Ministry is a full plate. And sometimes it can be overwhelming. Counseling session here. Sermon prep there. Develop some leaders here. Board meeting there. Future planning here. Staff coaching there. Volunteer coaching here. The list, as you know, can go on and on. If you feel like you struggle to get the most out of your day, I understand. With all of these moving parts and constant shifts, progress can seem impossible to attain. But…
There is a way. There is a way to get more out of your day. It takes intentionality. It takes grit. And it takes a willingness to be biblical about the way we do ministry. Let’s dive in.
Struggle to Get the Most Out of Your Day? 5 Steps to Change That
Step 1: Do Biblical Ministry
In Ephesians 4, Paul shows us what our role as church leaders is supposed to look like:
11 And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 equipping the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.
Do you see it?
We are called to equip the saints for the work of ministry. Yes, we’re called to make disciples – just like every Christ follower is called to do. But in addition, we’re called to train, coach, equip our congregation to do the work of ministry.
Because every local church is the body collectively. What do I mean by that?
In other words, a local church is not being the body of Christ if the only one who is doing the work of ministry is the paid staff.
Just think about what a difference this would make in your context. Imagine 70, 80, 90% of your local church serving Christ in their areas of giftedness.
How to Make the Shift
Two big things:
- Teach this. Preach this. Cast vision for what your local church could do if it began to truly be the body of Christ collectively.
- Stop doing everything. Identify, develop, train, and release your congregation to do the work of ministry. Things should begin to move slower when you’re doing this right. It might be easier to just get that thing done yourself, but your five minutes of convenience is costing your church greatly. [tweet that]
When you’re not the one doing all the work of ministry, imagine how much more you can do by doing less.
Step 2: Have the Right Productivity
Productivity for productivity’s sake is like spinning your wheels and thinking you went somewhere. [tweet that]
If you’re someone who is task-oriented, you’ll default back to this if you haven’t decided on what your priorities are. Without direction beyond this week, you’ll continue to run in the mud while thinking you moved the ball down the field.
But if you want to do this right, you’re going to have to zoom out. A lot.
Here’s What I Recommend:
- Get your leaders together for a day-long (at least) vision retreat. Schedule it a month or two out and ask them to begin praying and fasting. Ask them to seek the heart of God and ask Him what He is calling your congregation to in the next 3-5 years.
- Grab the book, God Dreams by Will Mancini and read it as soon as possible.
- Use that book as a framework for the structure of the vision retreat.
Here are your goals:
- As a leadership – through much prayer – put on paper what you believe God is calling your congregation to in the next 5 years (depending on how long the congregation has been around, this could be closer to 7-10 years).
- Identify four actions that must be implemented in the next 3-7 years to see that vision come to life.
- Identify what your intermediate reality (2-5 years from now) must look like in order to be on your way to seeing that long-term vision become a reality.
- Determine four actions that must be implemented this year in order to see your intermediate reality come to fruition.
If you do this, you get…
Priorities that are connected to a bigger story and a bigger vision. In other words, this gives you a map that connects today to 5-10 years from now.
But this can be hard…
Because you and your leadership team will have to say no to some things to be able to focus on the most important things.
Can you imagine seeing how your actions today are connected to a bigger vision for your congregation? That’s what it means to keep your why in front of your eyes.
Step 3: Do Deep Work When You’re Most Energized
When are you the sharpest?
Whatever that time is, that’s when you should aim for getting your deep work done. And by deep work, I mean sermon prep, sermon writing, major projects, etc.
Deep work is the work that requires full focus and deep thinking.
Too often, we fit our most important things in around the things that are already scheduled (more on that in the next step). Instead, we need to step back and figure out when we operate with the most energy.
For me, that’s in the morning. By the way, I highly recommend becoming a morning person. You can make the switch. I did.
Maybe for you, you’re most energized in the afternoon.
Once you’ve identified your “when” do everything in your power to make that time your deep work time.
And that leads us right into step 4.
Step 4: Calendar Your Most Important Work
I don’t know about you, but my life is on a Google calendar (many calendars, actually).
But did you know?
You can set appointments with yourself!
So, instead of looking at that open time in your calendar when someone asks to meet with you (when that time was really supposed to be for sermon prep), block off your most important work in your calendar so that your meetings are scheduled around your most energized times.
Now, that’s not to say that ministry is as predictable as a recurring weekly event in your Google calendar. I know it’s not. So sometimes there has to be some shifting in the calendar. And that’s okay.
But the shiftiness of ministry is often an excuse for approaching the week without a plan at all. And that’s no bueno. [tweet that]
The Ideal Week
One thing I’ve been using this year is Michael Hyatt’s Full Focus Planner. I love it. And one of the most powerful things it has inside it is an ideal week worksheet. He has you lay out your ideal week so you know what it would look like without emergencies.
Whether you use a planner, a Google calendar, or a combination of the two (what I recommend), the point is to set appointments for your most important work.
What you schedule is what you get done.
Step 5: Take Into Account Your Season of Life
All of these steps would be incomplete if we ignored our season of life. When you have kids at home, every evening shouldn’t be spent out of the house. When you’re single, have at it.
Boundaries are important.
Most times, what someone thinks is an emergency isn’t an emergency at all.
Many times, today’s crisis is tomorrow’s afterthought.
And I don’t mean that from our perspective, but from the perspective of the people who possess the crisis.
So set up appropriate boundaries, work hard, and give as much intentionality to your family as you give to the church you lead.
A Final Word
15 Pay careful attention, then, to how you live—not as unwise people but as wise— 16 making the most of the time, because the days are evil. – Ephesians 5
What this all boils down to is this:
Be intentional with your time and make the most of it.
Brandon Kelley is a pastor at The Crossing on the east side of Cincinnati. He is the managing editor of Ministry Pass, co-founder of RookiePreacher.com, and the author of Preaching Sticky Sermons. You can connect with him on Twitter @BrandonKelley_.