We all know what hoarders are. Cable television has made sure of that. What used to be only a rumor is now a commonplace accusation. Redditors routinely take pictures and brag about what they have seen. You can relax though. I am not telling clergy we need to start stacking up fast food trash and teddy bear collections in the parsonage.
What I do want to encourage is the practice of collecting.
Not the trashy or weird reality television collecting, but developing patterns of collecting information and storing it early in ministry. Every person who is in a communicating role in ministry needs to develop a personal system which they can quickly reference.
This is a practice long standing for those in ministry. Here is a great article about the art of building a sermon from a 1907 Methodist magazine. Many preachers slowly build up great systems to catalog information. Even if you aren’t in ministry you can benefit from the process. Ronald Reagan famously kept a notecard with him at all times for writing down notes. Many other thought leaders (especially writers) kept pocket notebooks for when inspiration struck.
Why Pastors Need To Be (Information) Hoarders:
1. Pastors are resource managers for our local congregations. I wrote a few weeks back on why pastors need to seem themselves as curators.
2. We are constantly communicating. We need to be saving stories and other pieces of information to illustrate what we are telling people. This matters for sermon prep, blog posts, newsletter articles or leading committee meetings. People no longer want to only have information transmitted to them. They want to belong inside of a story. You have to carefully weave many things together in the communication process.
3. Those in ministry have a role as a contextual missionary to their people. Deeply resonating stories need to be shared, remembered and have the story of God woven into them. Some of them might need to be documented so the facts can stay straight. Instead of a piece of information or story being useful once, you can come back to it whenever necessary.
How to set up a system?
This is the part which takes experimentation. Some people are able to work completely digital or analog. Myself, I use a combination of pen and paper and technology.
The best way to start is to just do it.
How do you best retain information? What are you currently doing to save random bits and pieces? I always have a pocket notebook with me. I used to be a fan of moleskine notebooks, but in the last 6 months have switched over to field notes. I organize my day in my notebook as well as write down anything that comes to mind. David Allen’s classic Getting Things Done helps get people started with information collection.
In the last year I have turned into a huge fan of Evernote. It is my digital brain. I have the app on all of my computers and devices. Evernote has been a game changer for me. I can access back information quickly and efficiently.
The sermonsmith podcast had a great episode on how to use notecards for sermon preparation. I am currently trying out this method and keeping a few notecards on me. I do like to use them for my reading. I try to make a personal index so I can use what I read in any future situation easily.
No matter how, ministry leaders need to have a system set up to retain, organize and access information. There are plenty of ways out there to do it. You just need to do it.
How do you save information for future use?