THE PROPER USE OF TIME
Reverend K. A. Thames
In the economy minded, money-saving day that we live in, we often overlook one of the most valuable commodities in our time…that of time.
More often than not, the one that has the nice home… driving a comfortable automobile…is not the one that is wealthy…but rather, the one that can manage his finances well. There are those who could be financially secure, but have never learned the art of managing finances…thus their lives are spent in dollar-stretching.
Likewise with time. Each of us has been allowed 60 minutes in one hour to use. As pastors, especially full-time
pastors, there is no one standing over us to make sure that our time is used wisely…there is no time clock to punch when we walk into the office…it is entirely up to us the way we spend our time.
I think perhaps our best example is the Lord Himself. Think about his life for a moment…He only ministered three and one-half years…yet look at what He accomplished. He changed the world…Why? Not just because he was the Son of God…but because He knew how to manage his time while here on earth… and realized that there was time…to contend with and face.
The preacher declared to us…”…to everything there is a time and a season…”
The minister must realize the value of this scripture… everything has its part in his life. There is a time to work, a time to relax, a time to worship, a time for intercessory prayer. Our lives.,.with just one of these time factors allocated will become unbalanced…but it is our responsibility to learn to get control of time…and allocate to the best of our needs and his work.
I’m young…I don’t know too much about the yesteryear days…days when “things were slower” they say. Just about all I remember is rush and hurry…where time was always a major factor. But I do know,..that it seems to get more rushed every day and days and weeks go by…when I definitely feel that we are in a time shortage. Have you ever felt like…surely we only “went through 18 hours today instead of 24!”
II. THE EFFECTIVE USE OF TIME
First…I would like to discuss the effective use of time. How to make time work for you.
A. DEVELOP AN OVERVIEW
The pastor has the responsibility of knowing and seeing that the church is headed in the right direction. Although it
is impossible for him to be in all places at all times, he should know how the work is functioning.
So, first of all, to use time effectively…develop an overview of the action of your church. Sit down sometime… and make a list…of what you think the responsibilities of a pastor are. Then, after you have it on paper, you will get an
overview…to begin to acknowledge just how important your time is.
Since I’m teaching the class…the only one that I can use for an example is myself…and I have found that the most effective way for me to function is through scheduling my time… and the best way to schedule your time is to make up a priorities list.
One of the dangers of pastoral time management is that most generally, there is so much to do…that we do a little of
everything and many times a lot of nothing. It is easy to forget the important things until we lay our heads down at night… then suddenly remember what should have been done. Consequently, little sleep is obtained that night for worry…and very little accomplished the next for being weary!
C. A WEEKLY SCHEDULE
Set a priority list. Priority list. Priority simply means that some things receive attention before other things. I make a weekly priority list and then break it down into a daily priority list.
To make the most use of your time, put the drudgery items first. If you are the type that likes the outdoors…and would rather be anywhere than cooped up in an office behind a typewriter taking care of necessary correspondence, it would be best to put this particular job first on your priority list. The point is this…by the first of the week…you have your “less-liked” jobs taken care of.,.and the last part of the week can be spent doing the things about the kingdom of God that you enjoy most.
I suppose I’m normal,..and I realize that we are all different…but I would rather be out visiting with new prospects…contacting absentees…etc. than writing this lecture… which why on Tuesday…I’m seated behind a
typewriter.,.trying to take care of this matter before the latter part of the week because I want to spend my time just before the weekend making contacts for the weekend services.
Next, after the weekly priority list has been made, this must be broken down into a daily priority list. Again, use the
same format, with the less popular jobs to be taken care of first…with the well-liked duties placed last on the list.
There is a reason for this.
1. If we do what we enjoy doing first, more than likely, we will not get to the tasks that don’t appeal to us.
2. Likewise, if we do that less popular task first, we are anxious for the afternoon when we can get on with the job that we are looking forward to doing,
D. SCHEDULE ACTIVITIES
Along with setting priorities, it is useful to schedule the various activities as closely as possible. Allow yourself the amount of time that you feel necessary to complete the particular work…then work toward that goal.
E. GROUP SIMILAR TASKS
All of the similar tasks can be grouped together thus saving a great deal of time. For example, if correspondence needs to be done, take care of it all at one time…then that particular job is completed for the week. It is always discouraging to “job-hop” and usually we end the day with the feeling that we have got nothing accomplished.
I have found that it works best to do the work as simple as possible. The best way to simplify your work is to ask
yourself the following questions…
1. Is this activity really necessary?
2. Can a part of this activity be eliminated?
3. What does this activity accomplish?
4. Where and when should this activity be done?
5. Who could do this in addition or in place of me?
6. What is the best way to do this activity?
Many of the things that we do are time wasters! Proper planning and organization of our time can actually give us
more time to spend with our families.
