Pastor, would you agree that our profession is prone to sovereign surprises which are impossible to anticipate? We should be reluctant to blame God, however, for our clogged calendars when they are often caused by our own procrastination or poor planning. In my last Lifeway Pastors post I listed, “take control of your calendars” as one of the ways I keep from getting overwhelmed. Today I want to share how I try to control my calendar throughout the year.
Put Family First
The only realistic way to prioritize your family time is to protect it on the front end. For example, now is the time to make your summer plans.
Janet and I sit down about once a month to look at our calendars. For the most part we are synchronizing dates, but we also work hard to align our priorities. Sometimes that means saying “no” to some enticing opportunities so that I will have room to say “yes” to more important priorities.
Make Ministry Margin
My ministry is less than conventional, as I have about forty ministry events on my calendar, plus an additional number of commitments related to being an interim senior pastor of a metro Nashville church. Some of you have children at home and/or other jobs to juggle. What we all have in common is a shortage of ministry margin.
Practice Self Control
To be perfectly honest, my greatest calendar control issue is…me.
Paul instructed Timothy to appoint pastors who know how to manage themselves and their families well. Other character challenges to consider include addictions to money, alcohol, and anger (1 Timothy 3:2-5).
I wonder if the early church pastors also struggled with an addiction to ministry. I sure do. I am reluctant to admit that I love ministry to the point of idolatry. I fear this might come across as an insincere boast, but I assure you it is not. Churchaholics are merely workaholics with a God card.
Pastors are far more conservative in preaching about Sabbath than we are at practicing it. Sabbath was initially enforced with the death penalty in the Sinai days. We should be flexible in how we practice it, yet inflexible about whether to practice it.
Prioritize Self Care
I often ask pastors what they like to do for fun, and often get blank stares.
“I used to fish, hunt, play basketball,” they say. I sometimes detect a mixture of pride, regret, or both in their voices.
Although I have never been busier in ministry than I am today, I sincerely strive to have a life outside of Lifeway and my church. We turn some of our ministry trips into fun outings when we can schedule around them. Janet and I usually go on adventure jogs near our hotels while on road trips. We plan extended family time, occasionally up to a year in advance, so that it won’t get gobbled up by ministry commitments. Sometimes I also bow hunt with my buddies.
One thing I can count on is that nobody will ever show up at my door with a tray of margin. My simple advice for you today is to control your calendars before your calendars take control of you.