My Top 15 Ministry Hacks

Ministry is about people and the Word.  The problem is that there is all this other STUFF that happens.  So here are a few “short-cuts-to-make-STUFF-easier” (also known as hacks) to help you spend less time on STUFF and more time with people.

I should point out some of these are mine that I have been using for a while.  Others are things that other people have suggested and I am stealing their ideas and giving them no credit.

  1. Devotional life first.  This needs to be a priority.  In fact its more of a law than a hack so if it’s not, do me a favour: flatten your hand, put it behind your head and move it forward quickly.  Some of the hardest moments in my life have been more bearable because I invested here.  While this is not the primary reason, a nice side benefit is that I work more efficiently for the rest of the day when I make this a priority.
  2. Devotional life: get a plan.  The adage is true for this as well as most other things in life: “Failing to plan, is a plan to fail”.  The easiest plan is to have a reading plan to work through the whole Bible.  Start here.
  3. A Prayer Book is not just for church.   If you are seeking to develop your devotional life, including prayer, then grab a prayer book or connect to a daily collect which you can subscribe to on…..
  4. Prayer Mate is Your Mate.  One of the most useful tools I have used to organise my prayer life is the app PrayerMate.  Even though it has been recently, updated, I think it’s a little clunky, but I think is better than anything else I have used.  You can subscribe to Soma for our prayer points as well as prayer book collects.
  5. Keep You Greek Geek Going.  You know how you remember what anarthrous infinitive is?  Neither do I, but I used to.  Greek, like all languages, goes when it isn’t being used.  But Dr. Rob Plummer does a daily 2 min video exegeting one verse, called the Daily Dose of Greek.  I get an email each day from site with a link to the 2 min video.  There is also a Hebrew one, but I am not that ambitious!
  6. Overlap your 1 to 1’s.  This was one of the most popular hacks out there.  When you are doing mulitple 1 to 1’s do the same book.  You get to know it better and you can be more efficient in any preparation.  I tend to exegete a book that I will be preaching on in 6 to 12 months.  Doing this in my 1 to 1 time gives me a chance to see some of the pastoral issues I might have missed exegeting it alone.  But doing it so far out means people forget the book (or have a strange sense of deja vu).
  7. Double your 1’s.  Someone suggested to me rather than doing 1 to 1, do 1 to 2.  It means you get peer to peer training, and people don’t just see the pastoral issues they are dealing with but the other person’s as well.  You also get to do more discipleship.  But the downside is that you need 2 people available at the same time.  I have to admit it worked surprisingly well.
  8. Get Siri to write your talks.  OK, well not Siri.  We do tend to write differently to how we speak (which is why preachers are generally not great writers!).  These days there are a lot of voice to text software out there that will take what you are saying and turn it into text (and it can be faster for some).  My experience with the software so far is that you get what you pay for.
  9. Give people responsibilities and not tasks.  We all want people to ‘own’ the ministry (one day someone will explain what that means).  But giving people responsibilities enables them to place their stamp on what is happening, and allow you to take your eye off it.  Speaking of which….
  10. Give admin to people who love admin and are good at it.  Surprisingly, there are people who like doing administration.  Weird, I know.  But since most ministers hate it and take 2 hours what these people could do in 30 mins, give it to them to do.  I should point out that not all people who love admin are good at it, so you might want to work that one out.
  11. Video Playback.  Training people is important.  But helping them see what they are doing wrong can be hard for them to see, so show them.  Video what they are doing and play it back.  Most people can then see for themselves what they are doing wrong.  Hint: when training preachers, fast-forwarding will highlight any body language quirks they may not be aware of.
  12. Say what?  When?  If you don’t have a communication policy, get one.  What I mean is here is what should be broadcast, sent in a personal email, on the phone or face to face.  Too many pastoral issues have arisen because people try and short cut this and make more work.  If it’s a hard word, do it face to face, not through an email!!
  13. Snap a Whiteboard.  I thought this was a simple brillant idea.  At the end of a meeting write up what you have agreed on a whiteboard so everyone can see and agree with it.  Then take a photo and send it to everyone on the team – simple.
  14. Voice your Ads.  Adobe Voice is a great little app that helps you make short videos that look simple and good.  I make the video, export them to my photo.  Until recently it was only available on the iPad, but now as an iPhone version as well that I haven’t used.
  15. Follow Dave.  Apart from introducing me to my wife, Dave Moore’s Ministry Principles blog is one of the most useful things he has done.  It is full of more stuff like this.  Obviously I had to put this one last, or you wouldn’t have read on!

What’s your best ministry hack so I can steal that too?


Let the Word do the Work

Let the Word to the Work

Ed. Peter Bolt. Matthais Media, 2015

I don’t think there as a been a single person that God has used in the last 40 years that would rival Phillip Jensen for the effect on evangelical Christianity in Sydney.  As a preacher, writer, trainer, publisher, strategist, pastor and most of all evangelist.  So when Peter Bolt told me he was working on a book for Phillip’s retirement(1) I was intrigued as to what he would produce.

It’s not what I expected.  It’s not a biography.  Phillip is a surprisingly private person and so this is not a huge surprise.  Nor is it the bunch of essays that I have seen in the past to commemorate someone’s retirement, which is what I expected.

It’s…well a bunch of short essay/ reflections from people who have worked with Phillip in one way or another.  Many of them looking at what Phillip taught them when they were growing. And they cover a range of different topics from preaching and pastoring to the DNA of a Mid Year Conference and even thoughts on temperance and alcohol consumption in a church.

All the essays are worth reading and considering.  None of them pretend to be objective.  Some are more reflective that others (e.g. Peter Bolt’s own contribution).

But it got me thinking, why produce a book like this?   Why not a biography?  Why not a set of more objective essays?  Phillip’s answer would be what does the Bible say?

“For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you?”  (1 Thessalonians 2:19 ESV)

The best way of seeing whether ministry is fruitful or productive is to look at the people it is producing.  This book is a testament to the people that Phillip’s ministry has produced.  Hence it is exactly the right way to commemorate a milestone of Phillip’s ministry.

If you want to understand why Sydney evangelicalism is the way it is, then this is an important book to read.  If you want to see a good model of ministry then this is an important book to read.

(1) I should point out by ‘retirement’ I mean the ending of his formal ministry at the Sydney Cathedral.  He will of course continue to minister at “Two Ways to Live Ministries”.