If we are to discuss the value of our program we may with profit reflect first whether we have a program at all, or what kind of program we should have. The Saviour is our pattern in all things. It would be a helpful and stimulating study to observe the many times in His ministry where the imperative is implied. "He steadfastly set His face to go." "He must needs go through Samaria." Let us look at the end of His life's work. "It is finished" must be the epitaph of every Adventist minister. These words imply finality of our entrusted ministry. They imply attention to each trivial and seemingly unimportant detail. "I Have Finished the Work Which Thou Gayest Me to Do"--this is our motto.
In all our Sabbath promotion we should ever remember that the fourth commandment provides for all our time. "Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work." This is a command to work six days, before we rest on the seventh day. There is hardly any experience that compares with that of the consciousness of the completed task. If at the end of each week all our work is done, then at the end of each year the same will be true. At the end of a lifetime not merely a lifework ended, but a lifework completed, should be the record in heaven as well as on earth.
"Clerks in holy orders"—this is our official ranking, and some emphasis on the purely clerical might serve to make our ministry more effectual. A diary, or record book, is essential. The small pocket diary quite defeats its object, allowing the entry merely of headlines. The delicate detail which really makes a minister's or a Bible instructor's life worthwhile demands our most careful attention. Some will claim that they have a good memory. The Papacy, too, makes many claims. few of which are justified. I can never feel sure of the man who asserts that he has a good memory. An analysis of what we forget can be a formidable statement. Personally I found long ago that I needed all my powers of memory for acquiring facts relative to the presentation of truth. My daily and weekly program is built up week by week on paper, and these notes serve me as well as any private secretary ever could.
My last diary, with four pages to each week, cost five shillings. This served very well, but the disadvantage was that the full week was not to be seen at one glance. Also the days altered their relative positions with every new week and this, too, made for confusion. Too much space was taken in giving information which might never be needed, and besides, who wants to carry about with him continually a whole year's record?
Some kind of loose-leaf weekly sheet seemed to suggest itself, and a ruled foolscap page proved admirable to my every need. There are three main columns : (I) appointments, (2) a wide "memoranda" column, and (3) a column that bears the financial account. When at the end of the month evangelistic budget expenses, personal traveling costs, postages, and other items of cash have to be recorded, this third column works miracles in timesaving. All figures come out correct, and all because the record was made at the time of each transaction.
Planning the Quarter's Work at One Time
At the workers' meeting the Bible instructor and I are each equipped with our sheet for the week. We actually carry together thirteen sheets, which cover the quarter. Since we have a plan for visiting our membership once each quarter, these appointments and all Sabbath appointments can be set down as soon as the new quarter arrives. This plan has been the means of saving much valuable time and has saved many a needless journey.
We first note all meeting or Bible study appointments for the week. At this point our main plan is to cover each day with some profitable calls, Perhaps a day in some distant part of our field has to be planned. Here all appointments and special tasks are set down, so that the expense involved will bring in a maximum return. Our next procedure is to run through each day and where perhaps a morning may be free, to allocate a suitable group of visits of a secondary nature. By this time our weekly plan is beginning to take shape, and my own thoughts at this point are usually along the line of "This looks like an interesting week."
Next I try to place all the purely routine calls (on the press, on the bill poster or sign writer, visits to the bank and library, etc.). Times for study can fairly be inserted at this point, and these should be placed in relation to the Bible studies or sermons that may be their object. For instance, I notice by my sheet that between two-thirty and four o'clock I shall be free on Tuesday afternoon. Realizing that I shall be in the vicinity of the library, and would need to give my midweek study some preparation, I at once make a note. Later when referring to my plan as I leave home I am reminded thereby to carry with me the necessary books or notes.
The sheet as ruled has a blank strip at its base. When beginning my own plan I prefer to tear this off, and, placing it alongside my main section, I jot thereon any matters which seem to demand attention, but which at this early time cannot be set down for any day or time. As the week proceeds, these can be conveniently put into place, and always there are some items which lose their importance with the passage of time and can consequently be ignored.
Our workers' meeting never takes more than two hours, and the jottings on our weekly program are by no means the main feature. We discuss rather the needs of our work and the soul interests. There is time also for Bible study together. These points are mentioned that no one may assume that this system eclipses all else.
How the System Works in Practice
I prefer to carry with me whenever possible the full record for the quarter. One folder has served for nearly five years. On the left, held securely by a clip, are the weekly records. Behind these I always keep the quarterly preaching plan, in case it is needed for reference. On the other side I carry sermon notes and any letters or material relative to my visits. This side needs combing through at least every week, or it will become a museum.
Suppose a letter arrives from the field secretary requesting me to make a call in Amesbury. Reference to my plans shows that in two weeks' time I am due in Salisbury on Thursday. I write to him stating that the call will be made at this time. An appropriate note is made in the diary section, and the field secretary's letter, with its essential information, is placed on the other side.
Again, suppose some appointments fail or I manage to get through a morning's assignment with some time to spare. My slip, torn from the base of the sheet, is at hand, and its jottings remind me of many duties yet to fulfill. Quickly, then, I can rebudget my time and despite the disappointments of the morning can turn the time to good account.
All current tasks are carried in the right-hand portion of the file. Letters which cannot be answered at once are also placed here. Thus all duties come in for continual review, and every task appears in relation to the entire week.
Let no one assume that our presence is always to be hailed with a flourish of foolscap, or that with every contact, our files and folders are produced to make a visible booking of the next appointment. This is never done. So far as I know, my wife and Bible instructor are the only ones who know that my system does operate.
After I have set out the week's or quarter's work, and have taken the trouble to write it down, the memory needs little more help. I am able to go for two or three days at times without making reference to my plans. But the memory does not "always serve well, and I like to leave nothing to chance. We are a people of faith, and to me that means that our every word and promise should be faithfully fulfilled. It is the trivial, seemingly unimportant items that are usually overlooked. Attention to these can serve to produce a confidence that could not be acquired in any other way. Sometimes these items are of so little interest personally that memory refuses to aid. Therefore, I make a note of it!
Every good general lays his plans for the next day's attack before he snatches his few hours of sleep. Should our planning be less careful? We are marching under Prince Immanuel. At the close of the day, no matter how late I return, I try to spend a few minutes reviewing the day that has gone. Usually, with my weekly sheet before me, I take a slip of paper that will lie conveniently in my pocket wallet, and begin to set out the duties of the morrow. There may be some items still unattended to from the present day, and these are re-entered at appropriate places. All fulfilled tasks are checked off. On the small daily slip the appointments and major tasks are entered, then the many other items that may with careful planning be crowded into the time left.
Sometimes the pressure of another day can be relieved by taking some of its duties. It may, for instance, be Wednesday now, and the perspective may have altered considerably since original plans were laid on Monday. Sometimes the day ahead may have no definite bookings, but the very multiplicity of tasks awaiting can be confusing. The best plan, then, is to enter on the daily slip every possible duty. When quite sure that none has been omitted, I carefully look them through and plan their execution, adding a number alongside each in the order in which they will be attended to.
This plan has saved much valuable time. It is easier to visualize the new day when seated quietly at home than to try to organize it when in the heat and haste of action on the morrow. And, besides-, all our brain power will be needed to deal with the interviews of the day without being unnecessarily burdened in trying to remember just who is to be seen and what has to be attended to.