How to be a more productive minister

By Adam Hollingsworth

My guess is that on most days you find it hard to reconcile your calendar with Jesus’s words in Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

You probably want to be more productive and better meet the demands of being a pastor, husband, father, friend and disciple.

If so, think about your schedule as a strategic tool because it is. In fact, it is so much a commodity in demand, that it is the one thing we cannot make more of. Each of us has 24 hours in a day. How do we make the best use of that time?

Strategic scheduling uses the hours in the day to most productively meet family, ministry and personal objectives. This means doings things that contribute to accomplishing your objectives and, conversely, notdoing certain things because they have little to no productive impact on your ministry.

They key to such an effort is three steps:

  1. Good Planning
  2. Good Organization
  3. Good Discipline

1. Good Planning

To develop a strategic scheduling plan, you need to know what your objectives are. And, because a schedule reflects both professional and personal demands on your time, you must think about all areas of your life…and record them on your calendar!

Counter to conventional logic, begin with your personal goals and commitments first. Why? If not, your personal and family time always loses out.

As you plan, you should assume a 50-hour work week, minimum, setting aside 10 hours each week for emails, phone calls, reading, flex time with staff, etc. Set aside another five hours per week to expect the unexpected. Of the remaining 35 hours, you should break your week into four parts.

Set personal goals

  • Do you want to exercise?
  • Do you want to be off on family birthdays, anniversaries or other special days?
  • What about nights with your wife?

Protect prayer and study time

  • What does this look like for you?
  • Do you want to schedule it or leave it to your discretion?
  • Are you in a Bible study, small group or accountability group?

Fulfill standing commitments

  • Are there regular meetings you have?
  • Are there mentor groups you attend?
  • Do you do pastoral counseling/care?

Set ministerial goals

  • Preaching/teaching – How much time do you need for sermon prep?
  • Leading staff – When are staff meetings? What about one-on-one time with staff?
  • Leading the church – When are meetings with your church’s governing board? Programs and ministries you participate in? How much prep time is needed for those meetings?
  • Any other known professional obligations – What are those? How much time will those take?
  • Moving the church forward – Dedicate sufficient time to: (1) share the Gospel and help folks grow in their faith; (2) cultivate new givers and thank existing givers; and (3) further develop leaders, encourage existing leaders or recruit new ones, and cast vision and offer support in and among your ministries.

2. Good Organization

Calendars and schedules are dynamic documents that can and will change. As a result, you need to develop good organization and processes to manage your time. However, for this to work, you will need someone else to help manage your calendar. If your church cannot afford such strategic support, use an intern or recruit a volunteer. This is critical to your spiritual, emotional and personal health. With your strategic scheduling support person, you should have a:

  1. Short daily meeting/phone call (at the end of each day) to review the next day’s calendar
  2. Weekly meeting to:

– review and adjust your calendar for the week and month
– review the calendars of your staff for the week
– review pending scheduling request and calendar needs
– ensure coordination with your family’s calendar

3. Monthly meeting to review consistency with calendar goals and determine if time was used well

3. Good Discipline

Calendar management and strategic scheduling are only as good as the disciplined adherence to the process. Here are a few tips for maintaining discipline:

  1. Be prepared to say no. And if you can’t say no, say “I’ll have to check with my team to see what I’m doing that day.” Then have them say no.
  2. Don’t self-schedule.
  3. Use the calendar to record, organize and coordinate all parts of your daily life.
  4. Make calendar meetings with your strategic support person a priority. Fail to do this at your own peril.

Have you lost control of your calendar? If so, are you prepared to do what it takes to bring order to your ministerial, family and personal life?


Published April 4, 2017

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Adam Hollingsworth

Adam Hollingsworth is the founder of Ergon Strategies, a firm dedicated to the organizational health of the local church. You can email Adam at adam@ergonstrategies.com