One of the things they didn't teach us at seminary was how we could effectively manage the rafts of paperwork that we receive and generate! Sounds like mine wasn't the only institution of theological education lacking this important course!
I have a question about something I never realized I would need to deal with in my ministry - FILING. I've been in pastoral ministry for 15 years and I've always done my own filing - and very haphazardly I might add. My biggest issue is with filing my sermon manuscripts. In the beginning, I filed them according to church season, with each new sermon going in front of the previous one. At the time it made sense to me, but after a few years of this, it became a problem because whenever I needed to refer back to an old sermon, I had to remember or look up what season (and which liturgical year) the sermon was preached in (and then determine which year - not just which liturgical year - I preached it in!); this all seemed to be an unnecessary obstacle. I began to switch to a text-based method of filing (i.e., simply filing every sermon according to the Scripture preached) but I've never fully made the switch. Mostly I just have piles of old sermons stacked in various places around my office (in files). So I haven't really made the issue of looking back at old sermons any easier for myself!
What works for the rest of you, especially as related to sermon manuscripts, but also as relates to any other filing? I do keep my electronic files well-ordered, and they are easily searchable on my Mac, but I find that often I'd rather have the hard copy with any notes or changes I might've made by hand that I never got around to updating on my computer. With regards to other work filing, I'd be interested in any advice about how you determine what to file and what to toss, and how you decide how to organize it all.
Muthah, blogging at Stone of Witness, writes:
Dear Desire-to-be Organized:
I am not one to really help here because I am NOT organized. In my denomination, we adhere to the Revised Common Lectionary. And it is rare that we veer from it so my sermons are organized by Advent Ia or Lent II c. It makes it easy to refer to both the readings and the season, I tend to file on my computer only since I never repeat a sermon--themes yes, but I never use a sermon over as such.
And for sometime now, I have been preaching extemporaneously without a written text depending upon the size of the congregation. So I don't keep my texts or outlines. When I do come upon some of my earlier sermons, I am often surprised at how I have changed in my understanding of passages, or my constantly emerging theology. But most times, it isn't worth keeping. And having moved across country a couple of times, if I can't keep it on a little flash drive, it gets jettisoned.
I am sure some of our sisters have better ways of preserving our hard work.
And it appears that Sharon, blogging at Tidings of Comfort and Joy, does have an effective method:
I do have a paper filing system for many things, but what I want to share is a paper-less sermon saving system, which would also work for funerals, weddings, liturgies or any of the things that you write.
I no longer keep hard copies of my sermons. After 20 years of preaching, the volume is just too unwieldy. Thanks to encouragement by my techno-savvy son, I now use Google Docs to compose and archive my sermons. I give each sermon a file name according to Scripture lesson(s), and I file them by calendar year. In Google Docs you could solve your "which way to file?" dilemma by putting any sermon into multiple files -- by date, by Scripture, by Season, by type -- any way you want. I feel secure letting go of the paper knowing that they are saved to two places (computer hard drive + G-docs). I also back up what's on my computer to a portable hard drive for extra safety, so that's really three copies of each one.
FYI -- about those written notes you want to keep: almost every one of my computer-saved sermons also has a "sister" file named with the same date also named "NOTES" and filed in the same year folder. This is all the brilliant stuff that didn't make it into the sermon; notes and research that I came up with (always carefully reference others' brilliance); and any other things that might be helpful later. If I significantly marked up the hard copy, I will change the computer copy soon after. I sometimes make notes at the top of the computer page of the sermon or of the notes if I want to remember something significant regarding the preaching or the day.
An advantage of Google Docs is that any document is accessible to you from any computer, just like email is. Another advantage is that you can share selected docs with selected people. I have personal files (recipes, for example) that I share with my kids, but it easily could work for church committees and other groups.
I hope this will be helpful for helping you file some things. Happy organizing!
Do you have an effective system for managing sermons and other paperwork? We'd like to hear about it! And while you are at it, send a question or two our way here.
May you live in God's amazing grace+revhoney