The Practical Secret to Faithful Ministry (pt. 2)
In the first part of this series, we discussed the one secret to faithful ministry: using a calendar (not just having one!) Now, we’re going to explore eight suggestions that I hope are helpful for you and your ministry. In this post, we’ll look at five, and then explore three last suggestions with some concluding thoughts in this final post. In all of this I pray the Lord blesses your ministry. Practically, speaking though, what’s the first thing you might do?
- Establish a Goal or Purpose for Your Calendaring
So you simply need a place to keep your appointments? Or, would you like a system that keeps appointments and to-do lists? Would it benefit you to have a system that allows you to take notes of some sort? In other words, do you want a simple way to “punch the clock” or do you want something akin to a journal?
I like both. I need a way to schedule, but I also want to note various things about the meetings (perhaps a commitment I made or resource I heard about) and I like to insert notes about what I did with the time that wasn’t scheduled. So, when I’m actually using the calendar (confession: I sometimes slack), it really becomes a monument to the time used and a source of future planning, actions, and thanksgiving.
- Choose a Calendar That Works for You
Now that you have a goal in mind, know this: Calendars are not one-size-fits-all.
What may be a blessing to one may actually be a hassle or waste of time for another. Just because the newest computer has a calendar loaded doesn’t mean it works. Just because Day Planners are passé doesn’t mean they’re useless. Calendars should be like slippers… comfortable and well worn.
Think about your needs and your lifestyle and choose one that works for you. If you’re not a tech head, you may want to stick to paper calendars. If you grew up with your fingers attached to a keyboard or screen, an app or a software program may feel as natural as breathing. Or, even though you grew up in this tech savvy age, maybe the speed of a computer short circuits the meditation you need to plan well. In any case, “man know thyself” and choose a calendar that works for you. Don’t feel pressured into the newest gizmo. And don’t be a stubborn ol’ dog refusing new tricks. Try some things on for size and go with what fits.
- Be Sure to Put “Calendaring” on Your Calendar
One reason people have calendars but don’t use them is they never block time on the calendar to attend to the calendar. Everything worth maintaining is worth maintaining. You have to keep it up, which means you need to block out some time for scheduling.
My wife and I try to protect Monday mornings to schedule together. We learned this from our friends C.J. and Carolyn Mahaney. We drop the kids off at school, then drive another a few blocks to Panera where we review the weeks ahead. I can’t tell you how much we enjoy this time. It centers us and keeps us aware of the various movements and demands for the week. We miss it when we don’t do it. This time (usually about two hours) sets the pace for our lives and for ministry.
You may wish to start your week with a couple hours of prayerful planning. Or, like some people, you may want to spend the last two hours or so on Fridays reviewing the week past and planning the week ahead. Either way, schedule a time when you schedule other things then invest a few minutes at the close or open of each day to review and adjust your schedule.
- Put the Big Rocks in First
Most people in ministry have some big tasks or standing meetings that need to be on the schedule each week or so. This includes: sermon preparation, staff meetings, gatherings of the church, and so on. The easiest way to actually get things in the diary is to start with these big rocks.
For me, that means blocking out all day Thursday and Friday for sermon preparation. We have elders’ meetings every Wednesday morning from 9:00-11:00am. There is staff meeting Tuesday mornings from 10:00am-12:00noon and a service planning meeting on Wednesday afternoons from 2:00-3:00pm. Right now, these are the “big rocks” that must enter the schedule. To make it easy, I use the “repeat” function on my computer program.
- Make a Big To-do About Your “To Do” List
Don’t spend the time to make the list only to leave it in some bin of obscurity. Whether you use a paper napkin, legal pad, stick-it-notes or some other system for listing out things that need to get done, turn that list into a tool for faithfulness by first prioritizing the items and then scheduling them.
Prioritizing might include three simple categories: Do, Discuss, and Delegate. The “Do” items are things that fall to me to accomplish. I can’t delegate them and either the discussion period is over or they didn’t require input from others. I simply need to get them done, and I have the responsibility to do so. The “Discuss” items require input from others. They’re either team projects or others have some responsibility along with me. These are things that require a phone call or a meeting. These make the schedule, too. They follow my “Do” items in order of importance unless my “Do” item depends on the discussion. Then I schedule the discussion first. Finally, and happily, there are the “Delegate” items. Praise God the ministry doesn’t rest on one person’s shoulders. There are others to shoulder the load. So let them. Give away as much as you can without neglecting your “Do-ty” or creating unnecessary discussions known as “committees.”
Once you have things organized or prioritized, estimate the time needed to complete them and transfer them to your calendar in specific blocks of time.
Speaking of, I’m now seeing that’s all I have allotted to write for today, folks — so we’ll call it here before part three of this series. Lord willing this gives you enough fodder to chew on and to calendar for the purposes of your ministry and your joy! See part 3 to the series here.