The pastor’s schedule: 7 priorities
Very few people would dispute the importance of a developing and implementing a budget. Most financial advisors encourage people to use a budget because it’s an effective tool for making every dollar count. A budget enables a person or an organization to successfully manage their money, while avoiding the temptation to overspend. The basic premise of a budget is simple. You decide in advance how you want to spend your money so that it is spent in places that are most important.
All these same reasons for developing a personal budget apply equally to developing and keeping a pastoral schedule. As a budget allows us to be better stewards of our finances, a schedule allows us to be better stewards of our time. And stewarding our time well is a biblical obligation.
“Pay careful attention, then, to how you live — not as unwise people but as wise — making the most of the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16-17).
In this verse, all Christians (including pastors) are encouraged to carefully think about the way they spend their time. Time, like money, must be invested in that which is building and benefiting Christ’s kingdom.
Of course, there is no biblical requirement for making and keeping a schedule, just like there is no requirement for a developing a budget. But, as this verse shows, we are required to make good use of our time. And a schedule can assist us to that end.
In this post, I will suggest seven items every pastor should be putting into his weekly schedule because doing so will help him make the most of his time.
Study. In a previous post, "The Pastor’s Study," I explained the need for a pastor to set aside time in his weekly schedule for study. This, of course, includes sermon preparation, as well as other theological studies. I encouraged pastors to literally make this an appointment in their calendars and to guard that time like they would any other appointment. If someone wants to meet during this time, it’s OK to respond with, “I already have an appointment scheduled at that time. Is there another time that would work?”
Answering emails. I used to read and reply to emails as soon as I received them — rookie mistake! This was a poor use of my time. Now what I do instead is set a time in the morning and afternoon specifically devoted to catching up on emails. I also turned off all notifications on my phone to eliminate the constant interruption of emails arriving in my inbox.
Office hours. There are many advantages to working remotely. Evangelistic opportunities are one reason I try to work outside the church office. But I also think pastors should set a few office hours each week at the church building. Let your congregation know that you’ll be there and, if they need you for anything, you are accessible. In addition to giving you more opportunities to shepherd them, it also communicates to them they’re important to you.
Lunch appointments. I rarely eat lunch alone. One reason is because I’m a raging extrovert. But the main reason is to make the most of my lunch hour. I can accomplish a lot pastoring simply by meeting someone for lunch. Some of my most fruitful conversations and productive meetings happen while I’m eating lunch — something I have to do anyway. So redeem this time by scheduling some lunch appointments every week.
Time with your wife. Every other week, I have lunch with one of our elders (see above). During that time, we’re not allowed to talk about ministry, only our personal lives and family. At one of these lunches, he told me that every week he hires a babysitter and schedules a weekly lunch with his wife. He encouraged me to do the same thing, so that’s what I did. The only difference is that Rachel and I get coffee. So every week, I have a standing appointment with my wife. Giving her this one hour to talk about anything has been incredibly beneficial to our marriage. Plus, since it’s during the day (and we’re caffeinated!), we are way more engaged with each other than we are in the evening after a long day. We still go on dates together, but this is one more way we can intentionally invest in each other and our marriage.
Family devotions. Family worship is important. That’s why I schedule it into my calendar. Every weeknight at 8 p.m., my phone goes off, reminding me to grab my family and the Bible and lead them in worshipping Jesus. You don’t have to do it exactly the way we do it, but you should deliberately schedule this time with your family and your God.
Day of rest. Everyone needs a day of rest, even pastors. And if we’re not careful we can overlook this necessary investment. Think of your day of rest like a savings account. Sometimes you have to say no to certain expenditures in order to throw some cash into your savings. In the same way, sometimes you have to say no to certain ministry tasks, in order to rest from your week of labor. Failing to take a day off is like living life without any savings. So pick a day of the week and communicate that day to everyone — your wife, children, and church. Let them know that’s your day of rest and you need it be an effective pastor.