You’ll notice this post is in the past tense.
I’m going back to my 30 years of pastoring days, and how I structured because my structure is far more fluid these days with consulting and coaching than it was in a week-by-week pastoring of a church.
Well, I think I am a huge fan of locking in your key priorities with recurring appointments, and this will give you maximum effectiveness in the structure of your week, and will give you alignment with the primary aspects of your call.
One of the things I occasionally do when I’m consulting and coaching with pastors is, I’ll have a look at their diary, not what’s gone, but what’s coming.
If I find it vacant and empty, I know they’re not using the principles that I’m going to outline here of putting in what I called the big rocks, the key priorities of vital things that need to get done for you to fulfill your call. It’s easy to be busy, fill your week up with anything, but I think there’s a huge win here for structuring your week for maximum effectiveness.
Juggle, not balance
One little thought that does impact me here is to forget balance, think juggle when it comes to ministry life. You want to achieve a balance of ministry and family and personal life, I don’t think it’s possible, but you can juggle. So some weeks you’re going to have full-on nights out, a lot of appointments, and you feel like you’re really running hard, and your family’s feeling it is as well.
The next week, get a hold of your diary and just put through a whole bundle of nights home, home, home. People ring up and say, are you available? Say, actually I’ve looked in my calendar and no, I’m not available. You don’t have to tell them what you’re doing, you can just say, I’m not available that evening, going to have to go for the following week on that.
So, think of the juggle that you have to do to get things done in the ministry, rather than trying to balance it.
How did my week look?
Here’s how my week would pan out back when I was pastoring. Mornings would be my devotional time, Bible and coffee, five to six mornings a week. I rarely would do devotions on my day off. I’d have a day off. Even devotions, yes I would have a day off.
Five or six days a week, coffee, Bible, prayer. Just setting my day up with that right sort of stuff.
On Mondays, it was always a mixed bag. I used to take Mondays off, but switched to Fridays and really enjoyed that switch.
Monday’s a mixed bag of emails, admin, catch up with a few people. No heavy meetings after a big Sunday would never do any serious, solid meetings.
A whole range of bits and pieces, a bit of a day of low-energy sort of stuff.
Tuesday was my develop others day. And I was pastoring a larger church, and therefore I had staff, and team members, and so on. So it was a day I’d do supervision, I do mentoring, I do coaching, I do development around either Tuesday or Wednesday. Not every week, but would run leaders meetings, development meetings, and so on.
So I set aside Tuesday, which was my day to work with key people in my church. And you can juggle that as a small church pastor, or a medium church pastor, as long as you’ve got it in your diary every week.
What am I doing to develop, train, coach, and mentor people around me?
Wednesday was my day I stayed at home, didn’t go into the office, and just spent time with the Bible, preparing messages, Sunday sermons, leaders’ messages, all sorts of different messages that I was doing.
Wednesday, I’d give myself to it for the entire day and would lock out other distractions for that day. I found that extremely helpful by Wednesday night to have finished my sermon. I’d have it finished Wednesday night, leave it around there, and kind of mull over it for a few days before I preached it, but I’d always finish my sermon by the midweek.
Thursday was project time. I’d lock out time to do major projects. Once every five to six weeks would be my reflection time, an hour or two of sitting down, mulling over leadership, my life, etc, etc. So Thursday was a mixture of projects, reflection, and again, bits and pieces that you have to do.
No doubt, during that Monday to Thursday, I’d set aside time for pastoral connections as well, and I’d have locked in appointments around that, but they were big rocks as big as the ones I’m talking about here, but I would set aside time for those things.
Friday, a day off, phone off, I’m off, everything’s off. Just push that off button hugely.
No work on Fridays. Thursday night, through to Sunday morning.
No work, don’t go near email, all that. I was very strict about my day off, I think it protected me from burnout.
I think it allowed me to stay in ministry for 30 years, being very strict around the boundaries of my day off.
Saturday when the kids were younger, was family day. Going to do family activities, go to their sporting events, and things like that. Hang out a bit, play with them, do whatever with the family. As our children married and left, hey, it’s family day on our own, it’s just Di and I.
And I do various things, read the paper longer, hang out, watch a bit of footy, I would have it as a day off unless I was doing a wedding or had a leaders meeting, which is unusual on a Saturday.
Unless I had an event that I had to go to, it was a day off and I used it. Friday and Saturday is a weekend off.
When I did my Masters, I’d use Saturday to do some study for my Masters as well. Make sure on the Friday and Saturday Di had connection moments, of course, but I used to use that when my kids had left home.
You have a lot more space in time when your children leave home.
Sunday of course services, morning service, evening service, full on day. In the afternoon I nap, rest, and get the energy up for Sunday night.
And that’s basically the big rock structure of my week that you’d find in my diary with recurring appointments.
Monday to Saturday, I would plan to be out at least two nights during the week, a minimum of two nights and a maximum of three.
So out of those six nights, I’d have three nights at home. And some weeks, four nights, other weeks it might be five or six, and then you’d find the week before I’d been jammed up when I had a situation like that, but generally I found I was working a couple of nights a week, and I kind of kept that as a bit of rhythm and a pace through my life. But any more than three, I was, yeah, I ended up grumpy.
Live out of your calendar
The key thing with structuring your week for maximum effectiveness, put your key priorities in your calendar, in your diary as a recurring appointment, and honour and live out of your calendar. Those appointments, those key things you need to do.
Studying, or developing leaders, whatever it is that’s key in your world as a leader, get it in your calendar, onto your calendar, and keep it recurring so you could look into the future and know where you’re going and where you’re tracking to fulfill what God’s given you to do.
There you go. That’s how I structured my week for maximum effectiveness.