Productive Pastor 8: When Things Go Crazy (Navigating the Time Bomb)

productive pastor

Have you ever noticed how hectic ministry can get? It is an interesting job because we always have certain things needing to get done every week (sermons, programing, teaching), but we also live with the realization at any moment an urgent emergency can take us away from our carefully planned schedule.  They can either blow up our schedule or give us the best possible space to minister to other people. In this episode I share my tips to navigating the time bomb.

The List:
It’s Not About “Productivity.” It’s About Living Purposefully. by Sam Spurlin
This is a great article. It totally gets the conversation we are having with the Productive Pastor. I encourage you to go read this and think about how and what narrative your schedule is telling others.


Navigating the Time Bomb:

Part of ministry is responding. We respond to crisis, emergencies and pastoral care. We are called to be the living presence of Christ in our areas of ministry. Sometimes that means dropping everything and being with people. It comes with the territory and we need to learn to be fully present in those moments, not distracted and thinking about what else we can be doing. Here are three tips to navigating the time bomb.

I like to use the analogy of jazz music. Jazz musicians can improvise beautifully. Before they get that talent, they have to spend the time building a foundation. They practice scales, modes, chords, inversions and many other things for years to build up the ability to improvise. It is their foundation that lets them jump off into improvisation and brings them back into the structure of the song. Our schedule is our foundation. We improvise when we navigate time bombs.

1. Have a Structure for the Week.
Know what you are generally planning on doing each day. Have a good idea of what you want to accomplish over your workweek. This helps you build an exit and an on ramp for the times things get hectic.

2. Knowledge of the small, medium and big stuff.
We all have different tasks with different levels of importance. I typically do around 20 small tasks within 2 hours on Monday morning. It immediately clears up so much of my week The small tasks are also those things we can fit into 15-20 minutes. Our medium level tasks are usually small steps in long range projects. We might even be able to take them off our schedule for a week. Our big things need to only be one thing. It is the non-negotiable task for the week. Mine is my sermon. I will carve out time for that no matter what is going on.

3. Hustle.
Sometimes we just have to hustle. I recommend using some form of Pomodoro to put my nose to the grindstone. This webapp will help you hustle.

Resources Mentioned:
The Emergent Task Planner

Share your productive space:
Earlier in the year, Mashable ran a great piece on taking a picture of your productive space. I really nerded out checking this out. This week I saw a great instagram picture listener Bill Streger posted (here is the picture). I think it would be awesome seeing all of your productive spaces, tips and how you keep your ministry organized. Tag your picture #productivepastor and share with us! You can keep up with peoples entries with the #productivepastor tagboard. Every picture will be an entry to winning a great prize package. If you review and rate on iTunes you get two entries!

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My Favorite Resources for Modern Preaching

modern preaching

I remember the first church I was regularly in the preaching rotation. After a few sermons my pastor gave me a copy of the “Preacher’s Sourcebook of Creative Illustrations“. If you have ever wondered where country preachers get really corny stories…it is in books like these.

I think the method of preaching and preparing for sermons has changed drastically in the last 20 years. When I moved to St. Paul’s I had to shift from longer (30min) sermons to shorter messages. The content also had to shift. I was moving from a much more academic culture into one that had different needs. What I learned was the power of story telling and narrative preaching. I wanted to find great examples of people telling great stories. I want to share some of those findings with you. These are all great place any preacher could pick up a few new tips from.

My Favorite Resources for Modern Preaching

No one is better at telling a story people of all ages can focus in on than Pixar. I didn’t find out about this naturally. The wife and I don’t have kids. Our movie and television watching begins with the Walking Dead and ends with Quintin Tarantino (a GREAT storyteller) usually. I was aware of Pixar, but it was an article by Joe Berkowitz made me pay attention. Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling–Visualized gives so many creative hints preachers can learn from. A google search will turn up more analysis of Pixar around the internet.

2. is the creative arm of Fast Company. Full of intriguing content, much can be learned by spending 5 minutes a day on their site. The writing staff shares, picks apart and focuses on amazing story telling. This is the best place to be If you want to learn how peoples minds are listening, processing and ingesting information.

