stop remembering

I never eat at Steak & Shake. I don’t know remember why, and I no longer care. But I know that I don’t eat there.

I have a vague recollection of a series of dissatisfying dining experiences there. It wasn’t the atmosphere or service and certainly not the milkshakes. But the food–all of it–seems to disagree with me. For a while I’d just go long stretches in between eating there, just long enough for me to forget why I didn’t want to eat there. I’d eventually go back with the background sensation that I didn’t want to be there. So one day I made the rule: don’t eat at Steak & Shake, even if you can’t remember why.

I’ve developed a trick like that for youth ministry. It’s a little more developed than that, naturally. “We just don’t do that” won’t satisfy even the most understanding youth mom. At some point a few years ago I got tired of repeating mistakes, of experiencing that deja vu moment of “I think I remember hating this last year.” So here’s your tip: For any and every event on your calendar, no matter how big or small, create a “read-me” file. This works best for recurring events, but it’s good for one-offs too, just in case you ever do it again.

For most events, this trick will take a year to be useful. Your read-me file should contain an overview of the event, any known pros/cons about facility use, potential conflicts with other programs, etc. Immediately after (or even during) the event you can load up Future You with knowledge from Current You–things that worked great, ideas that bombed, unexpected costs, etc. When the event rolls around again, you open the read-me file first before anything else. It will change your existence.

Beyond the benefit to you, whoever follows you in ministry will thank you. There’s nothing worse than coming into a new job staring down an longstanding event you’ve never heard of. Read-me to the rescue! It can even let you easily pass off events if you’re suddenly called out of town or get sick. Do make sure that you’re not writing in abbreviations or key words you think you’ll understand later–you won’t. And neither will anyone else! Write in complete sentences.

So if you’re tired of forgetting the details of recurring annual events, do what I do–stop remembering instead.