When my new doctor learned that I was a pastor, the first question she asked me was, “So do you only work on Sundays?” I thought such a question was only a joke punch line. But people actually think like that! Jokes aside, a pastor’s schedule is fairly unique. Most pastors don’t have to clock-in and clock-out at certain times. Most pastors don’t have a boss breathing down their necks.
Yet, pastors also face unique scheduling challenges.
Redeem the Time: Help for Your Crazy Pastor’s Schedule
Major Challenge #1: Notoriously ambiguous job descriptions
If you’re a pastor, you know that you need to preach this Sunday. So that means sermon prep. What else are you supposed to do? Many pastors don’t know! They would also search their job descriptions in vain for clarity. Even if a pastor has a defined oversight area (such as small groups or outreach), it can still be difficult to know specifics: Who should I meet with? What events do I need to plan?
Ambiguous job descriptions waste time. When you’re unclear on what you’re supposed to do, you end up spending too much time figuring out what you’re supposed to do! You can also end up spending time on things that aren’t that important to God’s mission.
You could spend your whole work life doing things that you are fairly good at and getting paid to do them. But in doing so you might miss out on what you are UNIQUELY Called and Gifted to do.
Cultivate humility. But also realize that pastors are not deacons. You weren’t called as a pastor to print out bulletins or update the church website. You are called to shepherd the flock.
Major Challenge #2: An almost infinitely flexible schedule.
Schedule flexibility is a blessing and a curse. Unless you work for a bigger church, you can often make your own schedule. Ministry is not a 9-5. But such flexibility in our schedules can actually lead to being unproductive. No accountability for your time can lead you to waste time on the trivial and neglect the important. Laziness is also a temptation.
A pastor’s schedule often changes week-to-week: Pockets of time open up (someone cancels a meeting), and pockets of time close (hospital emergencies). A variable schedule can leave even the most organized person’s head spinning. How do you find stability with a flexible schedule?
Solution: Time Blocks
Time blocking is a well-known scheduling tactic. You arrange your schedule in “blocks” of three- to four-hour periods in which you focus on certain tasks. I believe there are two extremely important time blocks you need to schedule.
Blackout time is non-negotiable time alone to do work. Blackout time is when you will most likely write your sermon. In my schedule, Tuesday morning from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. is blackout time. I don’t answer calls. I don’t answer texts. I don’t get on the Internet. I only write. Unless someone is dying, I do not allow anyone to interrupt me.
Flex blocks are blocks of time that you can easily move in and out of your schedule. In my schedule, I devote three hours on Friday afternoon to vision and long-term planning. This time is a flex block, which I can drop or move easily.
For example, let’s say I have a premarital counseling meeting on a Friday evening. Since I know that’s going be a couple hours after dinner, I can easily “flex” my long-term planning time and replace it with pre-marital counseling. As a result, I can then come home early to be with my family. Coming home early helps me refresh and spend time with my family, which I won’t have later on when I’m doing premarital counseling.
If you get clear about your calling and begin moving your calendar to a “block schedule,” I believe you can make strides toward more productivity. You may even be able to redeem the time and get control of a hectic schedule!
How Are You Redeeming the Time?
This article originally appeared here.