Time Management Series
“Making Time for Your Ministry – Part II”

by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., adapted from SkillTrack® 12.1
Time Management

“Making Time for Your Ministry – Part II” is a continuation of Part I,
presenting challenges and suggestions related to four selected ministry functions:  #2 through #5. There is an implied expectation that any time reclaimed from the “not-important” could be reallocated as more time devoted to “important things.” The goal is not simply increased quantity of work, but a satisfying quality and balance of life including family, personal, service to others, and, of course, your job! Now, let’s continue with time management for ministry functions.

  1. Time for Church/ Team Meetings
    Develop a standard format for planning meetings and agendas.

Group: Deacons Meeting
Agenda: Prepared by chairperson, with pastor
Date: for Monday, September 18, 2006
Time: Start – 7:00 p.m.; Close – 8:30 p.m.
Place: Church Fellowship Hall
Notices: By church office on 9/8/06

Tips for Most Meetings:

  • Determine the purpose of the meeting and who should be present.
  • Send notices and reminders about the meeting.
  • Prepare and distribute agenda, with time estimates for items. (Be sure members know regular procedure for getting items on the agenda.)
  • Secure needed room, equipment/supplies (delegate this!).
  • Prepare and provide printed reports and materials.
  • Start on time, stay on agenda, stop on time.
  • Provide time for team-building and skill development.
  • Follow orderly discussion and have standard procedures in place for decision-making, brainstorming, team-building, planning, or _______________________.
  • Make clear follow-up assignments.
  • Record accurate minutes and distribute them after the meeting.
  • Cancel pointless meetings before they happen.

Reflection/Application: Apply these suggestions for one of your own specific meetings.

  1. Time for Office Administration

    Answering the Phone: a primary communication link

    • Train the secretary/volunteer: “not available, may I help you?”
    • Save yourself the phone tag–know which calls to take now.
    • Use answering machine/voice mail unless the message content requires direct voice response.
    • Bunch your return calls, but at a time you might get through.
    • Plan for short, clear phone conversations.
    • “Let your fingers do the walking”–call hospital patients, members, guests, vendors to confirm availability.

    Making/Keeping Appointments: meeting with others

    • Whose responsibility is it to schedule your appointments?
    • Have a set procedure in place so that you do not confuse the schedule.
    • Group your appointments so that you can create blocks of time for other tasks.
    • Establish starting and stopping times up-front (“I can meet from . . . until . . .”).
    • Be prepared for appointments: talking points, proposals, facts, details, reports, budget, calendar, or whatever is needed.

    Opening the Mail/E-Mail:

    • Block off times to process mail and e-mail.
    • Handle mail only once, and in short timeframes.
    • Learn to make quick “save it” or “trash it”  decisions on the spot; if you have to wait, have a holding tray.
    • Scribble/type brief, personal responses on the original letter or report; this is becoming more acceptable. Keep a copy if you need a record (that’s how the e-mail works).
    • Respond by phone when possible–when discussion is needed or additional options considered.
    • Refer correspondents to the appropriate person. Don’t try to make all the connections yourself!
    • Remove yourself from every mail or e-mail list that is unnecessary.  Junk e-mail wastes time.
  2. Time for Working with People
    • Close your door (partly) when you need to; create a two-sided sign–
      “Quiet Hour” // “Come Right In.”
    • For a short work meeting, stop by the other person’s office.
    • Set blocks of time for projects and preparation.
    • Make appointments only for time needed for the business: starting and stopping times really help.
    • Stay connected, but be careful about the two-hour luncheon or the 30-minute coffee break.
    • Don’t waste the time of your team members.
    • Learn to say “No.” Remember the mission, the life-balance, and the commitment to things that will get you there. If there’s something you can do, start your rejection with the positive: “I can come and sit in on the last half of your meeting, but I won’t be available to plan and lead the discussion.”
    • Get to work on your “Yes.” Chances are, your plate is full of obligations to others–get to it in a timely fashion!
    • Recognize when a project is “dead” and let it go. Don’t waste time trying to “rescue the perishing.”
    • Delegate, delegate, delegate. Perhaps the most important single leadership skill for time management is delegation.

Time for Delegation
Delegation frees time for the leader and empowers the other team members! It is an essential act of leadership for both the time saved in the short run and the great unknown things that may be done in the future as your staff begins to claim ownership in the ministry. Delegation enhances the possibility
that “my ministry” will become “our ministry” at the same time that your leadership can spend more time on the overall vision.
Important elements of delegation:

  • Selection – Choose a team member whose skills and availability match the task in question. Arbitrary rotation of assignments may be just poor management, not leadership!
  • Direction – Make directions clear and full of optimistic encouragement. Expect of the receiving team member as high a standard of excellence as you would of yourself.
  • Observation – Stay out of the way! Establish trust with the delegate. Provide necessary access and resources. Be clear about deadlines and update intervals.
  • Control – Let go. It’s ok if the project in question develops in a way that is not identical to the way you would have developed it. Allow the persons you have selected to be themselves, and utilize their own strengths and perspectives when possible.
  • Appraisal – Be honest and encouraging. Listen! Reward completed tasks; learn from mistakes and write it down.
  1. Time for Ministry Projects

    How do you keep your ministry projects moving forward with confidence? The following will serve as a checklist of project components.

  • Define the project early, clearly, and succinctly; use the “six stalwart questions” as a guide:
    • What is going to be done?
    • Why are we going to do this?
    • Who is going to be served?
    • Where is the location, places of the project?
    • When is the project going to begin and end?
    • How are we going to work together to accomplish the task(s)?
  • Establish a planning team involving essential persons:
    • Responsibility persons for the team and within the team
    • Skill/support persons or groups based on the nature of the project
    • Participants/constituents/members/community volunteers
    • Other?
  • Outline the project phases and steps:
    • Planning
    • Implementation
    • Approval
    • Completion
    • Preparation
    • Evaluation
  • Delegate Responsibilities/Functions:
    • Program/leadership
    • Promotion/communication
    • Financial support
    • Scheduling/calendar
    • Physical support
  • Evaluation/Assessment: Take time to assess the project by its designed

Just the Story to Conclude
[from an unknown source]

One day an expert was speaking to a group of business students about time management. He pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed mason jar and set it on a table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar. When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?” Everyone in the class said, “Yes.”

Then he said, “Really?” He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar, causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.  Then he asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?”

By this time the class was onto him. “Probably not,” one of them answered. “Good!” he replied. He reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in, and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, “Is this jar full?” “No!” the class shouted.
Once again he said, “Good!”

Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked up at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”

One student raised their hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!” “No,” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is, if you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”

Reflection/Application: The purpose of this series of articles has been to present time management as you,
that you can fulfill all your responsibilities and still make sure the big things stay first. In fact, that may be the only way to balance all your true responsibilities.  If you manage your time with mission and balance, overcome your time-wasters, and plan/prepare with thoughtful efficiency, you will be on your way to truly “having the time of your life!”

Ministry Time Planning: Not every person has the same ministry functions and expectations. You can adapt the format in these articles by making a list of your own specific ministry functions. Then create your own ministry time management plan by selecting five to eight of the most productive suggestions you will put into practice. And I do hope that you “have the time of your life.”

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© 2006 servantleaderstoday.com; hosted and copyrighted
by Lloyd Elder & Associates, Inc.
For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at www.servantleaderstoday.com
Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership