Being a Christian is about responding to God’s love for us by loving other people. Loving people involves being committed to them. And being committed isn’t just a nice feeling–it involves all sorts of commitments, at all sorts of different levels, to do things for people. These commitments arise out of our relationship with God, our relationships with others, our ministry roles, our promises to others, and our particular desires and motivations to see Jesus honoured in the world.
These commitments should be a joy. But so often, they can become a major source of stress, particular for Christian ministers. This stress arises especially when we don’t have a good system for managing our commitments. In that case, we can feel overwhelmed by them. Instead of rejoicing on our relationships and opportunities, we can view the commitments like wild animals, prowling around, and we’re never sure when they’re going to pounce on us.
I’ve found a system for managing commitments to be incredibly helpful. The first step in developing a system like this is capturing commitments. That means getting the commitments out of your mind (where they’re wild and scary) and into a system where they can be tamed, organised and dealt with. In the past, I’ve used various tools to do this, such as paper-based folders or note-taking tools. More recently, I’ve found Omnifocus to be an excellent tool for commitment-management. Omnifocus makes it easy for me write down my commitments, move them around, link them together, organise them into folders and structures, modify them, and then use them as the basis of day-to-day tasks. And every day, as more commitments come in or come to mind, I can easily adapt the system to cope with them. Cf. David Allen on “stalking the wild projects.”
Types of commitments
There are two types of commitments.
Firstly, there are projects. In GTD terms, a “project” is “anything you’re committed to complete that takes more than one step”. Projects can be big, like writing a book. They can also be small, like getting the car serviced (this takes more than one step because I have to book it first then take the car in on a specific date).
Secondly, there are also just general spheres of life or people you’re committed to, but which aren’t exactly “projects” that are going to be “completed”. Omnifocus calls these “single-action projects” (although the term “project” is a bit unhelpful). Examples include household chores, commitments to be a loving spouse or parent or friend, etc.
Commitments and stress
Getting all your commitments down in one systematic place is a really good idea. It helps me to love people, it helps me to be less stressed, and it helps me to be more creative (because I’m less worried about all the niggling bits and pieces in life).
But there’s a possible objection: you might feel that seeing all your commitments together might increase your stress. After all, if you wrote all your projects and spheres of life down, you might have a list with a hundred or more items in it. Wouldn’t that be overwhelming? Well–it might feel overwhelming. But if it does, you’re probably already quite stressed anyway. It’s just that the stress is under the surface. Writing all your commitments down doesn’t create stress. It just brings it to the surface. More importantly, though, it gives you an opportunity to organise and deal with the commitments.
I thought it would be helpful for me to write out all the various kinds of commitments I have captured in Omnifocus in the moment. Obviously it will be different for you. But my list might give you some ideas if you want to try to list all of your commitments. I won’t list every individual project and sphere of life here, but I will list the various areas the commitments appear in.
My general commitments fall in the following areas:
- Relationship with God: Personal prayer and Bible reading.
- Family and friends: Prayer and Bible reading with family, loving individual members of my family, extended family, friends, sharing the gospel with others, schooling.
- Household: pets, household chores, car maintenance, holidays, family health, finances, giving / charity
- Church: relationships with people, speaking God’s word at church, events, music, other rosters.
Moore College commitments
My specific commitments on the faculty at Moore College fall in the following areas:
- Pastoral care and evangelism: Chapel, preaching, leading chaplaincy group, meetings with co-chaplain, individual pastoral conversations, tutoring of individuals with particular needs, meals with students, preaching classes, running Moore
College mission team, walk-up evangelism, “Mark Drama” evangelistic event, other student events.
- Teaching (in a formal educational sense): Classes run in capacity as New Testament lecturer, conversations and emails with students, admin and setup of subjects, marking, syllabus revision, New Testament departmental admin, training and professional development.
- Supervision (of research students, undergrad and postgrad): formal meetings, reading, written feedback, marking, speaking with potential supervisees, training and professional development.
- Research and writing: Writing books, writing articles / essays, attending conferences, presenting papers at conferences, faculty presentations, keeping up language competency (ancient and modern), reading to keep up to date, chasing future ideas, advertising prior work.
- Resourcing other Christians: Talks via Moore College Centre for Christian living, speaking at conferences for churches and larger conferences, helping to promote the work of others, dealing with requests to speak, blogging, radio interviews.
- Ministry and mission partnership: Organising events for colleagues (my particular role at Moore), formal roles with particular ministry networks (currently ACL, Thinking of God, Certainty4Eternity), prayer and support with fellow faculty members, peer support with ministry colleagues, ministry mentoring, relationships with supporters, relationships with missionaries, keeping future mission opportunities on the agenda, engaging online, college alumni, helping to promote Moore in the wider community
- Other roles at Moore College: Administrative meetings, administrative roles, etc.
I also need to keep up my general support structures: health, gym, recreation, and keeping my system up to date. And of course, there will be things I’ve forgotten or haven’t yet realised I’m committed to.
Having all these commitments captured in Omnifocus helps me to deal with them and not to get too overwhelmed by it all. It’s not a perfect system, but it helps me a lot. This list might help you to create your own. It’s worth it. Capturing your commitments in a system is the first step to getting them under control.
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