Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Open Forum: The Home Office

Open Forum is a new POC Flavor that especially invites comments from readers.

I live in the parsonage 200 feet away from where I work. Every once in a while there's a slight overlap, but folks are actually very good about respecting boundaries and all that good stuff.

This parsonage is old school. It's one of those houses with a separate door to a room designated The Pastor's Study. So back in the day, the pastor did work from home and there was quite an overlap. Actually, "back in the day" was up until around 1992, when an office was added to the church.

The Pastor's Study is actually quite large. Bookshelves wrap around on three walls, and this because a former pastor couldn't fit all his books in the older Pastor's Study down the hall. They actually added this room because of this other guy's books. Seriously.

I have not used the Study as a study. There is a big metal desk that is basically stuck there, so I went ahead and set my old old old computer on it. Thus far, I've used it to set up my instruments and make lots of noise. It's also been a storage area. Love those shelves.

Recently I've begun to rethink my setup. I do a lot more work at home nowadays, because my computer at my church office is a glorified paperweight. So I lug liturgy books and commentaries back and forth to type bulletins and sermons on a computer that works.

I've actually enjoyed working at home, a lot more than I thought I would. I can't totally explain why, but it might just boil down to some weird mental thing of mine where I welcome a change after doing the same thing for so long.

And that's when I decided to start cleaning the Study.

I cleaned most of it yesterday. The shelves are pretty clear now, and to my sinuses' delight I've kicked up a lot of dust while vacuuming. I rearranged my instruments, I've started to replace posters with actual framed things. I cleaned the desk. I finally set up some of my He-Man figures. I even set up a coffeemaker. Now the room is starting to look like Rev. Hipster Doofus actually does work down there.

The eventual plan is to get a laptop. That way we have two computers in case Mrs. POC and I both need one, and I have more to do during my office hours at the church.

But the big question that I'm now wrestling with in relation to all of this is: do I move the books?

It wouldn't even have to be all of them. It could just be all my commentaries and liturgy stuff. It would be pretty cool to see all my books on those shelves...obviously it won't be like the former pastor's Library of Christian Congress or whatever, but it would certainly make the new workspace more cozy.

And with that comes a bigger question: what's my church office for? I'm beginning to see a shift in my thinking on this. It used to be that I saw the church office as the place where I did everything church-related. Before my office computer died, all my work was done there: studying, visits, everything. That was definitely on purpose. I hated bringing my work home. My work stayed there. The new wrinkle lately, besides needing a functional computer, has been just wanting to be home more and not caring so much about such strict boundaries. Eventually, there will be Miniature POCs running around, and trudging back and forth across the parking lot is not always going to be conducive to what I need to be doing.

My current thought is that my church office will increasingly be a place for visits and appointments, my new study space for studying and writing. I'd hate for the church office to look so bare without the books (ideally I'd like to get rid of some of the furniture and bring in a table and couch...but space is a premium over there as it is).

So all of this is to share what I've basically already talked myself into doing. But I've been combing the blogosphere looking for other pastors' stories about the pros and cons of keeping a home office. There's very little out there. I'm sure that people in other professions would have plenty to contribute here as well. If you have a home office, how do you handle it? Do you set limits on your time spent there? If you have both, what do you do in each?


Anonymous said...

When I was in the local church, several things prevented me from doing a lot of work in my office - 1.) If I was there, people would always want to talk to me and hence, prevent me from accomplishing much in the way of real, quality sermon/worship prep, 2.) It was not safe for me to me at the (inner-city) church at all hours - so when I got a sermon idea in the middle of the night (or even mid-afternoon when things quited down at the church) - I could not work on it in my church office 3.) I had an incredibly crappy computer at the church (if there would have been a nice one there, it just would have been stolen immediately - something that was learned from past experience!) and so, all this adds up to say that I used my computer at home (which was in my small apartment bedroom - which did at times lead to very mixed messages to my poor brain about boundaries) and kept all my books at home as well (in said bedroom). I always felt bad that the bookshelves in my office were rather empty - except when I could creatively come up with some decorative nik-naks (not my strongest suit!) to fill the empty shelves. Otherwise, this arrangement worked very well for me. Fridays were my day to stay at home (or at least out of the church office, for the most part)and focus (leasurely) on computer-related church work in my bedroom. So, all this long message to say that I highly recommend doing office related church work at home. :)

Anonymous said...

