Lawless: 14 Pastoral Time Management Tips

14-Tips-for-Time-ManagementChuck Lawless gives fourteen useful tips over at Thom Rainer’s blog. They are not couched in the productivity language used by David Allen, but the GTD ninja with their antenna up will certainly note some similarities and cross-over. So for example, Lawless says handle each item once, and GTD processes (do it or context it).

Move papers one time. Stacks of things to do frustrate me. The only way I know to avoid stacks is to deal with papers and documents quickly.

Lawless talks about inserting breaks in the work flow, reminiscent of 43 Folders’ Merlin Mann and his (10+2)*5 productivity hack.

Take regular breaks. The break need not be long, but even a few minutes can help you re-focus your efforts. Take a walk, go to the restroom, call a friend, throw a baseball, read the paper, go outside – do somethingthat re-energizes you for the rest of the day.

Several good things to chew on. One simple thing that I could immediately envision paying off dividends had to do with body posture when somebody “drops by” for a chat:

Limit the duration of drop-by visits by standing. If you sit with someone in your office, your body language suggests you have plenty of time to visit. Remaining standing – even going to the door and standing in the office doorway – is a simple way to say, “I’m happy to visit, but I have only a few moments.”

In my “Midwest Nice” context, I can see this working very well! Of course, there are other things Lawless suggests that I would struggle to accomplish (“14. Clean your desk every day before you leave.” He’s joking, right?!)

Of course, there are a lot of other things that need to be said for helping pastors with time management. Some tasks are sacred – sermon prep, prayer & study, evangelism, and discipleship. Pastors will need to guard those in how they manage their schedules. I remember the first week serving my current congregation, and by Saturday night I had but in a 55+ hour week and hadn’t taken one minute for sermon prep. Thankfully, I had written several sermons previously, knowing about a steep launch schedule. But what was most distressing was there was nothing all that unusual about the busy week I had just completed – it would be easy to be that busy every week. Pastors must set careful priorities.

Recently, I’ve seen more and more pastors tout the virtues of a virtual assistant (here’s one example). Research firms have recently made news due to current debates in wider evangelicalism. The extent that pastors could enlist the help of such organizations is something that needs to be thought out more carefully before being embrace, in my opinion. What strategies do you think pastors need to think about with regards to wisely stewarding their time?

Read the whole thing: 14 Tips for Time Management.

Machen: Dangerous to Follow Christ… in Ministry

J. Gresham Machen“If you decide to stand for Christ, you will not have an easy life…

…in the ministry.”

The sentence starts out making complete sense, and then throws me for a loop. And yet, it also rings very true.

We often hear that standing for Christ in this world will be difficult, but my automatic assumption is that it should for some reason be different in ministry. There, we think, there is where it will always be safe to stand for Christ.

J. Gresham Machen graciously disabuses us of this false assumption, and warns students/pastors in his own day of what they ought to expect if they stand fast for confessional Christianity. R. Scott Clark posts at the Heidelblog a selection from Machen’s 1929 articlesermon “The Good Fight of Faith.” This was Machen’s farewell sermon at Princeton, after the conservatives had lost the fight for the seminary, and just before Machen would organize Westminster that fall. I thought about simply quoting and linking to it, but I appreciated and resonated with it so much I had to say a few things first.

Machen clearly has been reading a lot of new pastor’s diaries when he makes the following astute observations:

  1. People will attack your ministry using the most pious platitudes.
    “Let’s focus on Jesus and not dead doctrine.” “What about the experience of Christ in my heart?” “It doesn’t matter how much you know, it matters what you do/how much you care.” “Christianity isn’t preaching/ministry/truth, it is all about relationships.” All of those statements are heard on a daily basis to denigrate Word and Sacrament ministry, and yet Machen anticipates all of them by more than 80 years.
  2. Tolerance was getting fuzzy even in the ’20s.
    It all depends on what you mean by tolerance as to whether it is a good thing or not. And Machen hits the nail on the head when he calls for honesty and integrity: “the Christian religion is intolerant to the core.”
  3. Only sovereign grace will keep you from a compromised ministry.
    I assumed the challenge of ministry was to keep from sin and to clearly proclaim saving truth. That is true, but the Enemy has a thousand ways to compromise your ministry. Machen puts it eloquently: “All men will speak well of you if, after preaching no matter how unpopular a Gospel on Sunday, you will only vote against that Gospel in the councils of the church the next day…” Sermons and services and letters are fine, but don’t you dare follow through.
  4. Continue reading