Time Management for Church Leaders

May 30, 2014

One of top questions we’ve heard during the Only Four Things Grow Churches tour has to do with the allocation of the pastor’s time. When we suggest that a pastor leading a church of under 450 needs to spend between 70 – 80 percent of their time networking with the unchurched, the grumbling becomes audible and the hands shoot up.

“What am I supposed to stop doing?”

“How do I convince my board?”

“What about ________?”

So, in a nutshell, here are some of the things a pastor needs to let go of in order to begin reprioritizing.

  1. Stop going to all unnecessary meetings. Which ones are unnecessary? We tell pastors to choose one meeting per month to attend… we don’t care which one they attend, but they can only go to one. By default, all the rest are unnecessary.
  2. Bulletin preparation. If the congregation needs to hold an order of worship in their hands, then someone in the congregation needs to prepare it, duplicate it, and fold it. If you’re using screen technology, then there is no good reason to use a bulletin – it’s a poor use of both church and environmental resources.
  3. Office hours. It’s a sinful waste of time to require or even expect a pastor to sit in an office just in case a member wants to drop in to see him or her. People have to make an appointment to see their cardiologist, so they should be required to make an appointment to see their spiritual heart doctor as well. No one can grow a church or reach the unreached from behind a desk. 
  4. Shut-in and general member visitation. Church members take care of church members (this is a biblical mandate – See Ephesians 4:11-12 and Acts 6:1-4). And, as mentioned in point 3 above, if a church member needs to see the pastor, they can make an appointment.
  5. Hospital visitation. Train someone in the congregation to do this, then have them train a couple people. I did this in one of my pastorates on my first two hospital visits and then never visited the hospital again. (First visit: you watch me then we’ll talk. Second visit: I’ll watch you then we’ll talk. Third visit: you take someone with you so they can watch, etc.)
  6. Curtail sermon and worship prep. The smaller the church, the less time you should spend on your sermon and worship prep. Spend no more than five hours total each on these, and less than two hours total for churches under 150. (And no, we’re not joking. Yes, we’re serious.)

Engage in these practices and you’ll have plenty of time to spend in your community effectively building networks with the unchurched. When you do, you’ll significantly increase your visitor count. And whether or not your visitors return is the subject of other blog posts.

Question: Are there any other things pastors ought to consider letting go of to free up their time for more important tasks? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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