I’m trying to get a handle on my schedule and bring some order into my world. Do other pastors have some kind of routine in their schedule? Do they do certain tasks (sermon preparation, time with staff and leaders, prayer, counseling, administrative tasks, time-off, etc.) in designated blocks of time on specified days, or do they do their tasks randomly, whenever they can?
Pastor Jim Graff
I’ve found doing sermon prep and leadership activities in the morning works well. I also keep one night a week open to minister to folks who can’t be connected with from 8:30 AM to 5 PM.
Pastor Phil Edwards – Ennice, NC
A weekly routine keeps you focused. Sunday evening is a great time to lay out your week in advance. You can plan each day and schedule time for your most important task. I find I get a lot more visitations done if they are scheduled. I also set a specific time, usually morning, for study. Over all, a schedule will help you accomplish ministry task and keep you focused.
Pastor Jim Blanchard – Virginia Beach, VA
I have come from a background of retail and restaurant management, so scheduling daily, weekly, and monthly tasks became second nature to me. Typically, pastors will find their own optimal schedule based upon their specific responsibilities, both with family and ministry.
I think that a good place to start is to schedule a regular Sabbath day with family to recharge after every week of ministry demands. Mondays have worked well for us. Others have taken Fridays off and scheduled ministry obligations—service preparation, study, scheduling of volunteers, etc.—during the rest of the week. Over a process of time you will find what works best for you and your family and church. It is all part of becoming a learning organization by learning from what works and what does not work. Thanks for your question and all of God’s best to you and your family!
Pastor Bernie Samples – Barstow, CA
What’s worked well for me over the years (especially when I still had children at home) is the following: I set aside Monday and Thursday as personal days for family, working around my property, workshop, etc., and let loose of church business. Tuesdays and Fridays are office days for administrative and appointments with church people as well as business people. Wednesdays and Saturday mornings are for sermon preparation, although as ministry has evolved with new technology, I try to have sermon outlines to our media department on Friday for Sunday Power Point. We have volunteer staff meetings bi-weekly on Thursday nights.
The main thing I’ve learned by experience is to try to honor my routine (for peace and order in life). But if an unexpected circumstance arises, I can alter my routine but get back on track as soon as possible.
Pastor Billy Joe Watts – Tulsa, OK
As a bi-vocational pastor, I split my days between the church office and my real estate business. Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, we do real estate in the morning and church business in the afternoons. Wednesdays and Fridays are specifically reserved for bible study and other church activities. However, church business can take precedence over all other business at any given time. On time-off and vacations, those are the first things to go on my calendar at the beginning of the year.
My sermon preparation is an on-going thing. I’m always preparing, if that makes sense. In every billboard, red light, trip to Wal-mart, I’m looking for a message. I then sit down to write my notes, but always before Saturday night; that’s my goal.
Pastor Stephen Fraser – Louisville, KY
Up until recently I have been going from day to day doing whatever seemed to be a priority for that day. For example, I would start my day doing TV or audio editing. Then if someone suddenly needed counseling, and they didn’t have another convenient time to meet, I would stop and meet with them. After my meeting I would try to get back to what I started to do, being subject to whatever else popped up that seemed important (emails, staff needs, phone calls, etc.). Although I have accomplished many things over the years, there have been many things that I never could seem to get to.
As I considered this, I recognizing that there is nothing God originally designed in the creation that works haphazardly. Rather, it all works systematically and in perfect order. For instance, we never have to wonder if the sun will come up tomorrow. We know exactly what time the sun will rise and set. The world God created is dependable in that way.
I also recognized that my children’s school was unwavering with its schedule. I’ve never heard that the school was going to open late because the faculty went to bed late the night before. No, rather hundreds of people in the community set their clock around the time frame set by the school. Everyone who attends must comply with that timeframe regardless of whatever else comes up that they consider a priority.
So I recognized that my life and calling was worth at least the same respect from both myself and those around me. I have now since set very definite time restraints around my days and weeks. Monday is TV production day. Tuesday is when I conduct meetings and counseling sessions (I have noticed that everybody finds time to work around a doctor’s schedule, even when in a crises). Wednesday is sermon preparation day. Thursday I leave open for all the miscellaneous items or projects on my plate. Friday is reserved for writing (book publications, blogs, letters, etc.). Saturday is a day of rest and fun. Sundays after church are devoted to household chores—which may include lying around the house watching football (Lol…sorry, but I haven’t perfected that one yet).
