Information Overload: Your Key Knowledge Areas

This is the second post in a four part series on information overload loosely based on some takeaways from the book Surviving Information Overload by Kevin A. Miller (Zondervan, 2004).

You can read Part I here.

I recently finished reading this book, ironically, from the screen of my brand new Amazon Kindle while also in the midst of reading two other books, keeping up on the 20+ blogs I subscribe too, and staying afloat in a sea of social media.

One of the most important takeaways from Miller’s book is the importance of identifying your “key knowledge areas” and then sticking to those areas when determining what kind of information you consume. Part I of this series talked a little bit about how as youth ministers, we are often expected (or feel the pressure) to be “Jacks and Jills of all trades”–becoming experts on everything from social media to ancient Biblical history and everything in between.

From my experience, though, I’ve found that my “knowledge needs” tend to cycle depending on what major projects I might have going on at any one time. For example, I’ve been recently working on a couple of big projects–working with a task force on developing Safety Policies for our children’s and youth ministries (background checks, volunteer policies, etc.) and developing a strategic plan for rebuilding our senior high ministry. These two projects have significantly impacted the kinds of reading I am focusing on. I’ve found myself doing a significant amount of reading related to volunteer practices in non-profit organizations, best practices for volunteers working with children and youth, and casting vision and strategic planning.

While I was in Seminary, my “key information areas” revolved around the courses I was taking… one quarter I might be heavily focused on reading Biblical commentaries, and a couple general youth ministry books, while the next quarter I was focusing much more heavily on Worship Practices and Spiritual Disciplines.

Miller recommends identifying no more than four or five key information areas during any “season” of ministry. So, right now my key information areas would perhaps look something like this:

  1. Safety Policies & Best Practices
  2. Visioning & Strategic Planning
  3. Current Trends in Youth Ministry
  4. Youth Culture
Once our Safety Policies have been developed and that task force has completed it’s task, the information area of Safety Policies & Best Practices may be replaced by something else… perhaps Training Volunteers in Youth Ministry.
Identifying your “key knowledge areas” helps to serve as a filter as different books, periodicals, etc. come across your desk. It’s okay to shelve a book or hold off on a recommendation if it doesn’t fit into your current key knowledge areas.
Be okay with not knowing everything. Focus on what you need to know now. Filter information accordingly.

 

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