It is Spring, and many ministry candidates are looking toward internships and first calls. One of them offers the following question:
I will be moving into a solo pastorate call in the near future...first call. During my internship, my supervisor gave me a quick "formula" for daily planning:
-divide the day into three segments...morning, afternoon, evening
-work only two units each day
-if you have evening meetings etc...then compensate with not coming in till after lunch or take the afternoon off
Are there other tidbits of knowledge on how to navigate the daily tasks so that I do have time for myself?
Your editor can remember when the 3 blocks a day/21 blocks a week was a novel concept…and is feeling old this morning! Here’s what two of our sisters suggest with regard to time/self- management in the parish setting.
The three-unit day has been a mainstay of non-profit orgs for many years. We use it in this parish for our staff. If one works three units in one day, then a unit of comp time is taken at another time. The problem in a parish is that a pastor's work is not always that clean and segmented. We also don't punch a time clock. I would hesitate to make the three-unit format any part of a pastor's contract or even conversation with the parish. It can be too easily read in a literal sense and result in some unfortunate perceptions on the part of the parish (e.g., "her time off is more important than the needs of the parish"). The reality of this is not the issue; the perceptions of parishioners is their reality and that's what must be managed.
I'd suggest a pastor's Sabbath -- a 24 hour period each week that keeps the pastor away from the church. Don't answer the phone (that's why God made answering machines and voice mail), make sure the printed calendar says Pastor's Sabbath, and be otherwise unavailable. By using the word Sabbath instead of 'Day Off", there is a seriousness attached to this 24-hour period that will cause anyone to think twice before interrupting the pastor. Also encourage the office staff and lay leadership to support the pastor's need for this Sabbath. If you can't take the identified day as a Sabbath for some reason (like a funeral), make sure you identify a substitute Sabbath within a few days.
Limit yourself to no more than two evening meetings. This assumes you don't have to be at every meeting that takes place in the parish. Lay leaders are usually quite capable of running meetings with the presence of the clergy. But enable good communications by connecting with the leadership before and after meetings. No one likes surprises and the laity usually feel better if they have the support of the clergy when they're running meetings without the presence of clergy. (That's a bad sentence but I think you'll get the idea.)
The church will eat you alive if you let it - filling every minute. I like the 3 work periods in a day and a 5 day week as a mental guide. I know many (most?) only take one day off but if you have in your mind that there are 21 work periods of a 7 day week and 15 in a 5 day week (what most people work) -- you can keep track to see if you are over-functioning. One day off should be a sacred day which can't be a Sunday. I like Mondays off as usually that gives me at least a day and a half (if you can count your Sunday nap as a day off). That sacred day should not be used for anything other than rest and renewal (whatever form that takes for you) except for dire emergencies - and must have a substitute day lest you burn up in the fires of your enthusiasm.
I echo "rector" and Ann's suggestions. Be sure that the Sabbath or sacred day you choose is not a day whose evening has meetings you need to attend. Do not settle for less than a 24-hour period each week, and once a month make it a 36-hour period. When a funeral or other crisis must interrupt your Sabbath, find another day very soon for it. And be sure to use your vacation time. Schedule it and use it!
Start these habits from day you begin the call. You will be tempted to say that, after a few months of getting familiar with everyone and everything, you'll set your Sabbath in place. Don't wait that long. You don't need to make a big deal about it or your calendaring of your blocks of time off. Simply label your time off in your calendar, and if someone wants to schedule a meeting or time with you, you can say, "I'm not available then; would this date and time work?"
Readers...please use the comment function to add your own suggestions.
May you live today and every day in God's amazing grace+