The pastor is journaling; he finds it tough to stay with it.

A friend texted to ask if I would talk about how a minister with a full-time congregation can discipline himself to do a daily journal.  I’m not sure I’m the one to ask, for a good reason.

When I began keeping a journal, back in early 1990, I was between churches.  Long story told elsewhere, but with a 12-month paid leave of absence I had time on my hands.  Knowing that at the end of August 1990 my income would end and finding that pastor search committees were afraid of me–“If he’s so good, why is he available?”–I made a decision to journal.  I figured someday I would look back and wonder what I was thinking during this time.  So, I bought a hard-bound book and started writing each evening. Where to find those books? Barnes and Noble.  Hobby Lobby.  Even Wal-Mart.

Now, since I was unemployed, I had time for this and did not need the discipline my friend seems to need.  In September 1990 when I began pastoring in metro New Orleans, I found it relatively easy to stay with the program since I had formed the habit.

So, what follows will only partially answer my friend’s question.  But this is what I’ve come up with on the subject of “pastoral journaling.”  Hope it helps.

  1. First, find a good reason for writing a journal. Without this, you probably won’t stick with it.
  2. Find some interesting subjects you want to write about (see #8 below). Bear in mind that you can always add to what you’ve written, particularly if you’re using a Word document.  (When I started, laptops were not an option and I used the old- fashioned pen and book.)
  3. Decide for whom and to whom you are writing.  At first I was writing for some future version of myself.  Then, I read one day that a journal is primarily for one’s grandchildren or even beyond.  We are writing for history, in a way. The line from Psalm 102:18 fits here: This will be written for the generation to come, that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord. 
  4. At first, you may not have any idea what may become of this journal. So, don’t worry about it.  In my case, I ended the journal sometime around the year 2000, as the 56 books were filling all the space available.  Eventually, since the library at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary will be receiving all my “papers,” they will own these volumes too.  What they do with them is anybody’s guess.
  5. Don’t let journaling be burdensome.  Enjoy it.
  6. Get your wife to support you in this.  Discuss with her the best way for her to encourage you, whatever that ends up being.
  7. Find a secure place to keep the books.  This is private information and not to be on shelves in the living room, yet you will want access to it.
  8. Little by little, decide what you want to include and what to omit. Here are some suggestions, based on what I did.  Write about–

–Who you talked with today

–What you did today

–Anything that is stressing you or causing you anxiety right now

–What your family members are going through

–Anything happening in your family you will want to remember.  The decade of the 1990s saw most of my eight grandchildren being born.  So, if they wanted to, they could pick up one of these journals and read about their birth.

–Talk about the deacons meeting or the church business meeting, particularly if it causes you grief or concern.  You’ll want this for the future.

–Write about what you did wrong in the last church or could have done better

–Talk about lessons you learned from each church you pastored

–On Saturday, write out the essence of tomorrow’s sermon.  Write the illustrations in more detail.  Do not assume you will remember that great story.  Tell it all.

–List what you are praying for these days.

9. Go back occasionally and read past posts.  Make decisions on what you need to do differently or better from now on.

10. Write about Scripture you are studying and the things you are learning.

11. Write about books you are reading, and not just the religious ones.  If the content is worth your time, something in it will more than likely be worth keeping.

The word journal comes from jour, the French word for “day.”  It gave us journey, the trip of a day.  The restaurant’s menu may feature the soup du jour.  The point being: Tell us what you did today!  And have fun doing it.

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