Building Your Schedule to Build Your Church

Church Revitalization Podcast – Episode 66

An uncomfortable truth about leadership is that our churches and organizations are an exact reflection of how we lead them. If you’re dissatisfied with the results you’re getting, look inward before blaming external factors. Of course, some church leaders are in difficult situations. But your church’s effectiveness is inextricably tied to the quality of your leadership, regardless of the opposition you encounter.

Getting more out of your leadership is easier than you might think. You don’t need to spend tens of thousands of dollars getting another seminary degree or hundreds of dollars on a shelf-full of books. Improving the quality of your leadership is achieved by mastering your schedule.

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The problem is that pastors don’t build their schedule intentionally; they get stuck in a rut. Each week looks like the last, and they waste time on unimportant or urgent tasks. As a result, their churches get stuck in a rut, too.

Just recently, I came across some notes of mine from a few years ago. In my notes, I was lamenting specific challenges that our organization needed to overcome. I had come up with a handful of ideas, some of which we executed and some we didn’t. As I re-read the notes, I felt frustrated again! Some of the challenges I was brainstorming four years ago are the same leadership hurdles I’m dealing with today.

I’m writing this article as a leader like you. I want to take better control of my schedule because the more intentionality I have with my time, the more effective my leadership is. Perhaps in another four years, I’ll come across the same notes again and not feel frustrated but excited that I was able to finally lead through the challenges we face as an organization because I dared to take control of my schedule.

The solution is radically simple. Build your schedule to build your church.

The formula for building your schedule is also simple. Divide your work into three primary components.

Note: My breakdown recommendations are based on a 45-50 hour workweek by a full-time church staff member. Feel free to apply the same principles based on your workweek and hours.

Creative & Organizational Work (15-17 hours per week)

Creative and organizational work includes all of the tasks that the seminary trained you to do.

The open secret in ministry is that there is a law of diminishing returns on sermon writing. Rarely has the pastor who spends 20 hours on a sermon written a sermon twice as good as one written in 10 hours. I’m not encouraging you to be lazy in your sermon study. Far from it! I’m suggesting that you be a good steward of the time, not getting lost in tangential dives into commentaries but focusing your efforts and reflection during sermon writing.

Many pastors and church staff are failing to put in enough time and energy into organizational leadership. The challenge is that organizational leadership often looks like non-work from the outside. If you spend time reading, reviewing reports, or brainstorming on a notepad, outsiders might think you’re daydreaming or slacking off. The reality is that daydreaming wouldn’t be a bad idea!

Leaders need to spend equal amounts of time looking at both the forest and the trees. Michael Gerbert in The E-Myth describes this as working on your organization, and not just in it. There is a comfort in filling your day with busy work and meetings. But your church will never make the kind of impact you want to make unless you spend regular time in visioning, strategic planning, and leadership development.

Administration (15-17 hours per week)

Some of your responsibilities are generally administrative or managerial, and you cannot delegate them to others. There are emails you must write and calls you must make. There are meetings you need to lead each week. These duties are essential, and they deserve a full third of your week.

Responding to correspondence–emails, social media, phone calls, Slack messages–can take up an excessive amount of your time. There’s no such thing as an email emergency. Be diligent in limiting when and where you respond to email. If you give yourself a window of time, 20-30 minutes in the morning and the afternoon, you’re unlikely to “miss” any critical messages. At the same time, you’ll avoid getting distracted by an endless barrage of messages of varying importance.

Meetings aren’t a curse. Good meetings are the lifeblood of successful organizations. It can be possible to cut down on “pop-in meetings” by scheduling regular meetings with staff and key leaders. Have a weekly creative planning meeting with your worship leader and tech team. Schedule a weekly one-on-one with your direct reports. Be sure to have an all-staff meeting once a week. These meetings streamline your time so that you get fewer messages from team members and less frequent stop-and-drop meetings as they barge into your office.

Leadership Development (15-17 hours per week)

Developing leaders should be a key focus in your week. Who are you building into? Who are you making better? Most church leaders are spending too little time helping other leaders grow. If you look at Jesus’ ministry, you’ll note that He spent far more time working on the quality of leaders behind him than on teaching the crowd.

Reduce your time spent on visitation and counseling by sharing the ministry load with others. Allow small groups and Sunday school classes to be the frontline of pastoral care. Then, add trusted and qualified senior leaders to pray for the sick and counseling individuals and couples. It may take time to get there from where you are today, but begin the process of developing leaders and releasing some pastoral care duties as soon as possible. 

While counseling and visitation are critical, leadership development is the missing linch pin. Your whole ministry will flourish when you empower other leaders to thrive. When you make the paradigm shift to focus on leaders first, it will unlock the full potential of your ministry.

At the beginning of this article, I mentioned that I felt frustrated looking at some notes from four years ago because some of the challenges I wanted to overcome still face me today. Here’s the truth: if I want to see my team overcome these challenges, I have to spend more time each week in organizational leadership. I have to refuse to get sucked into the tyranny of the urgent, distracted by endless pinging messages and tangential and nonessential tasks. I have to be willing to delegate and outsource work that others could do to focus on the leadership tasks only I can do.

Build the bridge between where you are and where you want to be through intentional leadership. Choosing to master your calendar empowers you to build that bridge.

Want some accountability in your leadership journey? Connect with us to get affordable, monthly leadership coaching.

Scott Ball is the Vice President and a Lead Guide with The Malphurs Group. He lives in East Tennessee with his wife and two children. (Email Scott).

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