I remember the conversation like it was yesterday. The phone call with my ministry coach gave me a call to action - determine my ministry priorities. I had used the call as an opportunity to vent my frustration at being overwhelmed. “There is too much on my desk and not enough time in the day to get it all done. We are a small church with a small group of staff members and leaders. What can I do?”
My coach gave me one action plan to complete before our next call. I was to take a sheet of paper and draw a vertical line down the middle. In the left column I was asked to write down everything thing I had done over the course of the last month. Every single task! In the right column I was to write down my pastoral priorities, those tasks that only I could and should do.
The results were astounding. I completely filled the left column with everything from unclogging toilets, to mowing the church lawn, and shopping for church supplies. But in the right column I could only think of seven priorities that were critical for the lead pastor to accomplish. That’s right, only seven!
I’m not saying you can create a perfect scenario where you only work on those few critical priorities. In ministry you never know exactly what will come up during the week. But there are some steps you can take to get clearly focused on your most important tasks.
Here are some things that help me…
1. Determine your pastoral priorities. If you are not proactive in where you spend your time, you’ll be reactive to the demands of those around you. What are the critical few things that only you can do as the pastor? Once you determine these priorities, share them with your leaders. It seems like everyone has an opinion on how pastors should spend their time, so it’s important they hear how and why you spend your time.
Download my free template to identify your top priorities
2. Start your week with a plan. Every Sunday night I map out the coming week. I start each day knowing what I intend to do. It doesn’t always work out the way I hope, but a plan helps me be much more effective.
3. Focus on sermon prep early in the week. Since preaching is on my list of pastoral priorities, I want to give the first part of my week to sermon prep. I begin working early Tuesday morning and usually spend 8-12 hours each week praying, studying, and writing the sermon. Completing the sermon early relieves stress and allows me to move on to other tasks.
4. Use your “best” time for creative work. Being a morning person, my brain is the most focused early in the day. For you, it might be late at night. Work strategically by protecting this time for your sermon prep and tasks that requires clear thinking.
5. Create a plan for developing leaders. I don’t know a pastor who doesn’t need more leaders. Of course, we all know these leaders don’t just show up ready to go. They have to be developed. It’s hard. It takes time, and this is why we don’t do it as much as we should. Ephesians 4:12 instructs us to “…to equip his people for works of service…” As we consistently develop leaders, we are able to delegate responsibility that allow us to focus on our priorities.
6. Work on the vision every week. For your church to go forward the pastor has to own the vision. You can’t own the vision unless you work on it. Where is God leading you to go? What impact will you make in your community? How will you enlist others to help you carry out the vision?
7. Find unity with your board. Have an honest conversation about pastoral priorities with your board, and cast the vision for why these tasks are your most important. As the pastor and board come into alignment other tasks can be shared by the board, staff, and volunteers.
Question: What helps you stay focused? Comment below and let me know what you would add to the list.
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Hi! I'm Loren Hicks. I am follower of Jesus, a husband, a father, a friend, and for the past