I also have a set time when I go to bed so I can awake early enough to seek the Lord and workout at the gym (not getting to bed on time affects my getting up on time). I am finding that prayerfully planning out my days like this makes my work less frustrating and more fulfilling, resulting in my having a great day (which answers last month’s questionnaire as well).
Pastor Monte Knudsen – Mount Pleasant, IA
It’s not how hard you work but how smart you work. Organize or agonize! As a pastor and leader of your congregation you must set your priorities and then do them. It’s always amazing to me how we can overestimate the importance of practically everything.
In the book of Haggai, the builders of the temple had left their original purpose to build their own houses and businesses. Haggai helped redefine their priorities and purpose. As a pastor you will have a multitude of things that need your attention but not all of them have the same importance. You can set priorities easily by coming back to this central question: what has God called me to do?
In this great book of Haggai, Chapter One, the prophet calls them to see what has happened when they got their priorities mixed up. In verses 3–5, they had failed to think about how their actions had been contradictory to their faith (your houses are paneled while the temple is still in ruins). In verse 6, they were working hard but were not getting the results they expected (you sow much but bring in little). They were investing a lot but received little in return (you eat but don’t get full, you drink but don’t get filled, you earn wages but have holes in your pockets). In verses 7–9, they were dissatisfied with their production (you looked for much but it came to little).
When we as pastors try to do everything and fail to maintain our priorities, we feel overworked and underpaid. We get discouraged and wonder if we are making a difference in anyone’s life and we start complaining about how no one cares but us. A pastor once taught me, if you don’t set your calendar, others will.
I never had time for vacation because someone else’s schedule took priority over mine. I rarely had time for sermon prep because other people’s needs were always more important. I struggled to have time to meet with leaders or key volunteers because their time was always more important than mine.
You are a steward of your time as well as your money. When I first came to a new church everyone wanted to see me. Finally, I limited it to Tuesdays and Thursdays. You would have thought I was turning the church into a bar. People had a fit. How dare the pastor not be there for us? It took just a little while, with some patience and some love, but soon the congregation began to have a greater respect for my time and honored it. Everyone’s schedule will be different according to their priorities and commitments, so don’t try to copy what works for someone else.
You will always have more to do than you can get done. That’s ok. It means you got a big vision and God is bringing resources of people to help you. Remember, if you forget the ultimate, you will get enslaved to the immediate.
Dr. Dave Williams – Lansing, MI
I served as a pastor for over thirty years and this was one of the most difficult things to get a handle on – Order!
Yes, I had specific days and times set aside for certain regular tasks, yet needed to be flexible enough to handle those unforeseen events. When I talk about unforeseen events, I’m not talking about somebody else’s “urgent” situation, or those “professional time taker-uppers” that want to drop in to “shoot the breeze” without an appointment. I’m talking about seriously critical situations or emergencies.
Hint: Require appointments. Don’t surrender your day to endless “drop-ins.” They typically tend to be either drainers or know-it-alls who feel they have special rights or privileges. With rare exception do they ever bring value to your life, church, or your ministry. As the church grows, practically all appointments can be directed to a staff member rather than the pastor.
Let’s Start With Your Day
First, time with the Lord and in His Word is the top priority. It must be that way. I’ve actually heard pastors say they no longer have time to pray or study because of the demands of all the people’s needs. If that’s the case, the pastor is not fulfilling his mandate of equipping others for the work of the ministry; instead he is running a nursery of carnal babies who only know how to cry and make messes. So, start every day with Jesus and His Word.
Also every day, you’ll be adding some thought and notations to your upcoming next Sunday’s message. You’ll make little notes as you read something in God’s Word, hear an audio message, or read something in a magazine that will apply to next Sunday’s topic. I loved teaching topical series and verse-by-verse so I always knew where I was headed for the next several weeks.
Now Let’s Look at Your Week
You must plan it or it will be get filled in with seemingly urgent things you hadn’t planned. By the way, I suggest you read the small book entitled, “Tyranny of the Urgent.” Many pastors sacrifice the important for the urgent.
Sunday – you know what you have to do on this day. For me, it was preaching three or four times every Sunday. And, I always tried to take a short nap between morning services and evening.
Monday – this was my Sabbath Day to rest, worship the Lord in a relaxed manner, dream about the future, fill in my journal, and just hang out with the Lord and my wife.
Tuesday – Writing day. This included correspondence, dictations, thank you notes, email responses, partner letters, and books I was working on.
