I am so thankful for the tools I get to use in ministry. I remember the good old days and they really weren’t that good in the tool department. Since I’ve been ministering to kids, a lot has changed with technology. When I started, photocopiers had not yet been invented. I made publications with individual press-on letters, an X-Acto knife, and rubber cement; then, ran them off on a mimeograph machine. I now use three computers (one laptop for church and one laptop and an iMac for JWM), an ipad2, and an iPhone every single day. I have multiple back-ups, and use the cloud, as well as Dropbox. I have an AT&T media package and a Verizon mifi so I have both major networks. On top of that, I Tweet, I text, I Facebook, I use cmConnect, I have 11 email accounts, and I also use Instagram. (And yes I have my own iPhone and iPad app. Be sure to download it free in the iPhone app store.)
I’ll never forget the day I got my first computer. It was a Commodore 64. I remember thinking, “This is amazing! I’ll never need anything more than this!” At first, it seemed like a time waster, entering all the names and info to create a database. Then, it happened. I hit “Command S” and was able to sort that data base just how I needed it. I’ve been hooked ever since. I’m proud to say I have never owned a PC and went straight from the Commodore 64 to the Mac. I can’t imagine doing ministry these days without all this technology. Not only has it changed a lot, it’s still changing and I hope it will continue to get better, more powerful, and more useful in the future. But how do you keep these tools of the trade from turning into toys, distractions and time wasters? Here are ten things I do that keep the electronic tools I use a blessing and not a curse.
1. Turn off all sound notifications for texts, emails, tweets and other social media apps and set an appointment to check your devices. During work, I set a time three times a day. Not hearing the notifications helps me stay on task. Even with the visual notifications of Mountain Lion, I can ignore those better than the beeps, dings and bells so I can keep working. If it’s time sensitive, I have them call me and tell me they sent what I’m waiting on.
2. I do not have non-work email accounts on my work devices. I’m very thankful that I have the privilege of being bi-vocational. Both vocations just happen to be ministry related. I never want the church that I serve to feel they are not getting my best. I don’t work on Jim Wideman Ministries stuff during my office hours at the church. (I wrote this article at 8:01pm, not am.) Not having personal or JWM email accounts on my church machines keeps me focused. I also only post on church Facebook and Twitter accounts during office hours.
3. I turn my cell phone on silent went I’m in my office and use my office phone for all calls. I make personal calls only on my cell phone when I’m on break or at lunch. I know I’m weird, but I still have a home phone number. I put my cell phone on a charger when I’m home and don’t use it except when I’m mobile or it’s an emergency.
4. While we’re talking about calls, here’s a great personal policy to adapt. I try to limit all business calls to 3-5 minutes unless it’s a phone appointment, and I schedule those from 15-30 minutes. I learned this trick from a pay phone I saw years ago with a sign on it that said: Business Phone—please limit calls to three minutes. I remember thinking, “The phone on my desk is a business phone.” It’s been a helpful practice to follow.
5. Maybe because it’s my age or the fact that I’m a workaholic, but I don’t have any games on my ministry devices except games I can use in programing a service. I know what you’re thinking, “Jim, you don’t have small children.” You’re right, but I have a grandbaby and when he gets old enough and needs to be entertained, I’ll give him his own devices. But just like I think it’s important to take back some of the time we have to minister to our family, I also think we need to return to rocking it old school and talk in the morning, at night, when we’re at the house and when we go somewhere.
6. Know when it’s time to pick up the phone rather than type. Emails can be a huge time waster. That’s why I refuse to type when I need to talk. If someone asks me a question that I’ve already answered in a book, I refer him to my book. I also do this with books others have written.
7. Whenever possible I allow people who know a certain program to show me how it works rather than me learn by trial and error. I’m thankful for all the young guns God has placed in my life—folks like Sam Luce, Spencer Click, Kenny Conley, Matt McKee and my son-in-law Cory from MomentumMedia.us. These guys have taught me tons about technology and I will always be grateful to them. Just the other day, Matt got me up and running on Prezi, and I’ve now made over a dozen presentations. I remember telling Spencer that I wanted to create a task management application. As I began to describe what I wanted it to do, he told me there was already one out there and introduced me to Things. Sam has saved my bacon on more than one occasion on how to use certain apps and programs. Develop a support team around you to help you stay in the know on what’s out there. Sometimes, it’s not what you know that counts … it’s who you know! Network with others on what they use, how they use it and then ask them to show you how to use it also.
8. Master time management. If you have not read my book Beat The Clock, you should. In it I give four steps to effective time management: Planning, Preparation, Evaluation and Delegation. Most everyone I know does the first one—write down in your calendar how you want to spend your time. The second step is a difference maker—break all the events and projects into steps and reminders. This is also where I use my best friend, the appointment, to set aside time to do what only I should be doing. This is also where I count on my other good friend, Mr. Priority, to keep these steps in the right order. Next is the missing link to time management evaluation where you identify how you’re actually spending your time. You are the only one who can identify where priorities are out of line and where you have wasted time. The last step is delegation. This is where you help others learn to manage their time and use some of it. At the end of the day, all of us only have 24 hours. That’s why we want to do all we can to become better time managers, and then bring folks along with us to get more done. I have found through the years that there are people in my life and ministry who need to be needed more than I need the help. God is a God of mutual benefit. He’ll bless them and you while expanding and blessing the kingdom.
9. Always be on the lookout for a better way to do things. Be open; be teachable to new ideas and new technologies. Every time I hear about a new device, program or app, I ask how I can use this in my ministry. I like to say it this way, “I’m not married to anything but Julie, but if there’s a better way to do something, I want to do it.” All of us must keep improving; we must keep learning and not be afraid of technology. God has allowed all of us to live at this time in history for a reason. I want to take advantage of everything I have access to in order to further the Gospel and the cause of Christ. It’s up to each of us to study to show ourselves approved so we can be workmen who are not ashamed!
10. Make time for the Word. Choose to not check your email, use social media or search the web until you’ve spent time in the Word. If you don’t have a Bible software or app, get one and, better yet, use it before any other tools or toys. I think God’s Word is a parenting, personal growth, leadership tool that many Christians, as well as children’s pastors, don’t use.
I’ve been told the only difference between an adult and a child is the price of their toys. We are the only ones who can keep our tools from becoming toys. Where have you allowed technology to spend your time rather than save you time? As you walk out these steps, I believe you can get a handle on your use of technology and bring it under control to accomplish more for God and His purposes.