I have been working in ministry since the late 1970s and have learned a lot from others as well as my own mistakes. Ministry is hard work but sometimes we make it even more difficult because of mistakes we make, due to misconceptions we have about scheduling our time. Here are the five most common scheduling mistakes I see from Senior Pastor’s calendars.
1: Taking Monday Off
Taking Mondays off is a sign that there are probably two big issues are going on in your life. You are out of shape, and your time off isn’t working for you.
You’re exhausted because you are not at your goal weight and you eat poorly. Hey, I have been there too! We don’t understand the importance of sleep, stress management, and investing in the future by taking creative time off.
2: Taking Off One Day a Week
The solution for exhaustion on Mondays is taking two full days off a week on Fridays and Saturdays so you can do the fun and interesting stuff you keep putting off. I learned this by working with two different pastors. At first I did not understand it but…
Everyone in your congregation takes two full days off a week. So should you. I’m talking NO sermon prep. NO church calls. NO emails, social media, or church meetings. NOTHING.
We don’t write sermons well when we’re exhausted.
Get out. Invest the creative energy needed to plan days where you can do the amazing things there are to be done in a 60-mile radius of your house. Make a list for the year and check them off one by one. Put them into your calendar. Actually make appointments for them.
If someone convinced you to start a Saturday night service, and you’re now seeing the errors of your ways, stop it! Most Saturday night services are focused on the short-term. We need to focus on the long play.
The health of you and your staff is more important in the long-term than adding another 200-400 people to your church.
3: Staff Are Allowed To Choose Their Days Off
Another common problem I find is that Senior Pastors take one day off (usually Monday or Friday), and the Worship Pastor takes another day off (like a Thursday). When you allow that, you miss two full days of collaboration a week.
Staff members taking off “whichever day works best for them” is something you see in highly unproductive staff cultures. This is most common in unorganized churches under 200.
If you want to lead your church to break the 200, 400, and 600 barriers, you must change this. You are carrying over bad habits from a previous size and culture. Everyone must take the same two days off, except your support staff.
For those concerned about “an emergency happening while everyone is off,” you must realize that this is a mindset issue, not a reality issue. In 40 years of ministry and serving people connected to our church, we’ve not had one problem that caused us to rethink this strategy. Equip your support staff to be able to discern what a real emergency is or not. Provide support staff responses ahead of time, and if you absolutely must, place a “pastor on call.”
4: Your Work Week Begins Tuesday
Emotionally speaking, most Senior Pastors “begin” their work week on Tuesday and end it on Sundays. They lie low Sunday afternoons and Mondays, then kick back up again first thing Tuesday. Whether this is actually how you view your week, or how it feels on a week in and week out basis, I’d like to change that.
You should be so refreshed by your time away on Friday and Saturday that you blast through the gate preaching on Sundays. Sunday afternoon you throw yourself into planning your entire week. Then you hit it hard first thing Monday.
The most practical way to make this shift is to change your calendar in Google so that your “weekly view” begins on a Sunday. That way your days off will be at the end of the week on the right.
Why is this important? You need to get all your work done by the end of your week (Thursday night). Then you can invest in yourself and your family on Fridays and Saturdays.
5: Important Activities Scheduled for Late In the Week
Hold in one hand your list of priorities and in your other hand your list of available time slots for work. Now, rank these in order of “most productive time slots” to “least productive time slots.”
Now take your highest priority and place that task in your most productive time slot. Then do the same with your second priority, and your second most productive slot. Do that until you have no more available time slots left.
If you’re like most Senior Pastors, when the exercise is over you’ll have a long list of things you “thought” were important, for which you have no available time to fulfill those tasks. They must be delegated or discarded.
For instance, most Senior Pastors start their number one task (speaking) too late in the week. The reason this happens is they aren’t taking two days off the week prior and aren’t in great shape. Once we address those issues, Monday and Tuesday mornings will become your most productive time slots. That’s where you insert sermon writing. Get your sermons done by Tuesday at noon.
Why? Because the farther removed you are from your days off, the more you move from your most rejuvenated state to your least.
If you don’t schedule your highest priorities first, your work will always be misaligned with your energy flow. Match your highest priorities with the time of the week when your well is the deepest.
As I mentioned at the beginning, ministry is hard work, physically as well as emotionally. Scheduling the important things correctly will lead to less stress, better health and more productivity.
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