I am one to admit, there are many, many days where I am not productive in the office. What do I mean by “the office”? I mean my job as a student pastor. In fact, I’ve felt incredibly lazy for the past couple of months, as if I haven’t gotten anything done whatsoever. But there is a different aspect to a vocational ministry position compared to a job in the secular workplace.
Vocational ministry is different for a couple of reason. First, there isn’t (necessarily) a “to-do list.” Now, some churches do provide job descriptions for the position of which you were hired, but many churches do not. And even with those job descriptions present, you still have to figure out your pragmatics of how to conquer those weekly/monthly tasks. A second reason is that your job as a pastor never stops. You can take or leave this next statement: you will take your job home with you at some point. With most secular jobs, you can simply leave your work problems at work while you rest over the weekend. But because vocational ministry is a calling and a privilege, it stays with you constantly. Another reason it stays with you is because these people, in which you are privileged and entrusted to lead, are people whom you love dearly. These are just a couple of the many reasons how ministry can be different than a secular job.
Because of the differences between the two, it is important to become organized and detailed about your workweek. It took me close to two years to conquer this productivity challenge successfully, and at times I still fail at it. So over the past few years, I’ve developed a strategy that helps my productivity in the “office” during the week.
1) Organize Yourself.
At the previous church I worked, the pastor met with me early on and told me that I needed to get organized. At first, I really didn’t know what that meant. And he admitted to me that he had trouble with organization and didn’t want me to go down the same road. So I talked to a few of my close friends and they helped me with getting organized. Since then, I’ve developed my own strategy for doing so. But I will say this:
If you are not organized, you will not be productive.
Plain and simple, if there is no organization with your work ethic, then there will be no completion of tasks. It is imperative to organize everything throughout your week. A good sequence to this is to do that first thing every Monday morning. My morning routine starts at 8am everyday with my personal Bible Study. At 9am, the first thing I “work on” is previewing what tasks I need to get done throughout the week. Organization will help you do that.
2) Have a WEEKLY cleanup day.
One of the best things I’ve decided to do was to intentionally keep my office clean. I am a very OCD person; everything has to have its place. I’m sort of like this with everything I own. Sometimes, it makes my wife a bit annoyed. However, this is another vital element to staying organized. The cleanliness of your office, in my opinion, helps you to navigate the different tasks that you need to get done throughout your day and your week. Not to mention, it looks very good to visitors who coke in and notice that your office is neat and tidy.
3) Make a schedule and stick to it.
This is probably the most common organizational tactic used for productivity. The way I “stay on task” is by keeping a schedule. Keeping a strict weekly schedule allows me to know what I have to do the next hour or the next day or the next week. And for the most part, my schedule stays the same. I always know that Tuesday and Wednesday I will be prepping for my main assembling of students on Wednesday nights. Also, I always know that Fridays will mostly be spent doing schoolwork or putting final touches on an event on the following Saturday.
These types of things are where job descriptions help you. If you have a job description, fill your weekly schedule with every task you need to complete. If you do not have a job description, my suggestion would be to get one OR to find a sample job description and model your workweek after it. Websites like youthmin.org and youthspecialties.com and youthministrymedia.ca and others all offer great administration documents to help you in this area.
But there is one more item of business to take care of and I call it “the unexpected.”
4) Make time for the unexpected.
I know I just expressed the importance of sticking to your schedule, but I also know that sometimes things just come up. Recently, my son had been having a chronic cough and runny nose that would not clear up, so we took him to the doctor on a Wednesday a couple of weeks ago. What we thought would be a 45 minute visit turned into a 2 1/2 hour visit with the diagnosis of pneumonia in his left lung. Take note, this was on a Wednesday. The following Friday, I get a call from Kaylee telling me that I need to go pick up Beckett at his school (daycare) and take him to the ER because he had fallen on the playground and gashed his head open. All in one week, I lost a total of almost six hours in the office, from ONLY health issues.
This is just family health issues. What if someone comes to visit you at the church? What if someone becomes hospitalized? What if a church member suddenly dies? What if your pastor is gone and you’re the only other staff member present? You have to take control of the situation.
And let me clarify this point: these types of issues are not burdens for pastors and student pastors. They are a part of the calling God has placed on our lives and that is to care for God’s people.
Back to the point.
You will need to make time for “the unexpected” throughout your week. If something like this happens, shift your schedule and get done what you can. Some weeks, you won’t get everything you’d like to get done. But you can make up for it other weeks by getting done more than you schedule. It will even itself out if you allow for the unexpected and stick to your schedule.
These are only a few of the steps I take on a weekly basis to keep my productivity level high. I hope you will find these steps helpful, just like I have.
What do you do that helps you be productive?