3. Nancy Duarte and Duarte
Nancy Duarte and her team at Duarte are hands down the best people developing digital presentations today. Most people learned about them after they worked on Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth.” Nancy has written several great books on presentation development. Possibly the best, the one preachers really need to read, is being given away right now digitally. Resonate is a book we should all have in our toolbox. If you struggle with visual images in your sermons you really need slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations. I think both of these books should be seminary and bible college curriculum for the craft of preaching.

Honorable Mention:

These are a few other great resources for modern preaching.

Ted Talks: I didn’t put Ted on the main list because I honestly think they are getting tired. The information is there, but the presentations have started to become lacking. There are still great ones…but I have personally found a hit or miss pattern lately.

SERMONSMITH: If you like digging into other peoples sermon preparation you need to listen to the SERMONSMITH podcast. I love it and don’t miss an episode.

Preaching Rocket: I have written before about why I love preaching rocket. It is an investment, but I couldn’t imagine not having their product in my toolbox. They have a great (free) webinar on How to Become a Better Storyteller.

Preachers, where do you find help in non traditional ways?

If you aren’t a preacher, what methods of sermon delivery do you appreciate?

Why I am Wesleyan


Today the 8th episode of The Threshing Floor came out. I am privileged to produce this podcast with two great friends and for it to be part of the amazing Seedbed family. In this episode all three of the hosts share why we each are Wesleyan. We are also each offering up a blog post today on the topic as well.

For me, there are many reasons I self identify as a Wesleyan. I didn’t grow up Methodist and I wrote about that transition a few months ago. I wasn’t always a Methodist…but I think I have always been a Wesleyan. The United Methodist Church became the place I found my own personal experience best expressed. And experience matters.

Why I am Wesleyan

1. The Theological Beginning Point of an Incarnating God.

I am a big fan of the incarnation. The tagline of my blog is “worshiping a God who has come to our world”. That is the incarnation. We have a God who is not distant and far off, but instead is right here among us. In the very mess of life.

The incarnation is a fundamental doctrine of Christianity, so no big distinctiveness here. What I makes me Wesleyan are a few shifts the incarnation gives my larger view of faith.

God absolutely claims us first. He said yes to us before we said yes to him. This is why I (as a pastor) will absolutely baptize an infant. It is why I believe in the true goodness available to all people in prevenient grace.

This also gives us a savior who meets us in communion. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we meet with the presence of Christ at the Lord’s Table. Our Thankgiving isn’t just a rememberance, but it is a Holy mystery of us meeting and being sent by God.

2. Commitment to a Holy God.
When I was in seminary there was always a big conversation about Open vs. Classic Theism. What I appreciated was an alternate conversation about God being understood as Holy. Of course God is holy, but here we find another Wesleyan distinctive.

The very beginning point in our attempt to describe God is Holy. In his own words, God is who he is (exodus 3:14 אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה) If we want to look at the characteristics of what best describes, what is the starting point for the way our God works…it is holiness.

For I am the Lord your God. You must consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. (Leviticus 11:44)

God wants us to be like him, to be functional images of the one who created us. This is a precious gift.

3. The Importance of Human Experience.
One of the four parts of Outler’s quadrilateral is experience. John Wesley called Methodism an “experimental faith”. Not experimental like a science project or a weird cult, but an experiential faith. Human experience should play a dramatic part of faith. John Wesley had this at aldersgate and we each have primary spiritual experiences.

Not only do we have an experiential faith, but we have a faith in which our experiences about God teach us who He is. These experiences should shape our view of God’s character. We believe God gives us these experiences for this very reason.

These are just a few reasons. I hope the conversation helps you think about why you specifically believe what you do, whatever the faith tradition.


Living the #Hashtag Life


A few weeks ago I had a funny conversation at work. We have some great volunteers who help out in the church office with various tasks. One of them was trying to figure out what a hashtag was. Her grand kids had been talking about them and we had a quick conversation. My final part of the explanation was how people use them to be sarcastic online. Her reply?

“Well I am pretty sarcastic…guess I need to start hashtagging.”


I think the word hashtag is ubiquitous for 2013. It probably hit it’s peak of cultural fascination with Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake’s video. What began as a simple hack for twitter has turned into one of the major developments in human communication. Just incase you are still trying to figure out what people actually use hashtags for here are a few uses (from most functional to…well, the fun ones).

