I know why you feel overwhelmed and stressed out: your calendar is a mess. Every children’s pastor needs to learn how to master the art of “calendaring.” Prioritizing the scope and sequence of your work is the only way to become an effective leader. It doesn’t matter how rich or poor your ministry budget is; everyone gets the same number of hours in a week. What you do with your time will determine how successful your ministry is.
If you’re facing difficulty with your calendaring, here are five essential skills that will assist you:
1. Big rocks first.
The most important parts of your ministry must dominate your calendar. Stephen Covey calls these things “big rocks” in an illustration where big things are prioritized before little things. Check out this video by “The Art of Manliness” guys and then come back here. Okay—you’ve watched the video. Good. You must know what parts of your ministry are essential and plan to do them first. Sunday gatherings, midweek programs, and special events—these come before your Facebook group, meeting up for coffee or reading articles like this. You are robbing from your church when you steal time from essential tasks on your calendar. Get your most important work done first!
2. Walk it back.
You have prioritized the most important tasks in your calendar—good. Now you need to make sure you have enough time to execute those tasks. This is especially true for special events. The best way to make sure you have time to complete these things is to walk them back in time. Start with the event itself. This can be a Sunday teaching or big holiday event. Begin working backward with scheduling the time you will need to have the final project done. Make a check list like this:
Christmas musical on Sunday. Final rehearsal on Saturday.
Final rehearsal on Saturday. Set done by Friday.
Set done by Friday. You’d better start building on Wednesday.
Building on Wednesday. You’ll need all of your supplies by Tuesday?
This skill is essential and requires something I like to call “administrative creativity.” You need to develop the ability to predict which administrative tasks must be accomplished and the order in which they need to be completed. It can be as simple as this: make a list of steps required to complete your event and then schedule those steps into your calendar. Done.
3. Leave margin.
This is one of the hardest things to leave in your calendar: white space. I am referring to the space between events and tasks where nothing is scheduled. Don’t plan on 100 percent efficiency with your personal calendar. You work with people who always seem to derail your schedule. One of these people may be your boss, so you’d better leave room for him/her to be a part of your life. When you over-program your personal calendar, you leave no room for error or for life. Church is messy and responsive. Don’t stack your dominos too close to each other, lest one fall and knock over the whole stack. Think about it by watching this video clip.
4. Schedule appointments with yourself.
Give yourself permission to schedule meetings with yourself. Do it right now. You must schedule time to get your own work done. Commit time to scheduling volunteers or writing emails. Protect this time and don’t let you, or anyone else, hijack it. Failing to plan is planning to fail. You have an idea of how long it will take you to perform certain tasks. Schedule time with yourself to get those things done. This may feel a bit strange at first, but do it anyway. This is the only way to protect your schedule and impose some discipline in your workweek.
5. Say no.
This is the fifth and final tip—just say no. This will be the most difficult thing to do. You love people, you love your job, and you would love to be involved in every ministry of the church. You need to say no to good things so you can say yes to great things. Consider this: every time you say yes to one thing you will need to say no to ten things. For the mathematicians, that is a 1/10 yes/no ratio. Here is the catch: the more effective you are, the more you will be invited to do things. That means your yes/no ratio is only going to increase over time.
This is a lot for you to think about. Start at step one and work your way down. Your ministry doesn’t have to be stressful. You can be in control of your schedule. It will require some discipline, backbone, and intense focus. Master the art of “calendaring” and free yourself up to have a greater impact in your church. Start right now.