Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I was talking with a potential young pastor recently, and the subject turned to teaching. He asked me if I would mind sharing with him how I put a message together. He approached his request very cautiously, almost as if it were a trade secret. Of course I told him about the process I go through each week (which, by the way, I explain in detail in a course through CTK called Connecting the Dots). But one of his key follow-up questions was how I was able to recall various analogies, quotes or illustrations I might use in a message, what I call (TPOV - teachable points of view). I told him, "I don't. " It's all in a file somewhere," and I encouraged him strongly to begin his own filing system.

We are all exposed to plenty of TPOV on a daily basis. They key is capturing this material and filing it in a way that you can access it when you need it. You hear a funny remark on the radio and you think, "I'll have to try to remember that." You hear someone share something from their life and you think "I should probably right that down." You read something in a magazine and you think "Wow, that would work well in a message some day." But unless you write it down and file it, all of these great TPOVs are lost. If, however, you become disciplined about writing and filing these TPOV, you will be richly endowed with plenty of colorful material when you need it.

I have an alphabetical file system by topic. If I read an article about raising difficult kids, I might file that under "Children" or "Parents." I simply write the topic in the margin and pull the page (if a magazine) or photocopy it (if a book). If I don't already have a file by that name, I create one. If I want to cross reference a file, I simple put a 3x5 card in the other file (for example, if I filed the article under Children, I might put a 3x5 card that says "Children" in the Parenting file). Pretty simple really. Over the years, I have built this system to where I know have 16 full file drawer cabinets, A-Z. You can do the same thing. Start now.

Everyone knows Alan Lakein's classic mantra, "Handle each piece of paper only once." Good advice, although if you were to see my desk right now you'd be asking me to practice what I preach. Instead of letting things pile up there are four things that you can do with a piece of paper, that spell FART (this should be memorable):

File it

Act on it

Refer it (give it to someone else)

Toss it

Once you begin to FART you will feel so much better. (If you've read this far and think this is funny, please reply. This will be a good test to see how many people are actually reading this stuff.)

Filing well can give you a big advantage over those who don't. After all, success is not usually found in doing something that no one else can do. It is usually found in doing something anyone can do, but doesn't.

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