Let me tell you a story about a near failure.
I was a ministry intern at my dream organization when I was right out of college. I landed my dream assignment inside of this ministry as well. I respected the director more than almost anyone else in the world.
And I dropped a serious ball and failed to pull off a key event.
It wasn’t intentional, it was my own lack of organization.
I prided myself on creativity and innovation, but I lacked in organizational and practical skills.
At the end of a “come to Jesus” conversation, my boss told me “Chad, you are an incredibly gifted person who can go tremendous distances and excel in ministry, but your lack of organization is your own worst enemy.”
It was at that moment I began researching productivity, time management and self leadership. It will be a journey for the rest of my life.
A year ago I launched the Productive Pastor Podcast. One of my own personal ministry values is sharing and resourcing, so I am privileged to lead this community and share with them.
Here are the 5 key ways I have found in the last year to be a productive pastor.
1. Know your call
What has God burdened on your heart? What has God called you to do through the wisdom and authority of other people? While we will all of seasons where we have to just get the job done, a ministry life drastically different from the called life will be miserable. It will just be work.
So accept evaluations, ask for goals to be set alongside your areas of giftedness by those in authority over you. Realize the 20% of your work will provide for 80% of your effectiveness. Then do whatever you can do to place priority on the time you are able to spend in those areas.
2. Know where you are going
Too many times in life people practice “Ready, Fire and Aim” instead of “Ready, Aim, Fire.”
Instead, begin taking intentional steps towards vision and strategy. Learn what it looks like to set goals leading you (and your organization) towards a preferred future. Remember, 80% of the time you will be taking care of the day to day, but having the knowledge of what is absolutely important will help guide your time. It equals out to around one workday a week. I choose to spread this out across the week.
3. Know where you spend your time
One of the most important things to me are agreed upon goals and priorities. This has to be done with a team of people. This isn’t just about accountability but about full ministry ownership.
I then track my time to make sure I am not wasting any time. I also track my time to show those in authority over me how the organization might also have some divergent paths. This can show new areas of ministry which need to be considered and prayed over or it can show issues consistently hijacking staff and resources.
4. Schedule, schedule, schedule!
I am notorious for double booking and forgetting things (just ask my wife). The only way I am able to avoid this is to schedule my life without question and defend the calendar. It allows me to stay focused on what is important but also provides a framework for when crisis and care need to take precedence (I call these time bombs, but a good friend reminds me how often these are the real moments of ministry). The schedule lets you pick up right where you left off. It also really assists when you are single pastor staff and have to take care of many different things simultaneously.
This is possibly the most nonnegotiable item on my calendar. When stressful seasons come about, I make sure Sabbath happens. I personally need it. If I am not worth anything, how can I expect to adequately pastor?
My theology of time management springs from Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:16. I want to make the most of my time and every opportunity to be exactly in the center of God’s will and call in my personal life and ministry. I naturally can take myself out of this. Time management in ministry isn’t about getting things done, but participating in what the Holy Spirit is doing in our communities and ministries and making sure we have the best energy, resources and time to spend.