Yesterday we talked a bit about breaking up the day into thirds – 1/3 sleep, 1/3 work, 1/3 re-creation. This has always been a helpful mental model for me, but it doesn’t account for the realities of life. Thus, we will examine some critical components for a balanced and healthy schedule.
I was always taught to schedule the most important activities first, because if I don’t make specific time for them, they never get done. So the first thing I schedule in my week is rest. Yes rest. I schedule time where I don’t do anything work or church related. This is my sabbath, a time to be with my family and “recharge” my emotional batteries. You must guard this time as your top priority. No one else is going to guard your time for you, so make it a point to not schedule anything during this time. It sounds crazy, but it is so valuable once you get into the rhythm of it.
My next important piece is solitude (can you tell I am an introvert!?). I schedule a whole day to just be alone with God. Whereas my sabbath is family oriented, by solitude is God oriented. I read the bible and pray a lot. I sit and think. I don’t listen to music or the radio, I simply “be”. In the words of Blaise Pascal, “All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.” Cultivating silence and solitude is essential to effective and healthy ministry. As pastors, we must be ground in the Reality of who we are before God, we must be “unbusy” as Eugene Peterson calls it. Pastors must minister from a deep well of identity and peace or else we are liable to be swept away by the emotional currents of our congregants. Solitude and silence are where we hear the “still small voice” of God.
Our week is quickly diminishing and we still haven’t “done” anything yet! You see, when we orient our lives around the values of the Kingdom of God, the lions, tigers and bears of our culture come out. American culture values people by what they produce. Kingdom culture values people because of who they are. To quote the old cliche, “We are human beings, not human doings.” Therefore, our next order of business is prayer.
‘Prayer? I am too busy to pray! After all, I just spent two whole days being with God – I am ready to go!’ Oh foolish pride. Perhaps it is because of my youth and inexperience, but I am keenly aware of the fact that I have nothing to offer people on my own. I am not wise enough to counsel all circumstances and I am not strong enough to carry all burdens. This makes a vibrant connection to God the lifeblood of my ministry.
God has set a standard for me of 20 hours a week in prayer. I am not saying you need to do the same, but I am saying that you need to ask God how often you should be in your prayer closet. As for the busy-ness component… “If I fail to spend two hours in prayer each morning, the devil gets the victory through the day. I have so much business I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer,” Martin Luther. Prayer is unique in the way it energizes the minister. I accomplish more on the days I pray than on the days I don’t, even though I should have more time.
Next comes exercise. I can’t explain it fully here, but I minister better when I work out regularly. I have more energy and am more at peace. This isn’t a huge time commitment, maybe 30 minutes 3 times per week. I guarantee that those 30 minutes of exercise will give you several more hours of productive time each day and week.
If you have scheduled the above and are committed to sleeping 8-10 hours a night, I now release you to work and play. You should have approximately 60 hours left in your week to split between work and re-creation however you choose. Remember that prayer is part of your “work” so you already have a good chunk of work time accounted for. My experience is that you don’t need much more than 25-30 hours a week in the office to keep things running smoothly if you are diligent about raising up lay leaders and delegating. This gives you plenty of time for relational ministry, home visits and pick up games of ultimate frizbee.
Try this out for a month and let me know what you think. Best of luck to you!