With the start of a new youth ministry season, now is the perfect time to put some energy into creating a weekly schedule that works for you. It’ll help you set priorities, find time for God, your family and yourself and it will help prevent stress and burnout.
Think about last season, how did your weekly schedule work for you? Did you accomplish what you wanted to? Did you indeed have the time for the things that had priority? Was there enough personal time, time with your family, time to rest?
If not, now is the time to make some changes. Here’s how to go about making a weekly schedule that works for you, your situation and your (youth) ministry:
Make a list of your most important roles
Mind you, I didn’t say tasks or activities. I’m talking about roles here, like parent, spouse, youth pastor, small group leader, etc, which is something else entirely. We’ve discussed this in more detail in a previous post. Just write down the most important ones you have.
Make a list of the most important results per role
What do you want to accomplish this season in each role? Try to define these in practical, concrete terms.
Let’s take the role of small group leader for instance. You could define your desired results like this: hold small group session every other week, have no show of less than 10%, have at least weekly contact with all small group members, provide pastoral support for those students who need it.
Define activities per result per role
For each desired result, you now have to think of what you need to do to actually realize it and how much time this will cost.
Let’s continue with our small group example: to hold a small group session each week you need one evening of three hours every two weeks and two hours every two weeks to prepare the lesson you’re using. You also need two hours a week to stay connected via phone calls, text messages and social media and about four hours a week in face to face contact. That brings your total time to 8.5 hours a week for your small group.
Make a weekly schedule
Now schedule your activities in your work week (you can do this quite easily in a spreadsheet program like Excel). Here’s how to do that:
1. Schedule the biggest priorities first, meaning your family (don’t forget to plan your vacation and a weekly Sabbath day) and your personal relationship with God. Make these non-negotiable.
2. Then schedule your weekly obligations, for instance your small group, certain meetings, and set appointments like lunch time at the high school. Don’t forget about travel time!
3. Now schedule those activities you need bigger chunks of time for, like preparing a sermon, or writing small group studies. If you don’t keep these blocks of time reserved, you’ll never find the time.
4. Schedule smaller activities. Don’t forget to give yourself some breathing room, you know there’ll always be unexpected stuff so don’t schedule every minute of every day. Don’t forget to set aside time for reading books or blogposts, for listening to podcasts or doing other things to help you grow as a leader. Again: if you don’t schedule these, you’ll never find the time!
When scheduling, try to group similar tasks together to save time (for instance everything you can do by email or everything you can do at home).
What also works well, is to reserve certain days for certain roles. I have Mondays blocked for blogging for instance, whereas Tuesday is a writing day. It helps me to find flow and stay in it.
Check your schedule
Now check the weekly schedule you’ve made: is it doable? Realistic? Have you forgotten anything? Compare it to your to do list, is there anything on that that you haven’t reserved time for?
Here comes the tricky part: it won’t fit. You’ll discover you’ve written down more results and activities than will fit into your schedule, especially since there’s loads of stuff you haven’t thought of. What to do now?
It’s no use trying to cram more into a weekly schedule than will reasonably fit. If you can’t make it work, that means you have to reduce your workload. You’ll need to learn to say say no to or cancel certain commitments and obligations. And you’ll need to delegate more.
Believe me when I say that you can’t make it fit, simply by wishing it were so, ignoring the reality, or working more. Working more is never the answer, it’ll only result in you having a burnout…or worse. Don’t overstretch yourself, create a healthy, realistic weekly schedule that actually works for you. And stick to it.
Do you have a weekly schedule? If so, how did you make it? If not, why not?