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task management

Asana and other great tech tools for Children’s Ministry

admin asst

Now that I have made a move after years at a 5-6000 member ministry to one that is only 400-ish (isn’t God funny with the paths that He will take us) I am needing to learn some new skills. One of those is seeking out some tech goodies that will help me still get the results of having a large paid team.

Today, we will hit on a couple of tech goodies that I am finding to be helpful in getting the results I need while not having the paid admin team around me. In a medium size church we are still at the point where the children’s pastor can fall under the one who is expected to do it all and seeing that usually there are not as many formal ways of communication or the systems are not set up for great follow-up things fall through the cracks.

Welcome – Asana and/or Trello

Asana provides the accountability your team needs to move forward and do your best work without having to be tied to email. Asana offers a great way to collect your task that only you need to work on or it can assign a task to a team member or members that you choose. You can assign due dates and as people work on it if there is any correspondence it will keep all of it in that area so everyone on that project can see the conversation taking place or it can made private. You can set up a daily email to be sent to you for updates on every project and so much more. Watch some more about Asana.

Trello is a different feel than Asana. Trello is simple on the surface, but cards have everything you need to get stuff done. Post comments for instant feedback. Upload files from your computer, Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, and OneDrive. Add checklists, labels, due dates, and more. Notifications make sure you always know when important stuff happens.

Here are 2 more tools I urge you to check out that I’m not going into detail with but use as part of this process for myself.

EasilyDo

Refresh

With any of these tools it should help you have that feel of having a full-time team while you are at a small to mid size church. Don’t allow the size of your church now to effect your productivity for the Kingdom.

How to choose what to delegate in your children’s ministry

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The critical issue of what to delegate is often times one of the hardest starting points for many children’s pastors that I get the opportunity to coach, mentor and just network with.

I will start with a thought that many do not take into consideration and then I will do my best to explain why when it comes to delegation it’s wise to start with this thought.

You should only delegate projects that have a benefit for both you and the person being delegated to. People resent dumping of low-level tasks that offer no learning opportunity. When volunteers feel this is happening they will begin to discharge themselves from your ministry. Do remember though, what may be a low-level task to one may not be that same thing to another. This is why its important to know your team.

How do you know what to delegate and to who?

List your projects or tasks. Never delegate part of a project or piece of work. This avoids the accusation of dumping the dull parts of a project while keeping the best bits for yourself.

Estimate time required. Calculate the number of hours you would expect each project or task to take. 

Estimate the cost. Work out the hourly cost of yourself and your team members. This cost is not always financial. Cost comes in many forms. Sometimes it can be the cost of what is it keeping the person from doing if they are working on a certain project. Is it within a certain skill set of the person being delegated to or is there going to be a learning curve and skill set curve.

Map into a table. It should now be possible to work out the cost of each project or task depending on who is delivering it. This should show you clearly the difference in cost if you complete a project or if a member of your team does. Three groups should emerge: high, medium and low cost. 

Estimate Return On Investment (ROI). Once you understand the cost groups, then you need to know the value of that project to your organization. For each project and task set a high, medium and low ROI. 

Select projects for delegation. You can now put together your cost group with your ROI group. Low cost and low ROI go together, medium cost and medium ROI go together and so on. 

This technique allows you to delegate the right projects to the right team member based on simple cost and ROI analysis. This is not a magical formula and should only serve as a broad process but at least in this way there is some logic to what you choose to delegate. Remember delegation is also about developing the team member so giving them a project which is in the group above (for example a high ROI project to a medium cost member of staff) is good practice.

With a good process in place it is easier to show your confidence in the great team that God is working with you in getting established. Now go and make your map, challenge your team, empower them to be all they can be, all the while your ministry is accomplishing what God wants it to accomplish.

Get the LEAD out – Strategic Execution

planning

When I was younger I would always hear from my parents, “Todd you better get the lead out!” I always wondered what that really meant.

According to the Free Dictionary it means: “get the lead out and shake the lead out
Inf. to hurry; to move faster. (This originally refers to getting lead weights (used in exercise) off so you can move faster.)”

Here is a quick formula to “Get the lead out” with your execution plan.

L=Leverage. Do you have the right people in the driver seats to carry out your strategic priorities?

E-Enviroment. Have you created the right atmosphere and culture that will allow your people the ability to support your priorities?

A=Alignement. Do each of your team members agendas move them toward your ministries final goals?

D-Drive. Does your team have the ability to quickly move once the first 3 pieces of this formula are in place?

In closing, maybe you answered no to some of the above formula, what then?

Well, if you said no to the Leverage piece then you will need to work on your Talent/Resource side.

If you said no to Environment, then you have a Cultural/Engagement issue.

If no to Alignment, then work on your Communication/Productivity.

Lastly if no to Drive, then your Speed/Agility.

So, want to succeed, Then Get the lead out.

