The demands of ministry are simply amazing. We are called to be pastor, preacher, teacher, healer, counselor, writer, prophet, priest, administrator, visionary, consensus-builder, spiritual guide, mentor, coach, team leader, techie, executive officer, detail person, care-giver, and even custodian, secretary and music director!
One of the things I like most about ministry is that you have to be a jack of all trades – you have to know a little about a lot. In that respect, ministry is never boring. There is always something new to learn.
The other thing I like about ministry is that we never know what a day will bring. Our carefully planned day changes the minute the phone rings, and we head off to the emergency room after an accident, or we meet a family at the nursing home where a loved one has just died. The interruptions are our life. Sitting 3 hours with a person who is dying may very well be the most life-giving thing we do all week. At the same time, Sunday comes every 7 days, necessitating quality time for sermon preparation.
In order to be ready for the unexpected interruptions which come our way every day and make the best use of our time, it is critical to develop efficient work habits. I would like to share with you the “best practices” which have helped me be as effective as possible over 28 years of ministry. Perhaps they will help you as well.
Best Practices for Leading From the Heart by Working Smart
- Develop a personal mission statement. Just as churches need vision and mission statements to guide their ministry, so you should continually ask yourself, “Does how I spend my time fit in with my mission statement and priorities as well as the church’s mission?”
- Set clear goals and have a plan to accomplish them. The disciplined act of setting personal and professional goals and working on them daily exponentially increases your chance of achieving them and not getting sidetracked.
- Arrange to do your most important work when your mind is sharp, and you do your best thinking. Since I am a morning person, I always tackle the big stuff first. Give yourself large blocks of quality time for concentrated study.
- Don’t let technology rule your life. Don’t waste time by checking your email every 5 minutes. Turn off your cell phone when you need uninterrupted time to work. Give full attention to the task at hand and focus, focus, focus.
- Keep paper and pen handy and use to-do lists. Many sermon illustrations and great ideas are lost because they’re forgotten by the time we get back into the office. Write things down all the time to ensure that you don’t drop balls.
- Sleep on it. When we allow our subconscious time to work, we invariably gain new insights into important decisions or sermon preparation. Write second and third drafts. Of course, that means no Saturday night specials!
- Be a whole person: there’s more to life than ministry. Get enough sleep: it helps your immune system remain strong. Exercise regularly. Take up a hobby. Eat well (watch those church potlucks!) Write your children’s school events into your calendar. Go to a movie or concert. Enjoy time with friends.
- Protect your time off. Church members will honor your day off if they know that you honor it as well. Don’t worry: God will keep watch while you rest.
- Take care of your spiritual health. Ministry is not just about “doing”: it’s about “being” as well. Spend quiet time with God. Don’t just read the Bible and devotional books when you are preparing sermons. Join a covenant group and/or see a spiritual director regularly. Find times to worship when you are not leading.
- Learn when to say “yes” and when to say “no.” Delegate! Decide what is most important for you to do, then train and equip others to be in ministry.
- Accept setbacks as a normal part of life. Failure and disappointment are opportunities for growth and are part of the perfection of the kingdom of God. Have the inner strength and discipline to react positively, learn from your mistakes and move on.
- Love your people. We human beings are predictable: what we want most in life is to love and be loved. Show a genuine interest in everyone in your congregation. Learn names, be accessible and show appreciation continually.
- Pour your entire self into everything you do. Give 110%. Start every day by praying, “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart.” Psalm 9:1
The most important thing to know about best practices is that they are continually changing and being refined as we reinvent ourselves and our ministries. What are your best practices? How do you best live out God’s call in your life? What might you need to change right now about the way you work?
As I rethink my own best practices for working smart, I realize that I need to become more technologically savvy. Knowing that our new district mission statement calls for “effective multi-layered communication” of the gospel, our outstanding administrative assistant, Liz Bode, and I are changing the look of our communications.
- We are attempting to make our weekly Grand Rapids District e-newsletter, The Connection, more user-friendly. We welcome your feedback.
- We are working on a district website, which you may view at http://www.grdistrictumc.org/. The GR District website is a work in progress! Here’s how you can help. Please send us your church event, mission trip, youth program, or outreach info with photos (jpg’s) for posting on the website.
- You see today, we are transforming Leading From the Heart into a blog. A blog is an interactive web site where we can all engage in dialogue together. You can still respond to me individually by clicking the reply button to this email. If, however, you wish to engage in broader conversation, you can click Visit Leading from the Heart Blog to be taken directly to the new blog site on the GR District website.
We’ll keep going on to perfection with our communication, and we value your input. Special thanks to Rev. Linda Burson, Jim Searls and Rev. Bryan Schneider-Thomas for their assistance.
My hope is that we can all be enriched as we share our thoughts with one another about how to bring in God’s kingdom of shalom on this earth.