The Changing Church: The Need for Pastors to Manage Their Weekly Schedules
I want to thank Pastor Robby Partian who put together the bulk what you are about to read. As pastors, we were looking for something that shared about the challenges of keeping up with communication and schedules and the fast past changes in communication systems in a God honoring way. We found Pastor Partain’s article to be very helpful. I called him to ask him if we could use it, and he was more than generous and graciously allowed us to “borrow” from his work directly and even make changes to help it suit our context, and as a humble man of God was happy to freely give of his writings and did not ask for any credit, so thank you Pastor Rob.
- Eric Loyer
In his article “Autopsy of a Burned Out Pastor,” Thom Rainer identified 13 lessons learned from pastors who wore themselves out in ministry, many of them leaving the ministry altogether. Five of the 13 lessons relate to the failure to manage time effectively and prioritize important things. Burned out pastors...
- Would not say no to requests for their time because of people-pleasing tendencies.
- Did not prioritize physical exercise in their schedules.
- Did not protect personal Bible and prayer time in their schedules.
- Did not prioritize their own families in their schedules.
- Rarely took a day off.
Pastors have always needed to manage their time well. That’s not new. The change that we are experiencing in the church is due to technological and lifestyle changes in the broader culture. Pastors are now constantly reachable. They are interrupted a lot more. An endless stream of decisions and responses is demanded of them via high-tech devices. Increasingly, pastoral work is fragmented, harried, and inefficient. Work and home life have no clear boundaries. It’s a smart-phone-social-media maelstrom in the ministry.
As a church member, you may be thinking, “Welcome to my world!” Time fragmentation is certainly not limited to the pastoral ministry. But consider this: Much of the most important work a pastor does requires extended, uninterrupted time to pull off.
- Fresh and powerful preaching requires it.
- The ministry of prayer requires it.
- Giving thoughtful spiritual direction, counseling and discipleship to individuals requires it.
- Thinking through vision, strategy, and effective processes requires it.
Bottom line: You cannot be an effective and healthy pastor for very long without taking charge of your time. That means pastors need a plan and churches need to support it. We propose this two-part plan for mitigating burnout and setting healthy boundaries: 1) Pastors should be proactive in setting their basic weekly schedules and in communicating it to their congregations; 2) church members should understand the need for their pastors to manage their time and should adjust their mindsets and expectations to support their efforts, because everybody wins!
The long-term benefit is a more focused, effective, and healthy pastors who are much less susceptible to burnout. That in turn will lead to a healthier church. Pastors, for your part in mitigating burnout and setting healthy boundaries we urge you to:
- Determine your personal, family, and ministry priorities that should be reflected in your basic weekly schedule. Long-term, what are the most important things you should be doing each and every week?
- Translate those priorities into a weekly schedule template that protects them.
- Go public with your weekly schedule template.
- Share it with your congregation.
- Explain the elements of it, why they are important, and why you have set the schedule the way you have.
- Do the hard work of communicating with your church about this.
- Don’t over-fill your weekly schedule template.
- Build in space and flexible time so that you can deal with matters that come up.
The template is supposed to serve your life and ministry, not be another burden. Though you cannot always be immediately available to church members, make sure you are consistently accessible and that church members know the best ways to communicate with you. Be as prompt as possible in your replies given your other commitments.
Church members, for your part in helping the pastor set healthy boundaries we urge you to:
- Appreciate the nature of your pastos' work and what it takes for them to do the most important things well. Encourage them to set time priorities that are healthy for the pastoral staff and the church over the long haul. Be their advocate in this.
- Change your personal expectations regarding the pastor from one of constant availability to one of reasonable accessibility. Availability means we think of our pastors as store clerks who’s there ready to wait on me at my convenience. Accessibility means we think of our pastors as leaders with great responsibilities with whom we can communicate through various means. We understand they are often not immediately available to us, but they are always accessible and can trust them to respond in a reasonable amount of time given their other responsibilities.
As an example we have enclosed the pastoral staff's weekly schedule template at the end of this article. It is not a detailed schedule; it is a template around which we build our week and protect our priorities. Most pastors’ templates will look different than ours. For example, pastors will need to be more specific about protecting their sermon preparation time. Also, whether a pastor is an empty-nester or if they are a pastor with children at home will need to determine how that impacts their weekly schedule template.
So though this template does closely reflect a "normal week" (whatever that means) it is more intended to serve as an example of a schedule that protects the most important things that need to be done on a weekly basis in order to be healthy and productive over the long-haul. And church members, support your pastors in this! It’s good for them and healthy pastors are good for the church.
Weekly Schedule Template (goal to schedule for 50 hours but have flexibility for other things that come up while still prioritizing health and growth in Jesus)
Sunday: Church Commitments (The pastors generally start by 6:00 AM on Sundays and have various jobs such as finishing sermon prep, preaching, worship leading, Sunday counseling, family meals, facility needs, and 1000 other things). Also, Sunday afternoons and evenings are generally set aside for hospitality and meeting with people from the church, getting to know new people.
Monday: Day off
Tuesday through Thursday: Typical Office Day Schedule
- 5:30am – 6:45am: Personal Bible Study and Prayer Time
- 7:00am – 8:00am: Exercise
- 9:00am – 5:00pm: Office Hours*
* Evenings for Tuesday through Thursday- Leading a Community Group, Counseling, Pastors Institute, Music Rehearsal, Hospitality, Evangelism. Tuesday through Thursday generally start early, end late, and the pastoral staff tends to be accessible and available.
Friday: Blocked out time for Scripture reading, study, and to serve as a "flex-day". The pastoral staff will generally not be at the building on Friday. This is a day where we try not to take appointments but to prioritize those Acts 6 pastoral priorities of Prayer and the Word.
Saturday: Regular office hours, and finishing up prepartion for Sunday, Saturday Community Groups, evening hospitality.
*”Office hours” does not necessarily mean you will find us at our at our desks at any given time. We're always glad to meet with unscheduled office guests when we can, but can’t guarantee availability. There may be a meeting, on a phone call, or running out of the office for a meeting, sermon study, or some other purpose. So that your time isn’t wasted, it is always better to make an appointment with us.
Note: Though we may not be immediately available at any given moment, we try to remain accessible. Cell phone voice messages, text messages, and emails will be returned as soon as possible given other time commitments, usually within a day. Voice messages left on the office phone will be returned as soon as possible. Office phone messages left after office hours on Thursday will be generally be returned Saturday.
Questions? Please email us and we'll gladly answer any questions you may have.
The elders of Redeemer Fellowship