Wednesday – Flexible pastoral duties and I would also teach Practical Pastoral Ministries during the day for pastors and pastoral candidates, usually on Wednesdays when the class was in session.
Also Wednesday evenings were our weekly board meetings, more like a small group for prayer, planning, and fellowshipping with our official key leaders: Pastor, executive pastor, elders and deacons.
Thursday – Staff day. I conducted staff meeting and “open door” on Thursdays for my staff that needed some guidance or instruction. Honestly, only a couple times in thirty years did any staff member need to see me about an issue or challenge. Also Thursday is the day I would make hospital visits if necessary.
Friday – Research Day. This is the day I would do as much research as I could on the series I was teaching and possibly future messages.
Also, I would do financial research on Fridays, both for the church and for me personally. This was the day I would make authorized trades (if necessary) in our brokerage accounts to give us the greatest advantage. This is the day I would read the financial reports and look over the budgets of each department, not in detail, just an overview.
I’ve learned over the years that you always have to know where you are and know where you’re going…and make some adjustments along the way so you stay on target.
Friday evenings were always “Family Night” for the Williams’s. Never sacrifice your family for other people’s perceived urgencies.
Saturday – Holy Day. This is a day I committed to prayer and finishing the outline of my notes for Sunday.
By Saturday, I had gathered several pages of thoughts, Scriptures, illustrations, stories, testimonies and anecdotes. Unless I had a wedding to conduct or funeral to administer on Saturdays, I would stay locked away in my study with my phone off and my heart open to the Holy Spirit. Someone once told me, “What’s the use of preparing a sermon if you haven’t prepared yourself?”
Remember, even with the best plan, there will be some necessary interruptions and inconveniences. But I’ve found that some of the greatest miracles I’ve ever experienced came in times of inconvenience.
You’ve heard it said, “God is a God of order.” My prayer is this short overview will help bring order to your life and ministry.
Pastor Mike Campbell – Algood, TN
As the Pastor of the church, we can help our staff grow and learn by setting the right example with our time management. I do not believe that our schedules should dictate our time, but our time allotted for tasks should dictate our schedule.
Time is the most precious commodity that we possess. Once it is spent, it is gone and no new time is being replenished. So with that said, some routine in our lives can be good.
My Monday is spent with my staff. I have time increments allotted to meet with each staff member to review what they are doing and what is up and coming. I make corrections at this time if things are needed. Afterwards, we all go to lunch together as a staff. Sometimes I pay, and sometimes it is “dutch treat.”
All my Tuesday through Thursday mornings are blocked out for prayer and study. I do not take appointments on these days. I usually meet with my office manager to discuss any financial matters as well as personnel issues on Tuesday’s at 11:00 AM. Then from 1:00 PM until 5:00 PM I will take appointments.
Wednesday mornings we do church-wide staff prayer from 8:00 AM until 9:00 AM. At 9:30 AM we do staff development with my Pastors and department leaders and discuss leadership and building people. Wednesday from 11:30 AM until service time that night, I go home for a private time of study and prayer.
Thursday afternoons I spend time working on Sundays preparations. Friday is my day off unless there is a funeral or some major event takes place. At home, I do my study and prayer early and then go do what I want to do. I also do not call my staff on their days off, and so I tell them to not call me on my day off if it is not an emergency (each of us takes a different day of the week so there is always a Pastor in the office). We must learn to respect them and they will respect us.
Saturday is a day off for everyone unless we have a church event. I do not do any events on Saturday nights due to preaching twice on Sundays. My cut off for events is 6:00 PM unless there is a special event on Saturday evenings. I maintain my devotion life both at home and in the mornings at my office.
That is how I handle my time and I use my administrative assistant to manage my schedule and take my appointments. I instruct everyone that asks me for appointments to call my office and ask for Jennifer. She is awesome at time management and she helps me stay on schedule.
Manage your time and your life well. Honestly, there is nothing routine about ministry.
Pastor Bill Anzevino – Industry, PA
When I first began pastoring, our church was small and I was the only person on staff. My schedule was as follows:
- Monday was my scheduled day off, which I took as long as there were no emergencies.
- Tuesday was a day of study, prayer, and preparation for the Wednesday night service. I also made hospital visits if necessary.
- Wednesday was my day to focus on the night service by going over my notes with meditative prayer.
- Thursday was set aside for counseling, if necessary, and this could include pre-marital counseling sessions or helping church members encountering challenging situations. This day was also used to begin preparation for special services or the Sunday morning and evening services.