G. ALLOW FOR THE UNEXPECTED
In all of this scheduling, I do not want to give the impression that we can schedule our days so tight that we cannot
be interrupted for any reason. I can’t recall one day of pastoring…where something unexpected hasn’t arisen…that
needed to be taken care of that day! Someone in the church is hospitalized…a counseling session is needed immediately. We must remember to allow for these events…then don’t become frustrated when they occur…because more than likely they WILL occur.
H. CONSIDER THE ENERGY CYCLE
Every person’s metabolism functions differently. What the prime time of the day for accomplishing tasks is for one is impossible for the other.
I remember as a young pastor, listening to a lecture by a well-known pastor whom I highly respected give his schedule for accomplishing things. I had been dissatisfied… not with the church, but with myself for quite some time. It seems like my life went like the little slogan, “the hurridier I go, the behinder I get!” So, full of anxiety, I sat on the
first row in the lecture room to find out how to properly schedule my time. I was ready for ANYTHING!!
The minister told me that he arose at 5 a.m. and showered and dressed. Immediately thereafter, he spent time alone with God…then began to take care of correspondence matters. Later, he spent a leisurely breakfast with his family…then took care of pastoral matters…such as hospital visits, etc.
I went home excited and anxious to try it. The alarm rang loud, to my dismay at 5 a.m. I staggered to the bathroom…
but fate was against me because I had to go through the living room…and even pass by the couch. I couldn’t do just “five minutes” I allowed myself to sit and get my eyes open! My five minuted turned into 45 minutes, and my eye-opener was spent with eyes tightly shut…sound asleep. Awakening suddenly, I was so angry with myself. I went through the rituals of dressing, made it to my office, knelt to pray, and an hour or so later woke up! That set my pattern for the day, though my body was moving, my mind was asleep. The next day, determined, I tried it again. This time, I retired earlier, and read, consequently laying awake for hours trying to get to sleep.
At long lasts, I fell asleep. This continued for days. I got less accomplished than I had ever in my whole life. I finally
realized that I couldn’t be that preacher who taught the lesson.
I could only be ME!! I evaluated the times of the day that I could get the most done. I won’t tell you my schedule
because you may do exactly what I did, but there are the peak hours in your days when your energy cycle is greatest.
Make full use of this potential and get the job done!
I personally feel that the hours of the pastor should correspond pretty closely to the hours of the people in his
III. MANAGING TIME WASTERS
There are some things that could be classified as time wasters. These are the pastor’s greatest enemies. Avoid anything that wastes a great deal of your time. Some of these things I have listed.
A. The TELEPHONE
It can be the greatest asset, yet at the same time through misuse the greatest hindrance of the busy pastor. Time is valuable. Before you reach for the receiver, ask yourself “Is this call necessary?” Be prepared when you call. Have a list before you of the things you need to discuss. Be specific when you call. Not only is your time important, but
more than likely the one you are talking to is concerned for their time also. If at all possible, screen your calls. I
suppose every congregation has its “chronic pastor caller.”
These will call every day, with minor details, intended primarily to get attention drawn to them. Your wife, or secretary (if you have one) can be a great asset for you when this problem arises. However, make sure they get the name of every caller, the information if possible, and a number to return the call. You have the advantage when you make the phone call, in that you can terminate the call more courteously when the conversation has ended.
B. PEOPLE THEMSELVES CAN BE TIME CONSUMERS
Though we deal with people daily we cannot let them rob us of our time to do the necessary things for the kingdom of
GOD! The pastor must learn to deal with this unexpected time consumer with decisiveness and courtesy. External circumstances can hinder a pastors time! The salesman drops by the office, the repairman for the hot water heater was called, etc. These must be dealt with as quickly as possible.
C. MOODS AND WHIMS CAN WASTE A LOT OF OUR TIME
If we aren’t careful, in the midst of preparing for Sunday’s services…we get the strongest desire for a big banana split from Dairy Queen. This involves at least 15 minutes of our time and more than likely, more. We can’t always do what we feel like doing. But stick to the task at hand, THEN perhaps reward ourselves with a banana split (if the waistline permits!)
D. FAILURE TO DELEGATE
I will be talking about this more in the lecture in a few minutes but basically, it has proven effective that anything
which can be done more easily or more effectively by someone else should be delegated. Your time as the shepherd…
is valuable. There are many little tasks that are performed by pastors that could be taken care of by able persons in your congregation. There are two good results for delegation.