  • Categorization of topics or current events (#superbowl)
  • linking conversations to a conference or web event (#passion2014)
  • Internet groups or twitter chats (like #emptyshelf on instagram)
  • Snarky or sarcastic humor

People also use them to describe otherwise emotions in a previously emotionless world. Hashtags give us the ability to make the digital world non-verbal.

Living the #Hashtag Life

Here’s the deal. Hashtags give us a way to sort life. We can easily associate ourselves with things online using hashtags. They are a great way to instantly belong to a conversation…without even being introduced. I take place in a few online chats and just using the group chat hashtag instantly throws me into a conversation with people I have never met before. I have had conversations with some pretty awesome folks because of them! And I didn’t have to be invited. Hashtags allow us to place ourselves, to instantly belong into a group of people. No one has to approve us.

Hashtags also can quickly lead us into other places. We might get a little bit to snarky. Just like my dad used to tell me, “No one likes to bring a negative person on a road trip”, if we get a little to much attitude with our hashtags we can gain a reputation we might not want to keep. We can easily begin to make fun of people and things in a pretty destructive way just to gain a few laughs. It might be clever…but is it holy?

Here is an interesting thought.

If you had to identify three hashtags with who you want people to see you as, three quick ways to honestly describe yourself, what would they be?

To look at the other side of the coin…what three hashtags could those closest to us use to describe us?

Or even further, what three hashtags could those who we have hurt or damaged throw out?

We all want to have values and skills. We all want to be known for something. In our inner core, we want to be approved and part of the group. We want our words to matter. We simply want to belong.

What hashtag honestly describes you the most? Would you want it to be trending?




Productive Pastor 007: The Three Most Productive Times in My Week

productive pastor

In this episode I want to share with you the three most productive times of my week. These are the three blocks of time I will fight for and I find essential to having a great week. I am a big fan of finding repeatable patterns and realizing the benefit of them. Some of these times I stumbled into and other times I heard about them from other people. I have incorporated these blocks of time into my week over years.

The List:

Busy Isn’t Respectable Anymore: Tyler Wardis
My Dad sent me this link in an early text message last week. It made me think of how many times I almost brag about my schedule to people. Internally, I think many of us do this, but what does it really communicate? If we are trying to develop and live out a theology of productivity, especially one that differs from the world, we need to take Tyler’s words to advice.

More Insights on Building a Rock Solid Routine: Jocelyn K. Glei
This is a great post with several links. What I like about it though isn’t the curation, it’s the focus on shipping. We all need to get things done. What we need to do even more is get things done with a purpose.

Honesty Moment:

What I have really been thinking about more is how and why we are supposed to be doing ministry the way we are/want too? I have struggled for years with taking a modern communication approach to my ministry and as I think about why I write and podcast I still struggle. There is a basic truth providing momentum to me over the last few months. The more I think about it I realize it is totally true.

We cannot wait for someone to hand us the ministry we have been called to.

This is a process of discernment. All of the conversation about productivity stems from this. Are we doing everything we can to be fully living inside of our own individual call? Our participation in moving forward is the reason we do focus on certain passions.


The Three Most Productive Times in My Week

I have three times I look forward to every week.

1. My Sunday Review:
I picked this up from Michael Hyatt’s Creating Your Personal Life Plan and it helps so much. I use around an hour Sunday evening to review my goals, dream big as well as make sure loose ends are tied up. I also try to collect the things I need to pay attention to during the next week.

2. My Monday Morning Planning Session:
This started in seminary. I would sit down once a week to craft out my next 7 days. The actual time has shifted around (it used to be on Friday afternoons). This is when I get really practical. I get to my local coffee shop first thing in the morning and I design my week. I look at the things I collected the previous evening as well as check up on regular activities. I open my evernote weekly template and plug things in. I check all of these against my weekly talk plan and find the best place for everything to get done.

3. My Friday Creative Session:
I try to take Friday off. I am about 70% successful with this. I usually defend Saturday as a Sabbath, so from time to time I will catch up with certain work on Friday morning. I always make sure if something is pushed into Friday morning it is creative work. I use this time to plan out blog posts, podcast content and other parts of my creative life.

Toolbox Tip:
This isn’t revolutionary. We all need to find things that fill our life. We need to relax and enjoy who God made us to be. Find a hobby or other way to instantly decompress.

Getting Things Done
Evernote Essentials

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