- Friday would involve intense preparation for the Sunday services. This included working with musicians because I was a part of the worship team.
- Saturday was a day of meditative prayer and spending time with family.
- Sunday, needless to say, involved ministering in both the morning and evening services.
Today, our church has grown and we have eleven full and part-time employees. My schedule hasn’t changed much because of delegating responsibilities to other staff members who are faithful and trustworthy. It’s easy to come up with a schedule and expect everything to fall in place accordingly; but, truth be told, there are many times when things happen and the random schedule kicks in. There are emergencies, funerals, weddings, domestic situations along with a myriad of interruptions that can change a schedule in a heartbeat.
Early in my ministry, I was called to meet the police at a home where a member’s family member committed suicide. I could hardly decline the request because it would have interrupted my study time. If you’re called to ministry, then ministry is your life.
Organizing your time and fulfilling the call can be challenging, but never allow it to destroy your family life. Take the time you need to minister to your family, and always schedule time to be with your children by supporting them with your presence at every opportunity possible.
Pastor Kevin Berry – Lansing, MI
Great question! This reminds me of a little sign I used to have in my office: “If you don’t have anything to do, don’t do it here.” I found that if I don’t have a routine and a schedule to which I’m committed, it’s extremely hard to stay focused on what really needs to get done—the key result areas of ministry. And it’s extremely easy to allow another person’s priorities to dominate my time.
A rough draft of my schedule looks like this:
- Tuesday – Morning is preparation time for the Sunday message; afternoon is filled with staff meetings, personal meetings, and mentoring moments with staff.
- Wednesday – Morning is preparation time for future messages, classes…not the message coming up Sunday. This helps me stay ahead in my prep time. Afternoon is filled with planning, goals, email, meeting with executive pastor, periodic creative team meetings, and preparation for the board meeting that evening.
- Thursday – Morning starts with staff prayer meeting, then a brief meeting with the executive team. I try and set aside Thursday as a writing day for things such as newsletters, outlines for my messages that will be used in small groups, or working on book projects. Then I volunteer at a local children’s home; I do this to be intentional about being around people that are hurting and need Jesus. Thursday evenings–I have a once-a-month prayer meeting with a team of elite intercessors.
- Friday – This is a study and message preparation day and a day to prepare for staff meeting next week.
- Saturday – I use Saturday to prepare myself and make any final touches to the message on Sunday.
- Sunday – Preaching morning services and preaching/leading evening services or Life Groups.
- Monday – A day set aside for rest and family, committing not to check work emails or set ministry-related appointments. My spouse, kids, and rest are my priority.
Every day begins with what is most important—prayer—time in the secret place. Remember what the prophet Isaiah said in Isaiah 48:18-19:
“Oh, that you had listened to my commands! Then you would have had peace flowing like a gentle river and righteousness rolling over you like waves in the sea. Your descendants would have been like the sands along the seashore—too many to count!”
We have to take time to listen. Scripture makes it clear that the level of peace and multiplication a person walks in is directly linked to listening and obeying.
Hope this helps!
Pastor Thom Fields – Kennewick, WA
I can’t wait to read the answers to this question, myself! As a senior leader, there seems to be a never ending list of tasks that needs my attention. However, many leaders spend way too much time performing tasks instead of using their time to develop people.
It may not even be possible for any one individual to successfully complete all of these tasks on their own. Sermon prep, staff leadership, counseling demands and administrative issues can put a guy in a spot where “time off” isn’t even a viable option. When we find ourselves overwhelmed with so much to do and not enough time to effectively perform, we need to find a way to “give ministry away.”
Often the issue isn’t so much finding the people to share our ministry with, as it is developing the trust demanded by giving ministry away. Great leaders are usually endowed with a tiny bit of a control complex. We tend to think it’s easier to “do it all ourselves” than it is to raise up competent ministers to help carry the load. However, we need to deal with reality. When we’re doing it all our self, none of it is getting done very well.
I’ve had to release most counseling to others and empower key leaders to handle a great portion of our administrative issues. I meet with our staff every Tuesday to insure they’re continuing with the directives we’ve agreed upon (keeping Mondays for weekend evaluation and cleanup from the busy weekend demands). I spend Wednesdays and Thursdays preparing for the weekend message and insuring that I’m spiritually, mentally and physically ready to speak into the lives of those I’ve been entrusted to lead.
