Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The question I'm most frequently asked

The one question I am asked more than any other by bivocational ministers is how they can find the time to do everything that is required of them.  Let me begin this post by pointing to two books I've written that include chapters addressing this question in more detail:  The Bivocational Pastor: Two Jobs, One Ministry and The Healthy Pastor: Easing the Pressures of Ministry.  These chapters go into more detail than I can cover in a blog posting.

Time management is really life management.  What bivocational ministers must do is to identify the priorities in their lives and then manage their lives around those priorities.  For me it is my relationship with God, my relationship with my family, my ministry, my other job, and self-care.  These five things must be addressed and kept in balance or my life will soon begin to have problems. 

Once you've identified priorities in your life you are ready to set some goals in those areas.  What are the things you believe to be important in each of the priority areas in your life?  For example, you may feel it is important to spend more time with your spouse, so you will establish a date night.  Your goal might be to have one night a week devoted to a date with your spouse.  For your schedule it might be better if that occurs in an afternoon.  The two of you may discuss this and determine that two dates a month would be sufficient.  Establish your goal, and then get it in your schedule.  Whatever day or evening you decide will be your date night, put that in your calendar.  If anyone calls you for a meeting or asking you to do something else at that time you can tell them you already have an appointment for that time.  You don't have to tell them it's with your spouse.  In cases of genuine emergency (and you decide what is an emergency and what isn't) you may decide that has priority over your date night and agree to respond.  However, that better not happen very often, and you better reschedule that date ASAP or your spouse will soon decide that your dates are not very high on your priority list.

Leaders are readers, and bivocational ministers need to set aside time to read if they want to grow as disciples and as leaders.  Schedule time to do read.  When I was doing my doctoral work I had a lot of reading I needed to do.  I blocked off time in my calendar for reading.  I had an appointment with my books.  Now, when I find that my calendar is a little slower than usual I will set times when I am going to read.  I also keep a book in my car to read in case I'm stuck in traffic, arrive for an appointment early, or find myself dining alone in a restaurant.  I would never think of going to a doctor's office without a book to read while I'm waiting.

I've referred to my calendar a couple of times.  It's critical that you own your calendar.  You control what goes in it.  I would never give my calendar to an administrative assistant to manage for me.  There are things that my ministry requires of me and these must go into the calendar.  As a bivocational minister my other job requires certain things that must be included in the calendar.  Everything else goes in only if I decide it does, and very few things go into my calendar that do not fit in with my priorities or my goals.  Believe me, many people will want to put their agendas into your calendar that have nothing to do with your priorities or goals.  You must learn to say no to those opportunities.

This may sound rather structured and that's because it is.  Bivocational ministers really do not have a lot of time to waste doing trivial things that add nothing to their lives.  Regular readers of this blog may remember this saying from earlier posts:  You get done what you spend time doing.  If you want to achieve eight hours of television watching every day it's easy enough to do.  If you want to achieve something that makes a difference it will require a little more structure in your life.  Invest your time in the things that you have determined are most important to you, and at the end of the day you'll feel much better about how that day has gone.

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