget to ask for these important details, and check them again a few weeks before the event. It’s surprising how often the event planner changes the details without communicating them to the speaker!
  • Confirm the purpose of the event. Knowing the purpose as well as the audience of the event will help you tailor your teaching to reach your listeners more effectively.
  • Write a goal for your teaching. Ask yourself, “When I am done, what should people be motivated to do? What do I want them to know? And how should they feel?” If there’s one point you want them to take home with them, what is it?
  • Structure your outline around the goal. Plan your subpoints around the main goal. Does what you say ultimately contribute to the main goal? If not, delete it or refine it.
  • Prepare handouts. Handouts assist listeners in following and retaining information better. It doesn’t have to be fancy – even a piece of paper with just the main points will help. Even better, add information that they will want to keep – resource lists, phone numbers, or additional information not mentioned in your teaching.

Organizing Your Resources

Ministry resources abound. Many of us are overflowing with books, tapes, articles, and too much information invading our work areas. Handle these materials by following these suggestions:

  • Have a place for everything. Avoid clutter by finding a home for everything. Keep a master list of where you keep your resources so you can find them more easily later.
  • Group your books by subject. It’s easier to find what you need if you place them according to subject, rather than alphabetically or randomly. That’s what they do in libraries!
  • Develop a tracking system for your articles. Find a system that works for you. Some people like to archive their articles in a database or on a computer. Others use 3×5 cards. Filing articles in folders according to topics also works.
  • Keep your catalogs in hanging file folders in a file cabinet. Catalogs have a tendency to fall over on a bookshelf. A file cabinet is a great place to keep them. Hanging files make them easy-to-find and prevent a messy shelf.
  • Scan articles and keep them on a computer or CD. Save filing or shelf space by scanning documents and burning a CD. Be sure to have a way to list the articles by topic and author also.

Organizing Your Meetings

Ministry people spend a lot of time in meetings! If you’re in charge, make your meeting worthwhile and productive:

  • Have a goal for your meeting. A meeting without a goal or purpose is a waste of everyone’s time. A goal will help keep discussion on track and use time more efficiently. Try to schedule meetings only when it is necessary for everyone to meet.
  • Spend time planning for the meeting. Every minute spent in advance planning will help reduce the time spent in the meeting. It’s far better to present a draft of a plan to the team to revise than to start from scratch.
  • Hand out an agenda to keep everyone on track. List discussion items so people can know what’s on the table and gauge how long the meeting will be. An agenda sheet lets people take notes too.
  • Take detailed notes to avoid future misunderstanding. Write down what is discussed. It will help clarify any confusion if there’s a need to refer to notes later. It’s impossible to remember everything discussed, but be sure to write down main points, information or numbers.
  • Keep the group small for decision making. A small group is more effective for making decisions. People have more opportunities to speak and give input. It’s easier to schedule too! If you have a large group, break it up into smaller groups to make decisions in the areas important to those people.

Organizing Your Marketing/Publicity

Efforts to reach the community around you will be more effective if you can organize your efforts:

  • Develop a marketing plan. A marketing plan for your event or church determines markets and how to reach them. Having a marketing plan lets you allocate your budget wisely and spend in ways that are more effective in reaching your market.
  • Know your audience. If you’re producing a brochure for a youth ministry, it had better look different than a brochure for seniors! Use marketing methods, graphics, and writing that will appeal to them.
  • Compile a “facts-at-a-glance” page. When assembling marketing material, keep track of all the information that needs to be publicized—dates, times, location, contact people. Put all the info on a single page so you can refer to it easily.
  • Keep files of what other churches are doing. Look at them for examples, and inspiration (and possibly what not to do!). Don’t copy their designs, but look for ideas and new ways of trying things. See what doesn’t work well, too, and avoid their errors.
  • Collect advertising information in one location. As you receive media kits, advertising rates and promotions, keep all the information in one place so you can compare prices and find what you need quickly.

Resource

The Christian Conference Planner: Organizing Effective Events, Conferences, Retreats and Seminars, by Angela Yee

Check out “Chapter 15: Marketing” to see how to effectively market your event! Includes info on developing a marketing strategy as well as producing high-impact marketing materials.

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