How Chunking made my children’s ministry more effective

Juggler

When life gets busy I need systems and structure to keep on track. In fact putting boundaries in place around different activities allows me to be quite impulsive and creative in those times and not getting stressed because of all the ‘urgent’ things that I need to do.

This is where “Chunking” comes in for me!

Life seems to always be adjusting the definition of busy to include more and more into that definition. What was busy for me last year doesn’t seem to be so busy for me this year. The tasks that were required last year in children’s ministry are not as many that are required later in ministry. This is the way it should be because we should always be growing and taking more territory for God. So here is a quick run down of how I chunk my time.

Chunking is not a new concept by any means and I’m probably not using the terminology correctly – but it’s what I call it. I believe that what gets measured gets done efficiently and effectively. This includes time as well. I started by doing a time journal, as I spend my time I log it down. I keep track of my time over a couple of weeks to be able to see patterns and it helps to end odd items that seem to happen in life. After the couple of weeks of time journaling I then will look to see the natural flows that take place in my life. Here are just a couple of examples: Mondays for example seem to be a day that I naturally spent more time evaluating, doing admin stuff and vision casting. Tuesdays seem to hold more meetings than other days, and more networking took place.

After examining the natural flow of my week it took a little adjusting and discipline to make sure I kept all meetings on Tuesday (there are exceptions but I limit them as much as possible). My Mondays became my evaluation, vision, admin day. I would tuck myself away some where with very little distractions, that means not my office.

All of sudden, instead of multi-tasking my week, it became very focused and was accomplished in large “Chunks” of time. Now that more was able to get accomplished, more focused time was the result of what I could pour into what God called me to do, be a children’s pastor.

Hope this brief overview of Chunking will aid you in being more productive like it has for me over the years.

The power of a 5 minute list

Blue pen on the spiral bound note-book paper.

I have always believed in making list, and I enjoy being as productive as I can be. So why has it taken me so long to learn the power in combining these two joys into my slow time, I have no idea.

I know myself really well and know that when it gets to be around 1:30-3:30pm I begin to slow down. This is my time that my daily internal clock begins to become sluggish. So I have now learned to create what we will call here a “5 minute clock”.

When you hit your “1:30-3:30pm” internal clock and you don’t have the energy to start a major task or you find your energy waning, pull out your already crafted five-minute list: A to-do list of easy, low-intensity tasks that you can do in less than five minutes.

Suggestions of what may be on this list could be:

1. An internet search
2. Printing out and sorting documents
3. Light research

Whatever it means for you, the five-minute list can help you be productive even during the times you have difficulty concentrating.

Now go and create your specific 5 minute list and feel free to share what some of the items are here. Enjoy turning your unproductive times into more productive times.

Quit multitasking and really become effective – Heres how.

Man multitasking

In my coaching with children’s pastors, or on-line training with churches, I am always saddened by the carnage that comes from the lies about how multi tasking is more efficient. I won’t argue here this time in the many reasons why I say multi tasking is not good, nor will I list all the studies that have proved this fact as well. I will list some steps you can take starting now to recapture your fragmented time, attention and productivity.

Enjoy.

* Focus. Focus starts with having a very clear definition of what winning looks like for your children’s ministry. Be as specific as possible.

To help you stay focused, keeping your goals and objectives in front of you throughout the day is beneficial. Put them on your computer screen and carry them with you on your smart phone. Set up task reminders, or write them on your whiteboard. Post-It in your office or on your mirror at home.

Do whatever it takes to keep your goals visible as you move through the day. When you get distracted or interrupted, these visual cues will serve as powerful reminders to refocus on what’s really important.

* Schedule alone time. Here’s where most children’s pastors struggle. We get results through other people, so we’re supposed to constantly be in meetings, on the phone, IM’ing, solving problems and giving feedback, right? It just doesn’t feel right to shut our office door, turn off the cell phone, and work by ourselves without interruption for any length of time.

Yet, research shows time and again that effective leaders made time for long periods of uninterrupted time to perform at peak levels. Alone time allows us to slow down and look at things differently. It reduces stress and gets the creative juices flowing.

* Manage your information/interruption flow. Develop a system and structure for managing the tidal wave of information that comes to you each day, starting with taking control of your email inbox. Instead of answering emails as they arrive, pick one or two (maybe three) times of the day to review and respond to email. Be ready for some potential hurt feelings as you will most likely uncover how you are not as important as you once thought and people can wait for your comments or they will come up with the correct answers without you.

Make it a policy to respond only to those emails that need action or a decision from you. If something needs your immediate attention, have people contact you in person, or by phone. This also helps sort through the topics that some believed were of utmost importance when all they had to do was type a quick email, but now they need to invest more of their time to get their answers. The value of most of their questions will be downgraded almost instantly.

The same goes for voice and text messages on your cell phone or PDA. Shut them down, turn them off, and focus on the task at hand! And no, turning them to vibrate doesn’t count. Coach your direct reports on what kind of information and issues they should bring to you and what you expect them to handle on their own.

