Have you ever spent Saturday evening preparing for a sermon? I’m not talking about a Saturday evening review or some final edits. I’m speaking about actual preparation for the sermon the next day.
Obviously there are circumstances that arise that require last minute changes. There are also situations where God leads your sermon/lesson preparation in another direction. What I am speaking about is last minute preparation because of calendar interruptions.
Someone drops by your office, a response to an email that takes much longer than expected, or a staff meeting lasts an extra thirty minutes. I know there have been some weeks that I have spent my Saturday evenings preparing for an upcoming lesson or sermon because my week was spent running around performing tasks that were unplanned.
One method to help better equip busy ministers is called ‘Time Blocking’. Instead of tasks, or the to-do list, you should schedule blocks of time on your calendar to work on your most important tasks. Successful business leaders use the time blocking method (http://time.com/4027015/business-success-habits/) and the book ‘The One Thing’ goes into detail on how to implement this method of task management (https://www.amazon.com/ONE-Thing-Surprisingly-Extraordinary-Results/dp/1885167776).
The first step in time blocking is to think about what is most important within your ministry. Once you prayerfully consider what’s most important, then you need to block off a section in your calendar in order to accomplish your one thing.
I’ve chosen these five topics as most important within the ministry. I am sure you may disagree with some of these, considering what role of ministry you are serving in. However, I always consider these important within my ministry.
Sermon Prep/Research Time
Time for Visioning
Time for First Time Guest Follow Up
So each day, I consider each of these five areas then block off at least one hour at least three of the above areas. Typically, I spent the first few hours in the office focused on three items. Once those items are finished, I begin answering emails, meeting with staff members and/or making phone calls.
As a result of time blocking, I have found more flexibility for ministry. And I always understand that emergencies can arise and may cause my calendar to become disrupted. However, most interruptions can wait because I have made an appointment with myself to make sure I am productive in what matters most within my ministry rather than staying busy attending to every single decision.
While this is simply an introduction to Time Blocking, I would like to ask you what are your top priorities for ministry? What do you block out chunks of time for on your daily agenda? Leave your comments below to create discussion with other ministers.
168 Hours a week. As Ministry Leaders, we often think of ways we can maximize the 168 hours God has blessed us with and be more productive. However, 24 of these 168 hours should be spent resting your body, both physically, mentally and emotionally. While we are created in the image of God, we are not omnipotent. We need rest. Here are 5 ideas you can use when thinking about your next day off.
This is a brief list of ideas you can use to rest on your next day off. Do you have a couple of ideas you would add to the list? No matter how you rest, take time to take care of yourself and in doing so, you will be better equipped to serve the body of Christ.
Leadership Pitfalls to Avoid in 2018
In 2017 we saw the fall of many leaders in America. While I am sure many of these individuals thought they would never fall from their lofty position, the Scripture still rings true, “So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you do not fall (First Corinthians 10:12 NIV).” As Christian leaders, what are some pitfalls we can avoid in 2018 so that we are not making the same mistakes others made in 2017? Here are three Leadership Pitfalls to avoid in 2018.
As leaders, let’s not repeat the mistakes of the past. Let us grow in godliness, serve those we lead and learn more in 2018 than we ever have before. More importantly as Christian leaders, let’s seek the glory of God in our leadership rather than the glory of man.
Over 2.1 billion people in the world own a smartphone (Source). From social media posts to text messages, we are able to connect to one another instantly. While there’s the possibility of unproductive smartphone usage, I want to look at eighteen different ways we can use our smartphone for ministry in 2018.
Notifications - My smartphone is always with me, so I take advantage of notifications. Notifications are simply alerts displayed on smartphones. Notifications can typically be controlled by the user. My notifications are generally for calendar alerts, scheduled to-do lists or prayer needs.
Calendar (Widgets) - Often someone will want to schedule an appointment or a meeting with me. In the past, I would take their name and number then call them later that week to schedule a time. Now, I simply use the Calendar app or look at my calendar widget to see what times I have available. The most popular calendar apps: Google Calendar; Sunrise Calendar; Microsoft Outlook.
App Organization - I have organized my apps into separate, labeled folders. So instead of taking time to look through a screen full of apps, I have my apps organized into four folders: Productivity, Finance, Social Media, Communication. On most smartphones, you can label and organize as many folders as you would like to have.
Note Taking - As I make hospital visits with church members, it’s often difficult for me to remember the details of each visit. So I take time after each visit, using my smartphone, to type a few notes about the visits and ways to pray for the individual using my note taking app. I personally use Google Keep, but there are others like: Evernote, Microsoft OneNote, and Simplenote.
Camera - This may seem simple, but the camera is one of my most productive ‘apps’ on my smartphone. Not only do I use it to take pictures of church events, but when I notice a maintenance issue or an out-of-date promotional poster, I simply take a picture of the issue and email it to the proper staff member or keep it in my camera roll as a reminder to resolve the issue at a later time.
Minimal Gaming/Social Media - Personally, games can be a distraction to my ministry, so I have deleted all games from my smartphone. Also, I have minimal social media apps downloaded on my smartphone as well as social media has the reputation of distracting employees in the workplace. Don’t misunderstand, I am not saying playing games or social media use is a sin, but when they distract me from Kingdom work, then I delete the apps.
Voice Assistant - This aspect of the smartphone has become controversial in recent years, but I use my smartphone voice assistant more for productivity related issues. When I’m driving and need to add something to my to-do list, I use my voice assistant by saying (for example), “Hey Google, add Call John to my calendar tomorrow” and the assistant will automatically add it to my calendar. I understand privacy concerns, but I mute my voice assistant during any important conversation and counseling sessions. Google Assistant, Siri, Alexa and Cortana are some of the more popular voice assistants.
Bible - While I don’t use the Bible app on my smartphone for personal devotion usage, I have uploaded it for emergency use in the event I have forgotten my Bible. I do know ministers who use their Bible app for preaching/teaching. The Bible App from Life.Church is the app I trust on my smartphone.
Podcasts - Whether I’m driving or walking to an appointment, I occasionally like to listen to podcasts from my smartphone. Podcasts from Google Play, Podcast Addict, and iTunes are apps that you can listen to podcasts.
Email - I have both personal and ministry related email apps on my smartphone. However, recently I decided to turn off notifications from my email apps as I found myself checking every single email notification I heard. Now, I have to manually refresh my email app in order to upload any new emails.
Video Calls - I only use these apps for family use. Often, ministry takes me out of town or I simply like to check in with my kids from the office. I’ll use a video app to say hello to my family. Google Duo, Facetime and Skype are each popular apps to use for Video Calls.
Lastpass - This app saves passwords to websites and app logins. This can save time because if you’re like me, I have about 37 different passwords to choose from memory each time I try to log into an app or website. With Lastpass, one Master Password is all I need to remember.
Trello - I use this app for events and event planning. Each phase of an event has its own board and each board has individual ‘cards’. If I’m walking around the campus during the planning stages of an event, I can utilize Trello to review how planning is going or add an action item to the plan.
To-Do Lists - I am not a fan of to-do lists, but they are necessary at times. Often if I am out of the office, I will utilize my to-do list app to record an item before it slips my memory. I use Google Keep, but other apps include: Todoist, Wunderlist, Asana, and Microsoft OneNote.
IFTTT - This app can bring different apps together to help you become more productive. For example, during schedule meetings on my Google Calendar, IFTTT automatically will mute my smartphone. Or if I post a picture of a church event on the ministry Facebook page, IFTTT will run an ‘applet’ that will repost the picture to my personal facebook page. There’s hundreds of different ways you can use IFTTT.
Pocket - I enjoy reading articles. Often when I’m reading an interesting article and want to refer to it at a later time, I will save it to the app Pocket. Even if I am offline, Pocket will make the articles I’ve saved available to read.
Cloud Management - I don’t like to use the storage space on my computer or phone for work related items. I use a cloud management system, Google Drive, so I can access all my work items from anywhere. If I want to see a budget report while I am out of the office, I can utilize my cloud management system to view the report from my phone. Microsoft Office, Dropbox and Google Drive are some of the more popular systems. NOTE: Many church membership management systems are using the cloud so it makes it easier to access membership information. Check with your church membership management system to see if it’s available.
Rewards Cards - Finally, there are different stores I shop at that provide rewards cards. Instead of filling my wallet with another card or having miniature cards attached to my keychain, I have downloaded an app that allows me to scan my rewards cards. Now, when I’m an a store that uses a reward card, I simply open the app, find the reward card, show them my smartphone and they scan it. Android Pay, StoCard and others can be used for rewards cards.
These are some of the ways I use my smartphone for ministry. What are some of the apps you utilize most for your ministry or area of work?
I promise I'm not trying to get a Taylor Swift song stuck in your head by titling this article: Blank Space. However, when talking about time management, including some blank spaces on your calendar can be beneficial. While I have written a past article about scheduling my to-do list, I also leave about three blank spaces a day (three hours total) on my calendar for three reasons.
1. Conversation - Yes, I am an introvert and I am refreshed after time alone, but I also understand the importance of conversation. So I leave blank spaces on my calendar to allow for conversation. Whether it is conversing with members of my team, or calling a key volunteer or a co-worker dropping into my office, I have some blank spaces on my calendar for moments of conversation.
2. Get Ahead - As I finish one task I look ahead to the next item on the calendar. When I approach a blank space on my calendar, I often look ahead and try to finish one item from the next day's agenda. This will free up space on the next day for items on my 'important/non-urgent' list (like personal development, prayer, lesson planning, etc.).
3. Interruptions - Finally, every leader will have interruptions. For my calendar, having blank spaces scheduled each day allow for interruptions. Whether it's a work emergency, helping a co-worker or a surprise visit from a key volunteer, I am not worried about being off schedule as I know I can adjust my blank spaces and arrange accordingly.
When I first began my current time management system, I had every minute of the day blocked off and something was scheduled during those blocks of time. However, I noticed I was not intentional with conversation and when an interruption happened, I was stressed. However, now that I am allowing up to three hours worth of 'blank space', I am allowing some flexibility into the daily calendar.
How do you arrange your daily calendar? Do you have any flexibility in your schedule?