Ah, "the purple room." There is a room in my house that is technically my room, it holds all the books that That Guy and I have collected over the years except "church stuff." I try to do everything church related at church, including gathering material and "studying" for sermons. Then, late on Saturday night, I take all that has been gathered, and actually write at home in the purple room. But that's always kind of been my style. Oh, and we don't have internet at home, so less distractions!

Of course, the purple room is pretty messy, as it's also my craft room, and holds more yarn than one person really needs at one time, a semi-functional sewing machine, and a bunch of other stuff that doesn't fit anywhere else in the house, so it's not as idyllic as all that.

I could go on and on about my office at church - it's great for most stuff I have to do, but not visits at all - there's no where good for anyone else to sit. There are two tall bookcases, which right now have NO MORE room for books. I've been pressured to switch offices with the Christian Ed Coordinator, who is technically in the associate pastor's office, but that's another story.

Thanks for the glimpse into your office(s)!

-That Girl From Chicago

Jeff Nelson said...

"There are two tall bookcases, which right now have NO MORE room for books."

Oh yeah, that's a big part of it as well. I'm at the point where I'm stacking books on top of the rows, which is a little unsightly. The abundance of shelves in the Study would certainly solve that problem!

Anonymous said...

the first church i worked at, i lived in the empty parsonage, 40 feet from my office. i tended to spend more time at home working, rather than in the office working. but, i shared an office at this church with a crazy lady, so that may be why i wanted to stay home.

now that i live 15 miles from the church i work at, i tend to do more of my work at church. but that may be because i am now living with someone who would totally distract me from working, and i don't have much room at home for an office. plus i have a huge office to myself at the church

my next job? who knows? i'd like to think that i would strike a good balance.

Anonymous said...

Our home is less than a mile from church, but when I go home, I want to be at home and not at work. I'll bring something from church that needs to be done occasionally, and I read more at home than in my study. My computer at church is the one I had at seminary, so it has all of my files, class notes for reference, etc., on it. I'm in the camp of separating home and church. And TGFC, I remember your "Saturday night specials" ... more like "early Sunday morning specials"! Sermons, papers ... you didn't discriminate!!!! See you in a couple of weeks.


Paul said...

I guess working from home is both old and new...

Jennifer said...

so, not being a pastor (yet! fingers crossed), I don't have tried-and-true advice, but I do think that a split between study space and pastoral space would be a good way to use both and maybe get more out of them.

As for the lack of cosy books, you could keep a mini library at the church office stocked with pastoral books -- things you might lend out to people, but that aren't so critical for sermons. Books on discernment, grief, etc.

Good luck! I love thinking about spaces and how to make them useful and inviting.

Sally said...

space can be a problem- right now for me it is limited due to a full house, but when all of my tribe go off to Uni next year we are having a re-think... I reckon that I will try to seperate study and pastoral spaces- shelves of books can be intimidating.

Deb said...

When we did some basement remodeling last year, we moved stuff from our bedroom (extra books) and set up the spare bedroom as my study, which was a good thing. It meant that the piles of classwork, binders and highlighters are not precariously stacked beside the bed for me to knock over when I stumble upright (if not uprightly) to start the day. It also meant that I could LEAVE study things away from our sleeping space. It has been a good distinction.

Our present church does not have a building but rents minimal office space. The office is definitely a meeting place, a group planning space, and the teaching team uses their home base to do their writing (hours set by them and their families' needs). Most of them have their scholarly references at home, and their popular (as in informal lending library) at the office. Each person who has a cubicle does have person things in it.

Oh, and everyone uses a laptop because they sync schedules and info that way between planning partners. The only church-provided computer is a Windows 98 dinosaur that does the stewardship and membership database. (Backed up nightly on a TAPE drive!) Big expense for 2007 is buying two new juiced PCs...


raj said...

I find that regardless of what I think I will do, I do most of my writing at home. Office hours are times to be available for people to walk in, drop in, request or demand meetings or tasks, and generally not a good time to concentrate.

Reading and writing at home means that I have a home office, and when other life factors don't make it impassibly messy, I actually use it. So your division of labor makes perfect sense to me. Let us know how it goes!

Theresa Coleman said...

Hey Phil,
I have two offices, too. I'm more than 15 miles from the church, though. I use the one at home for "deep thinking" -- writing those things where I can't be interrupted. It's completely my space. I have most of the commentaries there; liturgy books whatever... about 2500 volumes of whatever at home.

At the church is an office where I can plug in the laptop for internet, nicer furniture and "decorative" books -- and books I give away. It's also where I keep all my "real art" (Last Supper stuff). It's really for just when I'm at church and counseling sessions.

But I couldn't do without that "My Space" at home. So I consider both necessary.