(1) Your time can be spent with the most important things that ONLY the pastor can do. Only the pastor can get the
message for the church, only the pastor can take care of much of the counseling that must be taken care of, etc.
(2) Using the talents and abilities of others always draws them closer to the church by making them feel needed. It’s not “OUR” church alone as pastors, it is God’s church; we are the undershepherds, they are the sheep. It is true that the sheep need the shepherd, also need the sheep to shepherd! I have found that the happiest people in the church are those that are busy and involved in furthering the kingdom of God.
E. ONE OF THE MAJOR FACTORS TO THE LOSS OF TIME IS A POOR PERSONAL LIFE SCHEDULE.
This one factor, no doubt, contributes to a major portion of the wasted time in a ministers life. How can one organize
the work for the Master if his own personal life is scheduled poorly? The first step to recovery in time-wasting days
is to organize your personal life, schedule your day, set a direction, know where you are going…then GO!
Everything that is on paper can be put out of the head not to be worried with any longer. The pastor’s life can be
mind-boggling if he tries to remember everything he is supposed to do. More time is spent “remembering” than doing. Every day should begin with “decision time,” that time when one decided what he is to do that particular day and makes his priority list.
As we mentioned before, it is difficult to do the “dreaded” jobs,.,so we tend to want to put them off until later.
Later becomes even later…until finally, in a rush they are one poorly and haphazardly, leaving us with a feeling of dissatisfaction. Don’t procrastinate the dreaded jobs–instead, do them first! Listening to a lecture on this subject, I was made to stop and think soberly about the speaker’s suggestion to eliminate procrastination simply “get started”! How many times have we been guilty of doing it in our minds, dreaming about the job, organizing as we drive down the street, but the job still, basically remains undone! Simply make up your mind that you are going to do the job and you are going to begin immediately, then start…that is the major part of the battle. The rest is downhill all the way.
IV. STEPS IN TAKING HOLD OF YOUR TIME OBJECTIVELY
A. DO IT NOW
Let me draw your attention to the book of Numbers. Let’s take a close look at Moses, very definitely a busy man.
He has the job of leading thousands of people out of the land of Egypt. His patience has been tried. In spite of his good works, they complain and murmur wishing they were back in Egypt. Unexpectedly, God gives him another job. “On the first day of the second month…” God told Moses to take all the people and number them! Moses, in his own thinking almost had the right to think… WHAT? Count these multitudes. I’m swarmed with work and problems as it is. But let’s look at what happened. He got Aaron to help him and on the “first day of the second month” they assembled the people and began the census. Not the next day or the next, or not when he found the time, but he started then!
In pastoring, I have always found that if you want a job done ask a busy person. The non-productive person is that
way for a reason, usually simple laziness! He already has bundles of excuses why he can’t help anyway, but look for the busy, willing helper, and the job will be done. So, don’t be surprised, in your “business” if God doesn’t ask for more! Then DO IT NOW!
Needless to say, you are going to have an inner source of power, so next on my list is
B. TRUST GOD FOR THE HELP YOU NEED
One of the greatest promises that God has given us is that promising strength in every need. No doubt, pastor, already his word is coming to your mind.., as He reminds you of the promises of help. You are already firmly convinced that there is more to pastoring than preaching.
When I was a little boy, one of my best friends wanted to be a pastor because he only had to work two days out of the
week. Wednesday and Sunday! I remember telling my Pastor dad about it, and he almost choked. But, that is the idea that a lot of people have. There are messages to prepare, correspondence that must be taken care of, the sick to visit, the discouraged to counsel, the list…goes on and on. When you stand back and look at it, it almost makes you want to throw up your hands and run, but the only way to get the job done is TRUST GOD FOR THE HELP YOU NEED! Talk to the “Head Boss” every day, ask for guidance and wisdom and He will never fail to supply all the needs!
C. FOCUS ON THE OBJECTIVES, NOT OBSTACLES
Do you look at the reasons a job can’t be done or the way it can be done? Do you think of a glass with water about
mid-way to the top as half-empty or half-full? It really makes a difference! It’s the same amount of water, but it’s the way you think about it that makes the difference.
On tackling major jobs, I have found it best to sit and plan…making a list of why it can be done FIRST!
Not too long ago, the Lord impressed me to have our congregation knock on every door in the city of Borger. The
church was real small, and there were approximately 15,000 people to be contacted. My first thought was carnal… I’ll
wait until you give me more people Lord, then we can do it easier. But God wanted it NOW! So, I made a list of persons I felt would cooperate in the project, divided the town up evenly and presented it to the church. To my surprise, I recruited more workers than I anticipated. Because the campaign was organized, in less than 60 days, every home had been contacted. But, I have a feeling, even yet, that if I had concentrated on how it couldn’t be done, it would still be in my mind as plans for the future.
