Thom Rainer, CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, recently posted, “What if I told you I could help you get 10 or more hours of your week back?” Wow! Great thought, huh. Everyone I know could use 10 or more hours each week. Rainer goes on to mention “8 Time Drainers for Pastors and Staff” and gives a brief solution for overcoming each of these time drainers. Here are Rainer’s 8 time drainers and his brief solutions.
- Regularly scheduled meetings. How many hours do you spend each month in meetings you feel obligated to attend? Probably a lot. Solution: Ruthlessly evaluate all of your mandatory meetings. You can probably eliminate two or more. And never add a regularly scheduled meeting without eliminating another.
- Add-on meetings. “Pastor, can we get together this week to talk about something?” How many times have you received similar requests? Think of the time expended scheduling the meeting, going to the meeting and, possibly, following up on the meeting. Solution: Say no. Tell the person you will talk about it right then. The conversation will likely be shorter than five minutes.
- Non-productive meetings. Have you ever ended a meeting thinking it was a total waste of time? Or perhaps most of the meeting was a waste of time. Solution: Never go into a meeting without a clear and specific agenda. Also, have a definitive ending time. Don’t go one minute beyond that time.
- Telephone calls. Many of you are constantly answering the phone. You get started on one project, only to be interrupted. Solution: Get a second phone number to share with church members. There are some services and apps that offer a free number. I use Google Voice. Any call to Google Voice goes to voicemail, where I decide later how I will handle the call.
- Social media complexity. Some of you pastors and staff are constantly interacting with church members on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media. I wouldn’t be surprised if the amount of time spent on this task is 10 to 15 hours week. Solution: Stop it! You have no obligation to respond on social media. Get rid of the guilt trip and get your time back.
- Old school secretaries. The world of support staff has changed dramatically. If you have a secretary who is still in the 1990s or 2000s, you are wasting a lot of time. That secretary provides you no efficiencies. Solution: Get a productive assistant. If your church cannot afford one, check into a virtual assistant. I personally like EAHelp. I will expand on this issue in my next post.
- Time in the car. Depending on your hospital visits or commute, you could spend a lot of time in your car. Solution: If possible, select a specific day to do hospital visits, so that you are not interrupting your other days continuously. Also, make the most use of your time in your auto. I love Audible books by Amazon. For less than $10, I choose a new book every month. My learning curve has gone up yet again!
- Counseling. I know one pastor who counsels over 20 hours a week. Needless to say, he is burning out as he counsels and carries out other responsibilities. Solution: Most of you pastors and staff are neither trained nor equipped to do counseling. Stop it and refer requests to those who can do the ministry better. Limit your counseling to one-time sessions and to times for spiritual counseling.
I totally agree with Rainer that these are time drainers for most people in ministry. His solutions are also helpful. However, I want to look at the time issue we each face from more of a proactive approach – how we can utilize our time more effectively in order to become more effective in ministry. So, here are my 7 ways that will help you better utilize your time in order to increase your effectiveness in ministry.
- Conduct a time inventory
One of the most helpful things that you can to get a handle on how you are currently using your time is to conduct a time inventory. Set up 14 daily time sheets on a legal pad or electronically. Divide each day into 15 minute increments. Then use these daily time sheets to track your time for two weeks, by writing a brief synopsis of how you spent each 15 minute increment. At the end of the two weeks analyze how you actually used your time. Then make adjustments to begin utilizing your time in ways that are more effective.
- Plan your week and each day of your week
I am surprised by the number of people who do not plan their week. If you are going to utilize your time effectively, you must plan your week to some extent! I believe the best approach is to do this at the beginning each week. Think about what you want to accomplish that coming week. These are your goals for the week. Then schedule blocks of time to complete your weekly goals, taking into account time blocks that have already beens scheduled (meetings, etc.). Begin each day by reviewing your goals and committed time blocks and adjusting as necessary. Getting into this weekly habit will tremendously increase your effectiveness.
- Realize that an opportunity does not equal an obligation
Each and every day you are presented multiple opportunities to minister that will require your time. Many of us have a hard time saying “no” to ministry opportunities. Just because someone asks you to do something doesn’t mean you are obligated to do it. This is extremely hard within your local context. After all, these are the people you ministry with and to. However, giving a ten-minute devotion (which really takes up about two hours of your time) at the ladies’ ministry meeting may not be the best use of your time that day. Sometimes saying “no” is the best thing you can do. Just look at the next tip.
- Realize that saying “yes” means that you are saying “no” to something else
Whenever you say “yes” to something that requires your time, you are actually saying “no” to something else that utilizes your time. Why? Because time is a limited commodity. Each of us has only 168 hours in each week. There is no way that you or I can add to this limit. So, if you say “yes” to something that takes 3 hours, you have actually reduced your available time to 165 hours that week. To effectively utilize this fact, each “yes” you say needs to be more important than each “no” that it produces.
- Leverage your strengths, delegate to your weakness
When you work outside of your strengths it alway takes more time and energy than when you are doing something within your strengths. In his article, Rainer mentions counseling as time drain. I will be the first to admit that counseling is not one of my strengths. A a one-hour counseling session feels like about 3 hours to me. So, if possible, I do not to counsel, but let others who have this strength do it. There is nothing wrong with referring people to a good counselor. Surround yourself with people who are strong in areas you are not and then delegate (or refer) to them.
- Lump like tasks together
How many times a day do you check your email? When you do check it, do you respond to an email request immediately? If you want to truly leverage your time, lump like tasks together. Respond to all emails at a specific time, instead of one-by-one. If you need to make several phone calls, do them back-to-back. Inform people that you will respond to email and texts, but not immediately.
- Recognize the principle of diminished returns
Most of us try to make our sermons, Bible studies, presentations, etc. the best that we possibly can. However, there is danger in making them better or doing one more tweak. That danger is called the “principle of diminished returns”. Simply stated, this is where the time you spend making something better is greater than the increased impact that is produced. In other words, the impact or effectiveness of that last illustration, fact, or quote you spent 4 minutes finding does not equal the intended impact. That time could have be more effectively spent on something else.
See Thom Rainer’s full article at churchleaders.com