Updated: Oct 21, 2020
Ask any Senior Pastor about what needs to be done in a week and you will likely get a response that includes something such as “More than I can get done in two weeks!” With so many demands and so many people asking for the pastor’s attention, it can be overwhelming even on the lightest of weeks. Creating and maintaining a constant schedule by which one can accomplish all that needs to be done is of utmost importance. To accomplish this requires planning. For the first two years of my pastorate, I lived totally frustrated and always behind on tasks. Learning the secret to organization not only lowered my blood pressure but also brought back the joy of ministry. Using these four steps, I believe that we as Senior Pastors can become more effective in ministry.
Plan your year month by month
While the pressures of the current day are pressing on you, you must find time to begin to look at the big picture. I believe that we often cheat ourselves of the most important priorities such as family, long-range sermon preparation, and time to simply recharge. Start by looking at an entire year with a 30,000-foot overview. There are five areas on which the Senior Pastor himself must focus, as no one else in the church can accomplish these responsibilities for him. The five areas are preaching, leadership, vision, stewardship, and evangelism. While the pastor may have help from others in accomplishing these tasks, the pastor alone is ultimately responsible for these areas of ministry. Begin by looking at these five areas from a yearly and monthly view. For example, I plan a sermon-planning retreat for five days twice per year, once in the winter and once in late summer. My goal is to plan six months of sermons focusing on the text, big idea, and main points only. These two weeks are prioritized on my calendar above everything else except my family and personal vacation. I then plan staff retreats, leadership training events, and other tasks that directly relate to my five areas of responsibility. The idea is to plan a year in advance, making sure that each area and each month has been properly prepared for the year. Once this is done, I can begin to focus more on the short-term schedule.
Plan your week
Once I have planned a year out by month, I begin to look at the weekly schedule by each day. Doing so allows me to have maximum productivity and keep my priorities in balance. As a pastor, what is the most important day of our week? Of course, it is Sunday. I make sure that I am rested up and prepared to minister to the church. For me, this means preaching multiple services and then being available to counsel people on Sunday after the services. I have found that by making myself available to the church family after the service prevents many of the emergency appointments that often come up during the week. If at all possible, I schedule any pastoral appointments after church on Sunday afternoon. This allows me to remain in control of my schedule.
Monday is set aside strictly as sermon preparation day. I have no outside appointments; I focus completely on Sunday. If you have planned ahead six months as recommended earlier, you should have no problem getting the sermon totally prepared on Monday. Yes, you will edit the sermon throughout the week, but the for the most part, you should be ready to preach the upcoming week’s sermon by bedtime Monday evening, even if it is somewhat unpolished. Why study on Monday after a hard day on Sunday? First, I want to give my greatest energy to what matters most, the preaching of God’s Word. Secondly, it is amazing how much less stress there is when the sermon is completed earlier in the week.
Tuesday morning begins in the office with a weekly meeting with my Executive Pastor. This meeting, while often 2-2.5 hours long, allows me to stay in touch with all that is happening in the ministry as well as allowing me the time to offer vision, direction, and leadership to the overall ministry. Tuesday’s lunch is a great time to have lunch with an unchurched community leader or someone you are trying to reach for Christ. Tuesday afternoon is reserved for any private appointments needed with staff members.
Wednesday morning begins with preparing for leadership training with new and/or younger staff. This weekly meeting is when I mentor, coach, and help develop leaders among our team. This is part of my leadership and vision casting responsibilities. Preparing for this meeting and leading it consumes approximately half of my day. Wednesday afternoon is used for correspondence with donors (stewardship), calling members that need my personal attention, and writing hand-written notes to staff, lay-leadership, and church members.
Thursday is another great time to grab breakfast or lunch with an unchurched community leader and is also the time that I use to meet with prospects that are visiting but have not yet joined our church. My assistant schedules 30-minute appointments (with a 15-minute break in between each one) at a local coffee house. This allows me to develop new relationships with new people coming into our church. During the break between appointments, I call people that have been absent from church for seven weeks or more (our follow-up process utilizes other staff the first six weeks an attendee is absent). When I get home on Thursday afternoon, my week is done! Friday and Saturday are days off to allow myself to be totally rested and ready to minister again on Sunday.
Plan your day
By having the “big 5” (preaching, leadership, vision, stewardship and evangelism) already placed as my top priorities, I can then begin to focus on each day of the week, hour by hour. I have personally found it best to use a digital calendar with all my appointments and meetings scheduled by my assistant. But I have also found it helpful to keep an “old-school” paper day timer to help me plan my daily tasks. I have tried many different day timers but have found the Full Focus Planner by the Michael Hyatt Company to be the best. This allows me to set up my day with the most important “big 3” tasks that I must complete but also helps me think ahead to what responsibilities can be delegated to other staff and volunteers. Whichever day timer you use, it is vital that you plan your upcoming day in advance before you go to bed at night. It is amazing how in control of my day I feel when I take just fifteen minutes the night before to schedule my day. Doing this one task in advance will probably allow you to gain 20% more time in productivity.
What do you do when a funeral or other emergency come up throughout the week? Stop, reassess, and reprioritize. Remember, the goal of the schedule is not to manage you but rather for you to manage properly your time. Developing an organized schedule for maximized output is a learned activity that takes time to perfect. Learning to prepare a budget or even ride a bike did not come naturally; it took many times of failing and retrying to learn the skill and the same is true with managing your schedule. Make a commitment to get organized! Your wife and kids will thank you, your church will thank you, and you very well may extend your ministry by decades by learning to prioritize the most important tasks and responsibilities. May God bless you, Pastor, as you lead your church for Christ!
Robby Greene, Senior Pastor
Lavon Drive Baptist Church