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Time Management for Busy Pastors, Part 4
Every pastor becomes prone, at times, to boredom and sloth. A good time management system helps pastors to push through those times.
Time management is a discipline to grow into. Very few pastors are naturally gifted with the ability to tightly schedule their week. And very few pastors have too little to do. There is always something that can be done. But when it comes to time management, no one will do this for you. In fact, most churches will assume you are well-disciplined and ordered in your week. If you’re not, when those cracks turn into fissures, you will find yourself under water with those who expected you had things under better control than you did.
Time management is also a way for you to be accountable to your church, who pays you for rendering religious services to them. Yes, as a pastor you are very much a shepherd over the people you serve. But, as a “worker deserves his wages” (1 Timothy 5:18), you need to be worthy and deserving of what you are paid. Pastors who spend more time checking email and watching sports clips than praying for their people and preparing lessons need to question their callings into ministry.
Every pastor becomes prone, at times, to boredom and sloth. A good time management system helps pastors to push through those times, while being highly focused and productive most of the time.
That is why I encouraged you, in the first part of this series, to create a time map that revealed to you how you spent your time. Then, using the first building block of my system, you scheduled your week so that you knew exactly what you needed to do and approximately when you would do it. In the second building block, I had you look back at your week and build in some margin each day, ensuring that you have time in your schedule for the inevitable interruptions and emergencies.
Did you do those exercises? If not, I strongly encourage you to do so before continuing on with this series.
Building Block #3: Plan your week with scheduled time for long term thinking and planning
In this third building block, I recommend that you plan your week with scheduled time for long term thinking and planning. Ministry can move quickly, with a lot of speed. It's important to carve out time each week to think strategically and prayerfully about the long term aspects of what you’re doing.
Pastors can get caught up in how quickly things are moving around us. As the old saying goes, Sunday comes around every week. Pastors have to prepare at least one lesson every week. This rolls around like clockwork. It doesn't matter how busy you are, whether you spend several days at the hospital, or had to help with multiple emergencies during the week, that Sunday lesson is still going to roll around! If you are focused only on the short-term, day-to-day of ministry, you'll never find an opportunity to build in time and space to think more strategically about your work, your ministry, and your church. I encourage you to build this time into your week.
I'm not recommending that you do this daily, but I do suggest that you find two to three hours a week where you can get by yourself and think, apart from distractions. This could be one hour three times a week, or maybe you can block out two hours Wednesday after lunch for this. I recommend that you leave your office for this, because your office is a place where you'll be tempted with the distractions of computer, phone, and the sense of urgency that always exists in a church office. Take a notebook, your Bible, and a pen and find a quiet place like a coffee shop or a hiking or walking trail. Plan to take two or three hours when you do this.
During this time, begin with prayer and ask God to speak into your life, your ministry, and the life of the church. Then, just listen, think, and pray as you sit and drink your coffee or as you walk a trail. As you pray through what's happening in you and in the life of your church, think through such things as recent conflicts, good things that are happening (and ask God why those things are happening), or the upcoming season and plans you've made. Pray and think through other things such as the trends you're seeing in your church and what might be next for the church. These are the kinds of questions you want to ask as you are going through this exercise.
Schedule some time to get away by yourself away from distractions and begin thinking and praying long-term about what it is that you want the church to be doing and what God is doing through you and in the church. Make this a weekly activity to find the best growth in it.
Let’s circle back to the conversation I had with my friend. When he sat down and did these exercises, he was able to chunk down sermon prep to specific tasks on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. He scheduled a final review for Saturday. He was hospitalized on Wednesday afternoon. He recognized that he was often still feeling the effects from Sunday, so he looked at Monday as mostly and administration day. He planned his staff meeting for Thursday evening. He was able to look at the rest of time and calendar space he had available, and he realized that if he began to follow these building blocks he would have to meet with a couple of church members every week for coffee or for lunch. He put a task in his calendar for Sunday to plan these appointments as he saw folks at church, and he blocked out time for appointments on Tuesday and Thursday. His final move was to block out Tuesday morning for long-term planning, and that he would just leave his house and go for a long walk before he went to the office.
If you recognize the value of these three building blocks, you will realize how a little bit of planning will help you accomplish all of your tasks while leaving space to meet with people and deal properly with interruptions and emergencies.
I’d love for you to try this system for a month, then get back to me with your thoughts about how it went. Contact me through one of the methods below, or simply reply to this email, and tell me about your experience.
As always, let me know how I can serve you in this.
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