I am just finishing the 5th month of my first call as a solo pastor. How do you structure your days to get the most out of them? I find that I still don't have a rhythm or routine, and it makes it hard to get things done. Granted, every day is different depending on who drops by or is ill, etc., but is there a basic outline that works?
Rev Abi answers:
This is a great question that some of us are still trying to answer 10 or more years down the road. Good for you asking! The problem I have is that is my personality lends itself to responding to whatever needs to be responded to and not setting up any kind of schedule and sticking to it, so I feel your pain. But now that I am in my present church, I am becoming more intentional and yes, seeking structure, as much as I am able to.
Monday morning, I will reflect back on Sunday, pray about it, and let it go. Then, I begin research for bible study, and sermons—that is, if there is no hospital visit or surgery on the calendar. I also spend some time laying out the week ahead: Meetings? Visits? Conference or district paperwork to be done? Staff issues? Staff meeting? Newsletter? Bulletin?
On Tuesday, I have a fresh mind and start on the detail work from Monday's planning.
Wednesday, I finalize preparation for Bible study.
Thursday, I write the rough draft of my sermon if possible—and I try to minimize interruptions during that time. Friday is my day off.
Saturday, I finalize sermon, spend time with my family.
Sunday—well, you know the drill.
Note that each of these is my morning roadmap. I'm not an afternoon thinker, so I use afternoons for visits and phone calls.
What's your personality?
Are you familiar with the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator? I'm an ENFP. You might want to find out what yours is, to see what you will need to do to help yourself as far as planning, setting a work pace, being intentional. There are many "models" of the MBTI online that you can use to get a taste of it, although the official test is here. (Gallycat pipes in with, "And if you haven't heard of the Kolbe, it may look pricey but it's actually cheaper than the official MBTI, generally, and very insightful with regard to your work style. Organization is a struggle for me, too, but the better I understand how I work, the more able I am to follow through on details, like getting Ask the Matriarch posted in a timely fashion on Thursdays... sigh!")
It takes time
You're five months into it, and it's your first time, so give yourself a break and don't be hard on yourself. You are definitely not alone. If you have a committee such as the Pastor Parish Relations Committee, they may be able to help you by being clear with their expectations and guidelines. Maybe someone on there is good at scheduling and structure—ask them to help you. Or, find a peer who is good at it, and ask them for help and recommendations. You might be able to "buddy up" with someone to be accountable with you. There are plenty of workshops out there as well that teach those sort of things. Perhaps some of our other revgals and blogpals can make their recommendations in the comments. (Gallycat, here, again piping up with--"If I don't make a list, twice a week, of things I have to do, something won't get done. And I always run that list by whomever is the most detail-oriented person in the place to make sure I haven't forgotten something.")
Some people also follow a lot of what Stephen Covey (author of "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People") says about knowing your vision, your purpose, and your mission—then plan your work and day from that.
Abi's Reading Room
* Getting Things Done by David Allen
* Ministry is a High Calling (Aim Low): Reflections of a Parish Novice by Kurt R. Schuermann * Surviving Your First Year as Pastor (What Seminary Couldn't Teach You) by Angie Best-Boss
* Organize Your Work Day in No Time by K.J. McCorry
* Minister's Little Instruction Book by Stan Toler
* First Things First by Stephen Covey
* Taking Care of Busyness by John Ortberg at Leadership Journal of Christianity Today.
* Time Management for Pastors: Key Points for Living a Balanced, Productive Life and Avoiding Burnout by John R. Throop
* Time on Your Side: Ten Ways to Take Control of the Clock by Carolyn Campbell
Hope this helps!
(A note to everyone: If you have submitted a question to the queue, don't worry, it will be published here! We've had great questions so far and we look forward to the next round. If you have a great time-management tip you'd like to share, please post it in the comments, and as always, if you have a question, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.)