Not long ago, I realized that I had spent several weeks in a reactive mode — constantly dealing with one thing after another that popped onto my radar screen or crossed my desk as pastor. Certainly there are times in the ebb and flow of ministry when things spring up that require immediate attention. And that’s okay to a point. But I felt I needed to refocus myself to be a good steward of my own time and energy and to be an effective pastoral leader. It was time to step back and find ways to be more focused, strategic, and impactful going forward.
I needed to refocus myself to be a good steward of my own time and energy and to be an effective pastoral leader.
Over the next couple of days, I carved out of my calendar several two-hour time blocks so I could reassess the stewardship of my time and energy. I got out my trusty yellow pad and made a list of focus questions to assess my work and guide me in setting priorities for the next three months.
These are the seven questions I used:
- What are the most impactful ways I can use my time over the next three months?
- Who are the people I need to engage for positive impact on my ministry leadership over the next three months?
- How am I cultivating my own creativity, teaching, leadership, management, and (most importantly) spiritual health?
- What are the key issues/major areas in the church that need my attention, especially over the next three months?
- How am I intentionally leveraging my strengths to maximize my personal effectiveness and the effectiveness of the church’s ministry over the next three months?
- How am I making room for my best effectiveness through delegation and team ministry?
- What should I continue doing, stop doing, or start doing?
Then I wrote down everything that had been somewhere in my mind concerning ministry and church and self-work that needed attention. This was about a page and a half. I also printed off my preaching calendar for the next three months because a significant part of my calendar and work rhythm revolves around Sundays. So my preaching calendar told me a lot about my time and where I was headed.
I began with the final question (number seven) on my list of focus questions — the “continue, stop, start” assessment. Taking a good look in the mirror and making an honest assessment wasn’t easy, but it was invaluable. Then, starting at the top, I worked my way down the list of other focus questions. Using my trusty yellow pad, I made a list for each one.
It’s incredible how clear-headed this exercise made me. At first, that clarity alone seemed to be enough. But I realized it wouldn’t help for long unless it led me to the next step: Taking what was on the pad to make changes in my work habits. This new clarity helped me rethink the appointments on my calendar, the projects I planned to pursue, and the relationships I seek to nurture. This process was key to helping me refocus.