With that said, there’s always more to do. So I’m always looking for people to give ministry to. I’m training leaders to train leaders who are equipped to train leaders. Then, I get out of their way and allow them to lead. I invite people to walk with me and watch me. Then I offer to walk with them and I watch. Ultimately, we reach a point where I ask them to invite others to walk with and watch them, and so on.
Giving ministry away isn’t easy, but it has become one of my biggest goals. It has also proven to be the only way to actually reach a Friday and actually have the opportunity to call it a “day off.” Along the path I’ve encountered all types of setbacks and even failures—but they’re swallowed up by the victories I’ve experienced from learning to give ministry away.
I’m certain that others will have great insights that will shed even more light on this subject and, as I stated before, I’m excited to read their responses. But I have to say it at least one more time, GIVE MINISTRY AWAY!
Pastor Doug Foutty – Parkersburg, WV
I for one, have to find time whenever I can. Like a lot of ministers these days, I work a secular job as well as pastoring. I work 12-hour shifts in a chemical plant. The main thing is to try to keep the attitude of your heart correct at all times.
Take every opportunity to pray and listen to God. Study your Bible when you don’t feel like studying. Then, your heart is prepared when the time presents itself to sit down and put your message together.
We do a lot of our communication with leadership through electronic media to keep things fresh until we see each other face to face. Instead of complaining about things not being perfect, we try to give our best effort with the free time that we have. I am blessed to have an understanding congregation. We work together as a family. These folks volunteer to accomplish a lot of tasks around the church and it makes it easier for me to do my part. I can’t keep a regular schedule, but God helps me make the most of the time that He gives me.
Pastor Brad Allen – San Mateo, CA
How a minister should spend his time
Paul labored more than the others. Mary sat at Jesus feet. John leaned on Jesus chest. Each style had its merits and each is a little different than the others. Jesus instructions were not exactly the same to Peter and John, and different still for Paul.
Ministerial expectations are high. Devote yourself to the Word and Prayer. Preach the Word. Provide for your own household. Shepherd the flock. Look out for the interests of others. Preach the Word in season and out. Raise your children properly. Don’t be money-minded or cater to the rich. Use medicine when needed, and take care of yourself. Have a good reputation in the community. With God, we can do what the Bible asks of us, and if we do all this and keep our lives balanced, it is a great testimony to all.
On the other hand, ministers who are stressed out, unhealthy, living with their families on the edge of disaster are not a good testimony. It points to a life out of balance. We all face personal challenges, but we should leave enough margin in our lives to put out little fires without disrupting the church or the family. A stressed-out Moses took a leadership lesson from his father-in-law and delegated more of his work, living a long life as a result.
The demands of people are endless. The demands of “creating a successful church” are endless. Decide on your daily priorities. Enlist help. Then be disciplined enough to leave behind any unfinished work at the end of the day so that you can spend quality time with your family, with God, and take care of yourself at the end of each day. This is absolutely vital.
Many years ago, we had a car that we drove for too long that was a little out of alignment. After a while, the tire went out of balance and began to bump a little as it went around. Finances were tight, and we put off the repair too long and it eventually blew out. Ministry is a marathon and it’s a race to be pursued with diligence, but also with joy. If the joy is gone, then check your balance. If there are personal problems, it could be a balance problem. Make the changes now before the ride gets even worse.
Every minister will have a unique way that he or she finds balance. Pastor Lynnette Hagin has said she only needs 3-4 hours of sleep at night. She accomplishes more in one day than many ministers complete in a week! However, I need 8 hours of sleep to be productive during the day.
The key is to place boundaries around your time with God and create realistic expectations of what you and your staff can accomplish each day so that you finish your course with joy.
Pastor Jesse Zepeda – Pflugerville, TX
Not to sound too spiritual, but Brother Hagin used to tell us that he could tell if we were going to succeed in the ministry by the good habits we established while we were in still in school. My wife and I developed some new habits that were sometimes not comfortable, but we knew they were necessary and would be applied in our future ministry.
Luke 4:16 tells us that Jesus went to the synagaogue on the sabbath, as was His custom. Jesus developed good habits that pleased His father. Well, I believe we are to do the same and please our heavenly Father.
If there are some changes in our schedule, just do what Jesus tells us to do (John 2:5).
I hope that helps, it has helped us through our last 20 years.
Pastor John Lowe – Warsaw, IN
I debrief on Mondays and prepare for staff meeting on Tuesday mornings. Tuesdays and Thursdays are appointment times. Wednesdays are study days and Fridays are my day off. If the schedule is interrupted, like a death and funeral, then one must adjust as needed. Direct one’s time or have no time.