Too often we think that time management involves finding tricks to multi-task or get everything done efficiently. I want to suggests that time management begins with two simple understandings:
- The value of any hour I give to my ministry is largely determined by how present I am to the task of that hour. I can’t give any my attention to sermon preparation if I am constantly interrupted or if I feel exhausted.
- The number of quality hours that I give to ministry over the course of my ministry can not be added to by working more hours per week. It can only be added to by my remaining healthy, both emotionally and physically, and by my curiosity and love of the job being constantly uplifted by a joyful spirituality. Ill prepared and emotionally drained pastors rarely develop a joyful spirituality.
Obviously, our capacity to keep a regular weekly sabbath time and maintain boundaries around our work schedule impact the above two points. Reflect on this until you own it.
When you fully own it, consider developing a covenant life the following with you PPRC and congregation:
I have considered the needs of this congregation and what I know of my own personal and spiritual needs. I think the following balance will help us to have a long and fruitful ministry together. The following guidelines will be observed, unless there is a pastoral emergency (parishioner in crisis, funeral, local flood, etc.):
1) My weekly day off is ______. This day will publicized and I will inform the church secretary whenever it is changed, so that church leaders will know when not to call. If you have a regular dinner time, you may wish to list that as well.
2) I will seldom schedule myself to attend more than four evening functions per week. (This number should be reduced to three if you have school-aged children at home or a similar family obligation). This includes premarital counseling sessions and individual meetings.
3) I tend to structure my personal study, retreat, and continuing ed time as follows… I have also committed x days per year to conference work, camp leadership, mission trips, etc. These offsite periods are not to be considered vacation.
4) I will utilize the vacation time allotted each year by the PPRC and the Conference rules. This will mean ___ weekends out of the pulpit. These weeks will be publicized a month ahead so that church leaders can plan not to interrupt these recreational periods.
Verbalize your time management guidelines early and often. Don’t present them as an authoritarian fiat or pawn them off as a Conference requirement. Work to bring people on board. Admit that you did a lousy job at this before and need their help so that a year or two from now you’re not running around like a chicken with your head cut off. Enlist the support of your staff and spouse in wording your time usage guidelines and communicating them.