Finding stability (& sanity!) amidst your busy schedule

Most pastors aspire for some sanity in their schedules. More than half say time management is an aspect that needs attention or investment today and that avoiding over-commitment is a challenge for them, according to a Lifeway Research study. 

This month, as I started my 36th year of pastoral ministry, I took a minute to reflect on some routines I have woven into my life and ministry that I hope will be helpful for you: 

Wake up worshiping 

My personal preference is to worship first thing in the morning because I cannot recover those first thoughts later in the day. Morning worship supports my desire to make loving God my first priority of the day (i.e., the Great Commandment). I typically read a chapter a day from the Bible in my favorite chair, then pray either in that same chair or worship as I am walking, jogging, or driving. 

Do sermon prep early 

According to Inc. magazine, workers have been found to be more proactive and productive in the mornings. There will never be a time in my day when I have more energy and fewer distractions, so I do most of my sermon prep and writing before lunch. For those of you who are multi-vocational and may not have the option of starting earlier in the day, you can start earlier in the week instead of stress-prepping on the weekend. Once you have devoted yourself “to prayer and to the preaching ministry” (Acts 6:4), you are ready to start connecting with your sheep and staff (or in my case, shepherds). 

Stack your meetings 

Most of our members do not know how much we dread committee and team meetings (and weddings). Although we cannot and should not avoid them, we can stack them. You can stack meetings on church days by making them the only option when you are available to meet. Sundays and Wednesdays are less likely to compete with our personal and family time, and they are already blocked off on our calendars. 

"I cannot fully connect with my family until I have disconnected from my ministry. Neither can you."

Protect most nights & weekends

With the forementioned exceptions of Wednesdays and Sundays, my goal has been to stop working completely by supper. I cannot fully connect with my family until I have disconnected from my ministry. Neither can you. The health of your family and your ministry is connected to your own health, and evenings are a great time to recharge. Nobody in ministry can protect every weekend, but you can and should say no more often to church members if you find yourself consistently skipping sabbath. Sabbath (literally meaning “stop”) is not optional for ministers—or any believers, for that matter. You may have to be creative in how and when you stop. Just don’t try to redefine what God declared holy.

Protect your bedtime

The American Medical Association, the National Institutes of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all say we typically need about eight hours of sleep to feel and function normally while awake. In my experience, I do better work and I am in a better mood when I am fully rested. If you think God hardwired you to be the exception because you only need four to five hours of sleep, your delusion is proof you are wrong. 

Though my schedule rarely plays out exactly as planned, these guidelines have helped me enjoy a sane and sustainable life and ministry for almost three decades. I pray it does the same for you and your ministry!

Director of Pastoral Wellness
Mark Dance
Guidestone Financial Resources
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