As a pastor, there are a lot of responsibilities and people vying for your attention and a place in your schedule.
You love God, people and your job shepherding God’s people, but sometimes…boundaries get jumbled, crossed or even worse—they don’t exist to begin with.
The truth is, your pastoral leadership is closely tied to your personal health. And your personal health is directly impacted by how well you plan, prioritize and stick to your schedule.
But when it comes to your schedule, do you have healthy boundaries? Does your calendar reflect a desire to be a leader who is spiritually, mentally and physically healthy?
Here are a few ways to create healthy boundaries in your schedule to make sure your time is spent wisely.
Prioritize when you plan.
While your role as a pastor or church leader is an important part of your life, your ministry stretches far beyond the church walls.
That’s why it’s important to plan for the priorities you have both inside and outside of church. Your church meetings have a place in your schedule and your other priorities such as time for family, friends, and leisure should have a place as well. Schedule your family devotions and date nights into your calendar. Treat these time slots the same way you would treat any other meeting.
A few questions to ask yourself based on a few priorities you might have:
- Family: Which times can I set aside each week for my spouse and children?
- Physical Health: Where can I fit working out into my schedule?
- Spiritual Health: How’s my prayer life? How’s my personal walk with God? Are other priorities taking His place?
- Discipleship: When and how can I be available for those I lead spiritually?
Not only does prioritizing your responsibilities in your schedule help you establish boundaries and make time for what matters, but it also sets a good example for your staff and congregation to follow.
Build in balance.
Ministry work is so closely related to our personal lives, it can be a challenge to maintain a healthy balance between work and home.
Start by scheduling regular office hours. Things will always come up, but the more you can stick to your “working hours” and encourage your staff team to respect those hours, the better.
Watch your phone and email time. How much time are you spending replying to phone calls, texts and emails? Could you develop a leader to help with these tasks? If you have an assistant, or the budget to hire one, you can establish a healthy boundary of what your assistant replies to and what you reply to.
If not, it can help to build specific times in your schedule for answering emails, writing sermons and other tasks on your plate. For example, you can devote a few morning hours, such as 8:00-10:00 a.m. for catching up on emails. You could also divide your time in a way that works for everything you need to balance—such as your personal time, family time and people time.
In that case, that balance might look something like this:
- 6:00 – 8:00 a.m. = Personal Time. You spend this time in prayer, study, reading, exercising, etc.
- 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. = People Time. You try to fit all ministry work and meetings into this time.
- After 4:00 p.m. = Family Time. All emails are sent for the day and the rest of the evening is blocked off.
Keep a Sabbath.
Since pastors work on Sundays, that means you just don’t get a day of rest, right?
It’s still important for pastors to have a day of rest, no matter what day of the week it is. Choose a day that works in your schedule on a regular basis (many pastors choose Friday or Saturday) and devote at least that one day as a day of rest.
Use that day to spend time with God, in nature, having some time alone and/or doing something you enjoy—a day of fishing, music, reading, etc.
Once you’ve chosen your day, create a boundary in your schedule by making sure you share with your church, spouse and children which day is your day of rest. They can help hold you accountable to get the rest you need to be a healthy pastor.
Watch what drains you.
We all have parts of our job that are easy and natural for us and other parts that are more challenging and draining.
For example, a pastor may be energized by writing a sermon and drained after delivering it. Maybe counseling is draining for you. Maybe it’s a long leadership team meeting.
Whichever part of your role it is, it’s important to pay attention to what drains you and proactively create healthy boundaries in your schedule to accommodate it.
A few ways to identify what drains you:
- Make a list of your regularly occurring responsibilities and tasks and write out how life-giving or how dreaded each one is for you.
- Ask a close friend, co-worker, or your spouse what they think your greatest strengths are, which parts of your role they believe you perform best, and then cross-reference those with the list above.
- Use a mood tracking app like Daylio (on iTunes), iMood Journal (on iTunes and Google Play) or Moodtrack Social Diary (on iTunes and Google Play).
Often, we’re drained because we allow too many back-to-back draining events into our schedule on one day or because we haven’t learned to say “no” yet. Many of the things that drain you aren’t bad things, they’re just “not today” things. Being healthy, mature and confident enough to tell the difference is a crucial part of leadership. The Emotionally Healthy Leader by Peter Scazzero is a great resource on this topic.
Creating healthy boundaries in your schedule doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have fewer responsibilities. But you’ll be able to prioritize and balance those responsibilities better by stewarding your time in a more effective way that honors God, your family and your church. In Luke 10:41-42, Jesus said to Martha, “You are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is necessary…” Pastors are often tempted to juggle everything and carry the weight of the entire church on their own without much sleep or balance. Start building healthy boundaries in your schedule today to focus more on what God has called you to do and do it well.
This article originally appeared here.