Thursday, January 8, 2015

The effective pastor

The number one complaint I've heard from every bivocational minister I've talked to is the lack of time to accomplish all the things that needs to be done.  I often break down the life of a bivocational minister into five areas: God, Family, Church, Work, and Self-Care.  It is a real challenge to keep balance in these five areas of our lives.  I teach a class in our region's Church Leadership Institute that addresses this challenge, but I will be the first to admit that it's often difficult to balance these five areas in our lives.

One of the things I address in the class is the importance of setting priorities for how we manage our time.  If you don't set your priorities someone else will, and they will seldom have the same priorities for your life that you would have.  It is very easy for a bivocational minister to spend large blocks of time dealing with secondary issues and spending little time on the more important areas of our lives.

A book that I've started reading that looks like it will be very helpful is What's Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman.  In the second chapter he writes

When most people think of productivity, they think of efficiency - getting more things done in less time...While efficiency is important, it works only when we make it secondary, not primary.  It doesn't matter how efficient you are if you are doing the wrong things in the first place.  More important than efficiency is effectiveness - getting the right things done.  In other words, productivity is not first about getting more things done faster.  It's about getting the right things done.

Later in the chapter Perman reminds us of the words of Peter Drucker: "The most unproductive thing of all is to make more efficient what should not be done at all."  How many times have you been encouraged to download an app that someone insisted would save you a lot of time, but when you downloaded it you found that it did something that you really didn't need to be doing anyway?  That recently happened to me.  The app looked promising, but after downloading it I realized that it would take a long time to learn how to use it properly and it didn't do anything I wasn't already doing with another program that I already knew how to use.  I deleted the new app.

Looking back on my pastorate I have realized that many of the things I did really didn't need to be done at all, and if they did need done they should have been done by someone else.  My ministry became much less difficult when I learned to say no to things that I didn't need to do.  That gave me the freedom to do the things that actually needed to be done by the pastor that would help our church achieve the vision we believed God had given us.  I think you'll find the same thing to be true for you.

I can't tell you what things you need to do in order to be your most effective.  That will depend on the vision of your church and many other variables.  But, it is critical that you identify those things and begin to focus the bulk of your attention on them.  Delegate the other activities to other people.  If you say that you have no one you can trust for those other responsibilities then perhaps your first priority is to train people for those tasks.

The Pareto Principle teaches us that 20 percent of what we do gives us 80 percent of our results.  If we can focus more of our attention on that critical 20 percent our ministries will be much more effective, and, as an added bonus, we will feel much less stress in our ministries and lives.  That is a win-win!

For more information on how to better balance your life and ministry be sure to check out my book The Healthy Pastor: Easing the Pressures of Ministry.

No comments: