One of the earliest things I learned about ministry is that if you do not take initiative, you will fail. While there are ministry responsibilities that must be accomplished, there is also a good bit of time where you must use your time wisely. Whether it is getting a jump on a future talk, visiting a school, or communicating with parents, there are always things that need to be done. Sometimes I feel like seminaries should offer time management seminars to prepare future ministers for the immense demands on their schedules. The truth is that the minister’s work is never done. Usually there is more to be done than can be done. This can be tough if you are a personality like mine where you want to do it all but simply run out of time and energy to accomplish everything. Something that helps me to reconcile this is to think about why I am not accomplishing all that I need to accomplish. Here are the reasons that I have found cause us to feel like we are not doing enough:
1. We are not working hard enough. Let’s be honest, sometimes we can just be plain lazy. Maybe we are just coasting through because we think we have it all figured out. Maybe we feel like we deserve to slow down a bit after a crazy season of ministry. The problem is that because there is always something to be done, we must find ways to continually expand our ministry impact. It drives me crazy when ministers fail to respect the position that they have been given. Ministers must be professional and diligent in our work ethic if we are to maintain the standards set forth for our office.
2. We are trying to do too much on our own. I confess to doing this so often. Sometimes I feel like I cannot get to the important stuff because I am stuck doing the busy work. The truth is that if I had leaned on a ministry team, I would not be running around last-minute to get cups because they could have been picked up. Over the past year I have realized just how many things I should actually be able to delegate to small group leaders or to volunteers. I would love to have more time to dream and to get creative, but so often I am exhausted from getting all of the little things done like fueling the vans. Allowing others to do ministry alongside you allows you to do more ministry.
3. We are doing pointless things. We are all stewards of our time. We must decide how to use it and how to prioritize the things we do. As a result, we must also take some time every now and then and think about whether we are actually doing the things that will have the most impact. I have spoken with student ministers who use 16 hours a week to prepare their talk on Wednesday nights. That seems unbalanced. Other ministers I know spend the majority of the time on a program that has terrible attendance, but it is part of church tradition. It is so important to make sure that you are making the maximum impact that you can make. Truthfully, a quick lunch with a student may make more of an impact than twenty Wed. night talks. I tried to make a list of everything I did throughout a whole week. When I looked at the list, I realized that I was spending too much time keeping one program working so I purchased a curriculum that cut my work on that program down by 75%. Now I have more time to write thank you notes or hang out with students after school.
4. We don’t plan ahead. I actually love to make the calendar for the year. I love looking at the blank squares and seeing them come to life with activities and teaching topics. I do this because I understand that if I can plan June in December, I will be saved from running around like a headless chicken when June comes along. Planning ahead allows us to have a distinct advantage of getting our tasks accomplished because we have the time to think about all that is involved. Planning ahead also allows us to get people into place that can help make the event or program happen. We did so much planning ahead this year for our Fall Retreat that I actually got nervous the day before because everything was done and that seemed impossible the first year that we did the retreat.
In college I worked at a camp where I had to use every bit of energy that I had each day. The last bit of life I had in me was that which allowed me to lay my head on my pillow. I was exhausted, but I was also proud of the fact that I left nothing on the field that day. I try to have those kinds of days in my current job. I want to leave the office with no regrets. I want to feel good about taking that day off because I maximized my ministry time and was able to accomplish all that I could possible accomplish. I hope that is your goal as well. Your church and the Kingdom of God will be better off for it.