Pastors (well, many if not most of them) do love to study, read, write, and pray. The location and set-up of their space for such ministries becomes a fairly important issue, the longer ministries goes on.

What goes in to making a pastor’s study an effective place to work?

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A place that is relatively quiet. I don’t know any ordinary pastors who can have a completely quiet place to study or work, but relative quiet is something essential for considerable thought and consistency of work. I don’t study at my church office because it is rarely quiet and not the best set-up for significant study. You would think that a house of two toddlers and two infants might be more noisy, but in reality, it’s not really all that bad, so at this time my home office is the best place for me to do significant study. My church office is set up and designed more for administration and meetings. My home study, however, was put together with reading and study in mind. The furniture and arrangement are all set up for study.

A desk that you can spread out on. I have a desk in my home study that I’ve had for over twenty years. It is very large, allowing me to stack books, spread out papers, and arrange my study tools exactly how I desire them. I use two flat screen computer monitors for my virtual desktop giving me a significant amount of screen surface area. I keep a coaster, a phone connected to my office system (VoIP), and a small lamp. That’s it. The space is maximized for study. My church office desk is much smaller, better for sit down meetings, small amounts of paper work, and displaying photos of my family.

A dedicated place to read. I do like having a chair (not my desk chair) for reading. When in seminary, I had a perfect, 70s-green recliner I picked up for free somewhere that was the place I could kick back and do some significant reading. A number of years ago, I changed to a newer recliner that has arms wide enough to stack the books I am currently reading. It’s the perfect place for reading.

Adequate shelf space. Is there really ever enough shelves? My church office is where I have the majority of my books. I keep those books I am currently reading and the majority of books I have yet to read at my home study. I have a two large book cases to house my home study volumes.

Accessible file storage. Even though much of my filing these days is more electronic than paper, I still keep up two large file cabinets at home and two horizontal file cabinets at the church. The office contains primarily administrative files and home contains immediate ministry files, and topical issues that might prove helpful for sermon material.

A place to meet comfortably. This is primarily at church for me. We have a large and small conference room where pastors can hold meetings, and my office is set up for more personalized meetings.

A great chair. At home I use a Herman Miller Aeron Chair. It is the best one I have ever used for long hours of study behind a desk. My office has a nice padded chair that fits the look of the rest of the office.

Efficient computer space. More than ever I use a computer to study, write, even make calls, and keep up with people. In the past, desktops could take up considerable space. But now, I use an all-in-one desktop with an additional screen beside it, so it takes up little room while still providing a ton of screen real-estate. I prefer a wireless keyboard and mouse that can hide away on a tray underneath my desk. At my church office I use a notebook and a second monitor to connect to it. The desk is smaller than what I have at home, so a notebook fits perfectly.

A personally pleasing atmosphere. I think it is safe to say that while they are different in many ways, my home and church office reveal much about what I find pleasing to work in. I love the brightness of my church office for meetings and lighter administration, while the darker atmosphere at home fits my tastes for reading, writing, and study.

While all of this is temporal and really not all that important in the grand scheme of things, I do find my offices to be very helpful in staying focused, on task, and accomplishing important ministry such as sermon preparation, counseling, and administration. If you have the opportunity, taking the time to carefully think through your workspace can help you work more efficiently.

Thursday I’ll put up some video of both of these offices.

See Matt Perman’s articles on how to set up your desk.

For a look at the studies of some of the extra-ordinary pastors, see the videos from the Together for the Gospel Vimeo site.

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