Look at the 12 spies sent out by Moses to view Canaan. Ten looked at the obstacles, only two looked at the objectives.
“Hey, Moses, I don’t care what the other guys think, I just feel like we can go up and possess the land!” Notice also
who was among the “possessors” the two objective thinkers. Those two that said, “I see the giants, I see the walled cities, but I also see a great big God that opened up the Red Sea for us. With that thought in mind, let’s go and take the land!” Don’t look through rose-colored glasses and then get knocked down when the obstacles show up, because they ARE GOING TO BE THERE! Take note of them, then simply take note of the God we serve.
So, when you undertake a task for God
1. Do it now
2. Trust in God for the help you need
3. Focus on Objectives, not obstacles.
V. MANAGING YOUR MORE PERSONAL TIME
Your time is important, you cannot spend all of your time on one thing. Admittedly, the work of God MUST be done, but you must also rest properly to do the work effectively. Here are some things in a pastor’s life to which he must
allocate his time.
A. REST TIME
Again, different people have different energy cycles. Some men I have known can operate on virtually no sleep whatsoever. But, the average person needs between 6-8 hours of sleep to properly function. Whatever, get the rest you need. Usually, too much rest works on our systems as bad as not enough rest. After you have rested sufficiently, you are fresh for the day, ready to work for the Master.
B. DEVOTION TIME
How can we lead the flock to the Great Shepherd, if we don’t talk to the Shepherd ourselves. It is so easy to get so
involved in God’s work, that we don’t have time to talk to God the way we should. Try to make sure that you have talked with Him before you start the day. Many church problems are simply a result of a communication breakdown between the Great Shepherd and the Under Shepherd,
C. STUDY TIME
Other than your devotion time, this time has been set aside during the week, to study to improve your ministry. If one feels inadequate in his counseling, a good book by a noted author can be obtained. We can reap much knowledge from noted men in other walks of life, or other faiths simply by reading. Needless to say, we should have our study day. I have found that it usually works best for me to take my Bible and necessary material and go to the public library, away from the phone and interruptions and prepare a Bible lesson.
D. FAMILY TIME
How easy it is to spend all your time with the needs of your congregation and then be out of time for your family.
As the church continues to grow, this will become even more common. The only solution I have found is to set aside certain days to be with your family. It usually is more effective if you can get away from the contacts of your city that day. When the phone rings, you really must answer it…realizing that it could mean some minor problem or detail that could take away from your family time.
What happiness can be derived from a well-functioning church, but a family that is virtually a stranger to you. You
are your family’s pastor also, and they deserve some of your time. Along with this time, you can take care of your personal affairs, work in the yard, care for your car, etc. However, many times a decision must be made if it would be more profitable for you to do it or hire the job done. It would be very easy to get overly involved in taking care of personal business and let the work of God fail.
E. PASTORAL TIME
Every pastor is different, but we all have one thing in common, the time that must be spent with pastoring the
church that God has made us overseers of. The most effective way is to set a direction and head for that direction in the early part of the week. There should be time for counseling, time for visitation, time for preparation, time for hospital work, time to publicize the weekend’s activities, etc. All of these are musts in a pastors life. Much counseling among the congregation can be done after a service…thus saving a family a trip back to the church and taking care of the matter for the pastor.
Pastoral time can mean more if a proper use of delegation is employed. Allow me to spend just a few minutes on proper delegation. As churches grow, proper delegation becomes necessary to get the various tasks completed.
A. JOB DESCRIPTION
Don’t safely assume the person that will be doing the job for you can read your mind. Hard feelings and difficult
working conditions often derive between workers when there has been a misunderstanding about what the job consisted of. A list should be made covering the obligations of the position, then studied by the person before consenting to do the job. We are in the King’s business….the most important business in the world! Yet, this important task is often times handled in such a haphazard way that effective work is impossible. Before final decisions are made concerning who is to do the work delegated, meet with the person and bring everything
to the surface that will be required. If he wants to back out, let him back out before he starts, rather than work for a short time then decide that he cannot do the job effectively. Written job descriptions also help weed out ineffective
workers if the job is not being taken care of according to the job description list, an interview can be conducted. The results will be favorable, with the person understanding the part that has been left out, or a replacement found that can be effective:
The staff member should have regular reporting periods after the job descriptions have been laid out and assumed.
Usually, weekly reporting sessions are held. During these, suggestions COULD BE MADE FOR more effective ways to get the job done.
