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November 30, 2010

A Theology of Workflow

Matt Perman on how Christians should think about productivity.

Matt Perman wants to help you get your inbox to zero. He wants you to effectively multi-task, organize your desk, and schedule your day. But Perman, who blogs at whatsbestnext.com and is working on a book on productivity, is interested in more than managing workflow. Christianity Today spoke with Perman, who is senior director of strategy at Desiring God, about how his tips to manage productivity connect to theology.

Do you think Christians downplay the importance of productivity?

Yes, I think some do. Because we can think, Oh, it's not spiritual. You have to make a living and learn to do that job well. So I realized that I need to know more than theology; I need to know how to do my job well. That made me realize the importance of learning about the practical.

How does productivity fit with theology?

Theology gives significance to the practical. The practical helps advance theology. It's not that we have theology over here, here's practice, let's do these practical things that will help theology; rather, we can think theologically about the practical. That means we realize that the practical things we are doing are part of the good works that God created us in Christ Jesus to do. So when we're doing practical things, we're actually doing good works. That's a theological understanding of the things we're doing every day.

Is it somewhat an American ideal to be productive? Could you take your message to another country and communicate a similar idea?

I want to define it as getting the right things done. Sometimes that means just being with people rather than accomplishing tasks. Being productive on a Tuesday night might mean saying, I'm not going to do e-mail tonight. I'm just going to hang out with my family. Biblically speaking, productivity is about fruitfulness and serving people. So there doesn't need to be a tension between being productive and having relationships, because productivity exists for the sake of people. We need to define productivity not simply in terms of work products—get as much done as possible—but what are the things, tangible and intangible, that serve people and make life better.

This article first appeared in our sister publication Christianity Today. Click here to continue reading it. For more on productivity and office dynamics, check out the 2011 Church Office Planner and "Managing Church Calendars," an electronic training resource.

Related Tags: administration, administrators, business administrators, church, employment, executive pastors, leadership, Management, office, pastors, productivity, secretary, staff, training


In the early years of my ministry, I was told that
a church should choose the secretary with more care than
the minister---and I found that to usually be true.
God bless these dedicated, valuable servants who make
"us" look good. They are priceless "servants of God."

As an administrator for a church, I greatly appreciate your words on productivity. It is often hard to balance the extreme task nature of my job with the need to connect to people (other staff, leaders, attendees, etc.) as a member of the church leadership. Others in leadership are far more relational and people-driven than I am by nature and the pressure to always be connecting has meant many late nights, catching up on tasks after people are "in bed". :)

Getting the right things done is a great way of explaining the need for balance between the two - setting aside time for people AND time for tasks.

Thank you!!!

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