The 5th Largest Mission Field

I recently heard that the United States is currently the fifth largest mission field in the world (third in the English speaking world), which is discussed in this article at umc.org.

That’s an incredible statement! People in the U.S. have as much (or more) access to the gospel of Jesus Christ than in other nations and yet there are so many people who are not following Christ.

As I noted last January , the UMC has named starting new churches as a goal in response to this current reality. This effort aims to “equip 1,000 church planters to start 650 new congregations” by 2012. These churches, in turn, would commit to beginning new churches within their first ten years of existence.

I think this is a great goal. Starting new churches is a necessary move. But it’s also important, of course, that established churches get involved in the mission of reaching people with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Both strategies are challenging, but both are needed in helping us make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world!

Managing Electronic Stuff

While efficiency is not as important as effectiveness, efficiency is still pretty important. And it’s something I’m always trying to improve on (I’ve written posts on task management and task management 2.0).

At its heart, efficiency is a matter of finding a system that works for you. There are no perfect systems because we’re all different. Systems are important, though; they’re simply structures, or ways of doing things (for example, Purpose Driven is a system; Five Practices is a system; Methodism began as a system, a method of discipleship).

My last post talked about our system for managing fluid schedules. Another area that I improved in the last few years is the system I use for my email, a system inspired by an article called The Inbox Makeover, which is based on the popular task management system, Getting Things Done (the book at Amazon.com).

Using this system, I am usually able to keep my inbox empty. Emails that need a quick response, I act on immediately, if possible, or if not, move them to the Respond folder for action later when I have time to knock out some quick emails. Emails that require more time/work can go into the Action folder to handle later when I have more time. Things I need to read (like newsletters) go in the Read folder if I can’t read them right away. Emails that I need to hang onto for a while I place in the Hold folder (which I go clean up occasionally).

I delete most emails after I’ve read or acted on them (I have it set up so that they stay in my Trash for one year; I figure if I don’t need to find them in a year, I shouldn’t ever need them). Some emails I may decide to keep; I place those in a sub-folder in my Archive folder. (For more on working with email, see Inbox Zero.)

The latest area that’s needing some work, though, is the organizational filing system on my computer. An article at Macworld.com describes two different approaches: (1) the organizer’s strategy and (2) the searcher’s strategy.

Up to this point, I’ve practiced the organizer’s strategy using an elaborate filing system of folders and sub-folders. My documents folder had several folders and each of those had several subfolders, etc. Because it got to the point where I was having to remember which sub-folder of which folder I saved my files in, I’m currently experimenting with a radically different approach, the searcher’s strategy.

The searcher’s strategy relies less on folders and subfolders and more on searching for keywords in the filename and/or the file. On my Mac, that simply means using Spotlight (Cmd + Spacebar opens Spotlight). The key to this approach is using good keywords in the title (of course, it helps to remember words or phrases in the actual file, as well).

I think this system will work well for me. I love using the advanced searching tricks on Google, many of which I learned from a book I perused once at a local Barnes and Noble bookstore (some of them are listed here, here, and here). When I want to look up a phone number, I use Google (I can’t remember the last time I used a telephone book). When I want to do a calculation, I’m almost as likely to use Google as I am a calculator. If I need to do a measurement conversion (like how many feet are in a mile), I use Google.

I’m just starting on reorganizing my files, and so far, I’ve set up (only) four folders in my documents folder: Archive, Leadership (work), Life (personal), and Read (which may also include temporary stuff unless I create a Temporary folder, because like my inbox, I like to keep my desktop empty!). I’ve already renamed a number of my files, moved them, and have been able to get rid of a lot of folders and sub-folders.

Most of my files will probably end up being dumped in the Archive folder. That’s where the search feature will be most helpful. My current files will be in the three other folders, which should be very manageable (as long as I move stuff to the Archive folder periodically).

Anyway, we’ll see how it goes. What’s your filing system? Are you an organizer or a searcher?

Managing Fluid Schedules

Every family has their own unique challenges. Recently, I described the challenge we face in our home with two extremely fluid schedules and the goal of being more intentional about scheduling family/couple time.

In this post, I’ll mention one tool we’ve been using for almost a year to manage our fluid schedules: Google Calendar. With Google Calendar you can set up one or more calendars and share them with others.

We set up calendars (each with a different color) for …

  • Joleen’s Work
  • Randy’s Work
  • Our Work
  • Personal & Family
  • Special Days (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.)

When one of us needs to schedule a meeting or activity, we check the master online calendar to see if the date/time is available. Because it’s an online calendar that we both have access to, we can check it from our respective church offices, our home office, or when we’re traveling with our laptops.

Managing our fluid schedules will always be a challenge, but after using Google Calendar for nearly a year, it seems to be a good tool for us, so far.

So, how do you manage the busy lives in your home?