Ministry Needs Focus to Protect Your Personal Life

“Don’t tell me how long you worked, tell me what you got done.”

James Ling

Becoming aware of our work patterns is an important and often ongoing cycle.

I have learned from experience that what I think is being busy is filled with numerous side things that don’t help toward the main goal and mission of my work.

Ministry life is unique. Our job is to equip, lead, disciple, grow, and help people. In case that’s not your world, here’s a ministry life insight: Ministry leaders’ work doesn’t come with a neat little 9-5 bow. It’s ongoing, often immediate, with spurts of intensity. We need to develop systems, barriers, and discipline to protect our personal lives, schedules, and important relationships. [READ: The Incredible Value of Five Percent – Discover its Power.]

As a parent, I’ve often said, “I’m busy” to combat the feeling that I haven’t been home enough. In ministry and church work, evenings are prime time to meet with the church, students, worship teams and others. We have to be creative to fit everything in our schedules.

But I’ve also said “I’m busy” when I’ve had too much fluff in my schedule.

We need discipline. We must become great stewards of the days God has given us. There is enough time to do the important things, though it may mean buckling down, regrouping your calendar, and getting inner motivation to work hard.

Here are some thoughts:

End Goal

Ask yourself these questions to help you realize your end goal as you work each day and prevent procrastination: What is your end goal? Why do you have this role in ministry? What are your main things to accomplish each week? What can’t wait? What is most important?

Finish Lines

Ministry doesn’t have clear finish lines. Unless you develop your own finish lines, you will always leave feeling like you haven’t accomplished anything. That’s one reason to celebrate with time off when you close a big weekend, a big event, or a big season. In my mind, that’s the best time to take a break because you feel like you’ve accomplished something. Other finish lines can be smaller: for example, heading home after I do this. Create smaller components in big projects so you can tell yourself, “I’m done for the day.” [READ: Ministry Finish Lines: How Will You Know You Succeeded?]

Big Priority Blocks

Someone once told me that if I could turn off my phone, close my office door, and work for 90 uninterrupted minutes each morning, I would accomplish everything I needed to that day. To this day, I will often take my most important project and add it to the calendar under the heading of “Big Block.” If I can do this one thing in the morning, I have discovered two things:

  1. I will often get started and work longer than 90 minutes, getting most everything done.
  2. It’s much harder than I realize to set aside all interruptions – phones, notifications, email, knocks, etc. But it’s worth it to make it happen.

Build the habit of big blocks. I have also experienced this with my own personal schedule. If I do Bible study, prayer, and writing in the morning, I’m likely to accomplish them and have time for everything else in the day.

Tech Hacks

Though technology can be a distraction, it can also help us become more effective and accomplish more. I have my phone set to silence notifications and calls from 9 pm to 7 am. I usually start my morning around 5:00 am, and those two hours without notifications are priceless. I always charge my phone in a different part of the house from my bedroom. I set up prayer lists on my phone. Each morning, I go through the lists to remember to pray for certain things that pop up each day. I have a morning routine to help me stay on track. Other tech help can come in the form of automating bills, replies, and reminders. All of these help us accomplish things.

Guard Against Self-Imposed Pressure

Do you need to work so hard on this project right at this moment? Do you need to stay just a few more minutes. Can that call wait until later? Most ministry leaders are self-starters and we impose on ourselves expectations for being faithful, effective, or worthy of the role. This causes people-pleasing, self-worth, fear of failure, and imposter syndrome (those things probably need a separate discussion). Most of the reason we’re working so hard is self imposed. Instead, let’s give 100% while we’re there; and when it’s time to stop, release and give 100% for other aspects of life – parenting, home, marriage, relationships, personal spiritual growth, etc.

Give Power to Your Kids

Our kids don’t have the power that our bosses, colleagues, and customers have – unless we give it to them. We’re not talking spoiled brat type of power. Allow your kids to be in the equation for your schedule. Your micro mission field of the home needs your connection, time, involvement, and presence. Give your kids power by calendaring important times, dates, games, and other aspects of their lives. You don’t have to tell them or other people. Know that you’re “already committed” during those time slots and eventually, without saying anything about it, your kids will pick up on your commitment to them. You may not golf as much or write the book you’re trying to write, but you can do those things in a few years. Get your kids’ lives into your equation for work and life balance.

A Personal Note

Efficiency doesn’t motivate me. As a people person, I could sit around and talk for half a day with someone (sorry to all my ministry and office colleagues). As a musician, my mind works best jumping from here to there as I think of it. As a procrastinator, I often tell myself that I work best under the wire – and often it truly feels like I do.

So what motivates me to get the schedule, work flows, habits and discipline together?

For me, it’s the desire to be a great dad and husband – to be available at the right times; take my daughters where they need to go; be where they need me to be; and focus on their lives.

If I want to be home for lunch or dinner with them, take family vacations, spend time at their concerts and recitals, and play Monopoly at least a couple winter afternoons each year, I have to keep that goal in my mind as I am working. I don’t want to be sitting at my desk instead of accomplishing something. I want to accomplish it quickly and effectively enough to make it home at the right time. That’s my motivation.

This post, like all my parenting and work flow posts, isn’t meant to heap guilt on ministry parents and leaders. It’s more of a desire to continually remind myself of the most important things. Home and ministry work together when at their best. While you’re serving your church, give your all, and do your most effective and efficient work. Invest your allotted time and hours, and trust the Lord for the rest. Go home, be available, and build a great home life. Your most important ministry may not be what you do, but who you raise.

Some of the inspiration for this post came from this book: The Sixty Minute Father by Rob Parsons.

Read some of the quotes from this book here.

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