My name is Jason Lowe, and I’m a native of Pikeville, Kentucky. If you’ve never heard of Pikeville, I won’t be offended. Many people haven’t. It’s a small, but vibrant town nestled deep within the Appalachian Mountains of southeastern Kentucky. I was born and raised there. I was called to ministry there. After some time away at seminary and serving the Lord in other parts of the state, it’s where I have served as the Associational Mission Strategist for the Pike Association of Southern Baptists since 2013 and as the Executive Pastor at First Baptist Church in Pikeville since 2015. It’s an honor to be with you today and to share my answers to three leadership questions about productivity.
Q1: What is your motivation to remain productive in your area of ministry?
Although we often don’t think of it as such, productivity is a biblical concept. God wants us to bear fruit for Him. In John 15:5, Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me.”
When I consider the type of fruit that Jesus is talking about, the fruit of the Spirit certainly comes to mind (Galatians 5:22-23). However, his final statement in this verse indicates that our activities are at least partly in view here. Apart from Christ, we cannot produce any fruit of eternal value. Yet in Christ, we can produce much fruit. With that thought in mind, my motivation to remain productive in my area of ministry is biblically grounded. My desire is to produce fruit that honors the Lord and serves others.
Q2: What productivity advice would you share with new leaders in ministry?
Ministry is unpredictable, and ministry leaders don’t always clock in at 9:00AM and clock out at 5:00PM. Emergencies can happen at any moment. There will be times when your plan for the day is thrown out the window with no advance notice. That’s the reality of ministry. However, there are many “emergencies” that aren’t really emergencies. If you’re not careful, you will condition yourself to drop everything anytime a church member asks for a moment of your time.
Therefore, I would encourage new ministry leaders to be intentional with your time by setting appropriate boundaries. When you are working on a sermon or spending time with the Lord in prayer, turn off your phone. Turn off notifications on any other devices that may distract you. If it’s a true emergency, someone will find a way to get in touch with you.
I realize this may sound counterintuitive. As a spiritual shepherd, you should be available anytime one of your church members call on you for help, right? That sounds good, but that’s not the approach that Jesus took.
In Mark 1, after a busy day of preaching and healing, Jesus rose very early the next morning and went out to a desolate place and prayed. In verses 36-37, we read, “And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, ‘Everyone is looking for you.’” Most ministry leaders would likely drop whatever they were doing in that moment to respond and continue to minister to the people. But Jesus doesn’t do that. Instead, Jesus responds in v. 38, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” Similarly, in Luke 5:15-16, Luke writes, “But now even more the report about him went abroad and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.”
What do these passages teach us? Jesus did not make Himself available at all times. He set appropriate boundaries. He was intentional with His time. Ministry leaders must do the same in order to maintain productivity. When it’s time to study, it’s time to study. When it’s time to pray, it’s time to pray. When it’s time for counseling, it’s time for counseling. Productive leaders don’t just have good intentions about how they hope to spend their time; they are intentional about it.
Q3: What are some tools or resources you would recommend to leaders in ministry that help you in your productivity?
I’ll share three recommendations. First, I would recommend the book What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman. It’s a biblical approach to productivity, and I find myself returning to its pages time and time again. The primary premise of the book is that the proper motivation of personal productivity is to serve others to the glory of God. The author spends a considerable amount of time fleshing this out in the first half of the book. The second half is full of practical tips for getting the right things done.
Second, I can’t stress enough the importance of having a system for collecting and sorting your tasks. I have heard this concept referred to as “having a second brain.” While our physical brains are prone to forget tasks and appointments, our second brain won’t forget. That’s why I recommend using some type of task management app such as Todoist or Apple Reminders that can sync across all of your devices and keep you on track.
Third, an app that I recently discovered is called Doodle. Whenever I try to schedule a meeting with more than two participants, it is often time-consuming and frustrating to find a time convenient for everyone when communicating availability back and forth through email. That’s why I love Doodle. Using this app, I can send an email to all participants with a link to multiple potential meeting dates and times that work with my schedule. Each invitee simply clicks a checkbox for which options work with their schedule. Once everyone has participated, I simply schedule the option that works best with everyone. It takes only a few minutes to setup in the app, but it spares me (and the rest of the invitees) a lot of time and headache with multiple emails.
I pray that these tips have been helpful. If you’d like to check out more of my blog posts, head on over to JasonALowe.com. There you will find weekly posts intended to equip churches and encourage leaders. May the Lord bless you as you seek to serve Him and others!