Periodically, the work of staff members should be evaluated. Evaluation should be conducted on a regular basis.
During the evaluation period, the staff member could set goals for his job. Goal setting helps the worker, along with the pastor, to work toward a desired objective.
D. DIFFICULTIES IN DELEGATION
1. Inability to let go: After the delegation process has taken place, it is important that the pastor let go of the mechanics of the job delegated. Many times, the job is delegated…but the one delegated the authority is hesitant to completely let go of the responsibility. The result is quite often a staff member that feels useless in his capacity, Do not delegate any job that you are reluctant to turn loose.
2. Lack of Confidence: Once a job has been delegated, place utmost confidence in the person doing the job. Do not make him feel inferior or incapable of doing the work…the job itself is the main target of suffering in a situation such as this. Let the staff member know how much confidence you have placed in him. People may betray friendship, but trust is difficult to betray.
3. Fear of Competition: If the job description has been given properly, there should be no reason for this…but often times this is a difficulty. The pastor has his responsibilities, the staff member has his responsibilities…and there will be very little contact made…except for review and evaluation.
4. Lack of Time: There are times when one almost feels “I could do the job quicker myself” and maybe this is true! But, priorities must be given…while the pastor is “saving time” instead of delegating authority, one job is not being taken care of properly.
E. ERRORS OF DELEGATION
There are times when delegation has been distorted. Delegation is a great asset to the leader when used for the
right purposes. Here are some the distortions of delegations.
1. Shirking responsibility—–Do not delegate just so you will be able to shirk a task that is rightfully yours.
2. Incompetency—–It is futile to delegate the authority if the person is incapable of fulfilling the job given to him.
In closing on delegation, these points should be remembered to maintain effective delegation…..
1. Secure mutual agreement—–An agreement to do the job along with an agreement to be treated fairly and as a brother is wrong relationship to build upon.
2. Seek the right person—–Sometimes the “right” person is contrary to personal feelings. In finding someone to work for the kingdom of God, don’t overlook the privilege of asking the Builder of the Kingdom for the right personnel.
3. Seek to motivate—-When discouragements set in, always try to present a feeling of hope to the person. Everything is going to work out…we’re in service for the King!!!
4. Discover gifts—–The best way to find those “hidden” talents is to use the person. You’ll find artistic talents in
that one that you have chosen to teach a class, a talent for properly organizing in the one you have chosen as Sunday School Superintendent. We as humans are hesitant to “toot our own horn”…but much talent is laying wasted, unused in the work of God.
5. Allow for mistakes—–Remember you are working with human beings. They are not infallible. There will be times they misunderstood a job description. Through prayer, learn to weave the mistakes into the garment.. and a beautiful product will be the end result.
6. Encourage initiative—–People like to feel that they have something to say. Don’t discourage any idea just because it isn’t yours, If you have talked to the Lord about the staff member, before placing him, it is only reasonable to expect the responsible staff member to pray over the project and the Lord to give him ideas. To keep you informed, and prevent problems that have arisen before; make sure he knows to talk with you before any project is undertaken officially, You can usually spot pitfalls readily that he, through inexperience, would overlook.
7. Expect results—–When a responsibility has been delegated, you should expect results. If a staff member has a tendency to procrastinate, one of the best favors you could do for him… is to let him know of the results that you will expect. Thus, a habit that could follow him throughout life will be discarded. Let’s hope this never happens…but more than likely it will at some time or another.
F. WHEN DELEGATION FAILS
Here are some of the most common reasons that delegation fails.
1. Hypercompetitive and compulsively hostile staff members
2. Emotionally disturbed staff members
3. Unmotivated staff members who have been afforded every known leniency.
4. Staff members with too many outside interests.
The pastor should do everything that he can do to rectify the situation. Private evaluations, personal confrontations–eliminating “beating around the bush” techniques and defining the problem areas directly. But if all means have
been exasperated… and it is futile, then it is the pastor’s responsibility to act.
G. STEPS TO TAKE WHEN DELEGATION FAILS
1. The hardest step to take is the DECISION TO ACT! The best way to go about the decision is to ask the staff member to place himself in your position…you need a job to be done, and it is not being done effectively. The work of the Lord is being jeopardized. In the long run, confronting will be best for the pastor, the staff member, and the church.
2. Evaluate the working environment–if the person delegated to type visitors letters and do other church correspondence has been put in the foyer of the church, while there are scores of people in and out, it is obvious why she cannot do the job effectively. A private room, or even a corner, is better than a room where the job could not be done effectively.
3. If all efforts have failed, and if the worker is a full-time staff member, then action must be taken to terminate employment. The above solutions are workable for both hired and volunteer workers.