Multitasking is more than just a bad habit. It’s a threat to your effectiveness as a leader and the success of your ministry. Integrate these principles into your daily routine and you’ll become more focused and productive while setting an example that everyone in your organization would do well to follow.

Stop the lie: not enough time. Face the truth: poor priorities

frantic man

I hear all the time from so many people as they rush around claiming they do not have enough time to get it all done. I strongly disagree!

I can hear many of you yelling at your monitor now: “Todd I am not wasting my time either.” You may be correct with that statement as well.

So, what is holding you back from getting your stuff done? I believe for many it is bad habits that have crept in unknowingly. Secondly it is “busy work” that holds you hostage.

To free up time for the proper task for you it is imperative that you know where your time is going now. Use a journal, use an app, whatever is best for you but track honestly your time spent and how it was spent each day. Do this for a few weeks (this is why most do not ever succeed here is because of the investment of truly discovering how your time is spent).

Once you have a good record of time spent look it over and see if you are giving an unhealthy amount of your time to items that pay back the least toward where God is heading? Have the courage to make the adjustments necessary to give most of your time to items that payback the most for your time.

Keep in mind, that most of the time people are wanting to add instead of subtract. The reason many have when creating time/task-management systems is for the sole purpose of just adding more into their everyday lives. Why not subtract and with what you do invest in make it those items that pay back the most for you?

What are some items you do that could be stopped?

What items pay you back the most for your time and efforts?

What will it take to stop these items and focus on the items to stay?

My method of delegation.

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The more I talk with people the more I realize delegation is not as understood as I assume. It is with this new understanding that I want to offer up the method of delegation that I have been taught over the years. I am not claiming this is original (hopefully a lot of people use these steps) and it is only one way, but it is mine and it works for me when followed.

Too often delegation is poorly executed, frustrating both the person delegating and the person being delegated to. There should be a benefit for both parties but often one or both parties feel dissatisfied.

Here is one approach to delegation:

1. Define. You need to know exactly what you are going to delegate. Don’t be vague.
2. Plan. Write down how you will present this task. List potential concerns and objections
3. Select. Which of your team has the best skills to deliver the results.
4. Explain. Tell the person why the task is important and why they are right for it.
5. Define success. Be clear about what success looks like, if possible with a measurable target.
6. Set limits. Let them know what they are accountable for and where they can get help. Don’t forget that last part. Oftentimes after delegation has started the person working on it runs into a snag and has no idea where to turn to for some help or guidance. Here is one way you separate delegation from dumping.
7. Invite doubt. Many volunteers start excited when delegated to but then feel that expressing doubt about the project or their ability is a sign of weakness. Encourage them to ask questions and assess the project on their own terms. Also take note of the previous point in number six.
8. Get commitment. Don’t expect immediate agreement. Give them time to think it over. Never rush this stage.
9. Agree. Set milestones and time lines and how you will monitor progress. Get them to suggest as much of this as possible.
10. Recognize and reward. Successful completion of a delegated project or task should mean something. Be clear from the outset how much value you place on it and reflect that in the reward you offer.

There you go, 10 steps I find useful when I want to delegate task and responsibilities

Could you be your own worse enemy?

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What habits do you have with your speech? Time? What you listen to? Where you go? Who you hang out with? Why should you be concerned with these answers for yourself? Because…

You are your habits.

One habit I have been mentored in is spending time a couple times a day is to record down throughout the day what do I do automatically. What am I repeating? Eat the same breakfast everyday, visit the same coffee shop, start my day the same, check emails each day at the same time, or take the same route to work each day etc.. You get the idea.

Once you know what you do automatically, ask yourself these 3 questions:
1. What can I cut out?
2. What do I keep on doing?
3. What can I delegate?

A lot of what you do can’t be cut out, so you don’t cut it out. But there could be some items on your list that could like for example, Scheduling breakfast appointments to only spend another time eating breakfast. Instead cut out eating breakfast at home then going to your breakfast appointment. Eat breakfast at your breakfast appointment. This may sound like a no brainer but I use to eat before my appointments in order to help me stay focused and able to talk freely at my breakfast appointments. Now I do it all at the appointments and have saved myself some time. This may not be yours but I am sure you may have some if you gave it some thought.

The question of What do you keep on doing? This is not really to stop doing all together but maybe there are some things you are doing that you could do less. Example: I use to go to Starbucks every day but Thursday. This is something that maybe I could start doing only 3 days a week which would save me the time I would normally spend there for the 3 extra days that I just cut out. Maybe you are a habitual email checker? Instead of checking it every time you get an email, turn all your alerts off and check it 3 designated times a day only.

Lastly, answering what can you delegate? Often times, our days become very bloated because we have not learned to delegate properly. Look over what you have recorded that you do and see what could really be done by someone else. Can someone else photocopy for you? Make some calls for you? Run those errands? The list goes on.

If you will learn to make asking yourself these questions, you can move from being your own worse enemy to becoming your greatest asset.

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