Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Organized Pastor -2

The Filing System--part 1: Biblical Passages

Since college, I have used essentially the same filing system. Sometime during college, I took hanging files and made one file for each book of the Bible. I then have a second set of files for various topics. This filing system has expanded. It now contains three sets: (1) Books of the Bible; (2) Topics; (3) Church work (e.g. committee minutes, meetings, etc.).

With respect to the books of the Bible, I started the files so that I could save my work product on books of the Bible. If I read an article that is a particular exegesis of a particular set of verses or book of the Bible it goes into the file. Any exegetical papers I wrote in college get there own hanging file organized by reference. In those files I have saved the file product as well as the research.

Some books of the Bible have been expanded. My Romans file included one file just on articles plus another file on work product, all of which I have subsequently reorganized into four files divided up by chapters in Romans. Sermon series get their own file so that I can archive sermons but I don't have to wade through them to find research. Any Sunday School series get there own file too so that I can archive lesson handouts. The research for sermons and Sunday school material stays under research.

So this summer I started preaching in Exodus. I began by collecting a number of essays, including some that I already had on the historicity of Exodus. I pulled my Exodus file. Since I was collecting work, I've expanded the files.

There is now the original Exodus file that has general work product and some notes from Bible college when we surveyed the book. I have a collection of essays on particular sections. All the files begin with "Exodus:" and the various subfiles include:

  1. 'Origin, Birth and Call of Moses' -which is roughly chapters 1-4 but includes issues like the Sargon narrative in the ANE.
  2. "Date and Archeology"--dealing with issues of historicity and a series of debates in JETS over the early vs. late dating of the Exodus.
  3. "Tabernacle" --I'm collecting essays and exegesis of the Tabernacle section.
  4. "Literary Structure" --self explanatory. This has treatments of larger portions of Exodus.
  5. "Chapters 5-13: Plagues, Passover, etc."
  6. "Chapters 14-15"
  7. "Chapters 32-34"
  8. "Ten Commandments" Only a treatment of the Ten Commandments in Exodus. Any generic treatments go under the topics: "Ten Commandments."
  9. "6:3"
  10. "Sermon series summer 2009" --just an archive of the sermons after I preach them. Although stand alone sermons are not in this file.
Few of my files are this extensive. Most are just a single book. That is how "Exodus" began. It has a collection of about 5 essays or so and no work from any exegetical papers. Once I started doing research, the files quickly expanded and were reorganized. In preaching Exodus, I will be able to quickly find the files that relate to a section of the text. Right now the sub-folders has largely been determine by the essays I collected and the twelve part sermon series I planned this summer through Exodus.

As I prepare for preaching I may have to pull some topics. For example: "Passover", "Sabbath," and "Ten Commandments". This are in topics because they deal with the issues. They may touch on Exodus but they are not primarily exegetical work. One odd ball is under abortion I have "Abortion: Exodus" in my topical files. This has some papers on Exodus 21:22-25. I filed these under topics because I figured most times I'd be discussing the text with reference to abortion. I want a quick way to remember that I have essays on Abortion and Exodus. I want to be able to remember that this is an important text in Bible in relationship to Abortion. Typically it would have been filed in the 'Bible files' but this is an exception. It is filed under the Topic: Abortion, with a subtopic: Exodus; the other option would have been to file it under Exodus and just put a post-it note under 'Abortion'.*

Let me try to give one more example on a less lengthy book: Galatians.

In my files I have:
  1. "Galatians" --this is the original file which has translation work and articles.
  2. "Galatians Scholarly Articles"--when I started to amass essays and journal articles, I began a larger file. Admittedly these two files need to be broken down or a little more organized but since I'm not in the book right now, it can wait.
  3. "Galatians: Bible Study" --this is actually some misc. lesson in Galatians that I've done as stand alones or in various series. Those done in series are probably double filed under a topic.
  4. "Galatians 4:1-7" --work product and final presentation of a paper I did in college including all journal articles related to it.
  5. "Galatians: Youth" --this is a series of handouts from when I taught through the book.
Again, organization has to be about being able to retrieve the information and it has to be something that "works" for you and, I might add, is easily explainable. It may work for you to pile things in one file (or on your desk) but that is hardly easily explainable. Of course, any study in Galatians will need to access my files on "Pauline Studies" and "Pauline Studies: New Perspective" etc.

I may have violated my own easily explainable rule here but I've tried to give you some detail. The advantage I find in my system is I don't spend too long wondering where something is. Want info: just ask (1) is it a topic or on a particular text? (2) What subfolder (if any) does it fall under. Something obviously don't have sub-folders yet.

So there is a great essay by Karen Jobes on Paul's use of the Old Testament in Galatians 4, with the notoriously difficult allegory. I've read it before but where did I file it? Well it is under Pauline Studies? It could be under my "Use of OT in the NT"--no it is a treatment of a section of the text so look under Galatians: scholarly articles. I checked my files just before typing this and there it was--I find it in less than 30 seconds. **

So just to recap: the files are in three categories: (1) Biblical Files; (2) Topical Files; and (3) Committees/Work. If I want an issue I start under one of those categories. This allows me to find things without wading through mounds of files--reading labels endlessly and searching through the filing system. Theory goes under "Topics" whereas decisions and ministry minutes, etc. goes under committee work and it easily distinguishable. The Biblical files are broken down according to usage and need--easily expanding as I collect things. Work product is kept separate from final product so that I can keep data without wading through Bible lessons or sermons that may not be reusable in a new context. The exegetical work of others is easily accessible without wading through my own meager endeavors.

It's what works for me.


*I have toyed with the idea of interconnecting various files, topics, etc. in this way, but I have not had extensive opportunity to do this. I am not going to cross link things until (a) I actually file new things or (b) I am research a topic.

**Note: it might have been double filed under "Use of OT in NT" because I may have wanted to remember that if I was ever studying the topic. I checked and it wasn't. Only occassionaly do I double file and that's when I am stumped about something's true topic.

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