The other day, I was asked by a pastor on Facebook about my weekly schedule when I was in the parish. It took some time to put together, but here’s my “typical” schedule.
One note before you jump in … in the words of my first Regional Minister, “Ministry is Interruptions.” So, even though the following was both the “norm” and the PLAN, a plan goes out the window when life happens. And so, some Mondays looked more like Wednesdays, and some Tuesdays looked like nothing else at all. Life happens and ministry follows closely. But with that said, this was pretty much what my work life looked like when I served full time in the parish ministry.
First thing: I only worked Sunday through Thursday. I was rabid about taking my time off to recharge. However, sometimes there was some event I needed to attend on a Friday or Saturday, so I’d make myself available. On the other hand, if I had to “work” on even a half hour on my “day off,” I would schedule a “replacement” day within two weeks. The reality is, pastor, if you have to work on your day off, your whole day is affected – it’s not just an inconvenience. So, if I attended the Bell Choir on a Friday evening, I tended to take the following Thursday off.
Like most pastors, Sunday was my Monday. Obviously, Sunday started off with worship and preaching. After worship, I would visit with members or visitors whenever I could arrange it. Once I was done with that, I’d return to my study and prepare my calendar and adjust my schedule for the week. In addition, I spent time planning and designing sermon series – I tried to stay at least six months ahead in the planning stages.
Since Covid, Monday has been my sermon prep day. The day started with a meeting with my office staff and we’d coordinate the weeks, and then I left the office to prepare my weekly “Conversation.” Using Logos Bible Study software, I would do my sermon studies and writing in the public eye (a coffee shop in the morning, a bar in the early afternoon) and I’d craft the message. During that day, I also created the Sermon Handout (I do fill in the blanks worksheet) and the Going Deeper Bible Study which was written for our Life Groups as well as for personal Bible study. The Going Deeper was a one page Q&A based on the sermon scriptures and the sermon and was printed on the back of the Sermon Handout (the fill-in-the-blank sermon resource).
For the record, my sermons always include a Do This (I called it Count Me In). The Count Me In was a list of between one to three things I’d ask the hearers to do as a result of the sermon. It was always a physical do, because a “Reflect On This” virtually never brings life transformation – only behavioral change does that. (If you reflect on something and it changes your life, then it means you’ll behave differently – so I just skipped the reflecting part and go straight to changed life stuff!)
On Mondays, I would make sure I had several conversations with unchurched folks while I was out (easy to do at the bar, not as easy at the coffee shop, since probably 70 percent of the coffee drinkers seem to bring their Bibles! The church office always knew where I was, so if someone “dropped into the church” to see me, they could be redirected to wherever my Public Office was at the time.
Tuesday I was in the studio, video recording the sermon for use with our online ministry. I also scheduled meetings with city officials, CEO’s, etc. (breakfast, lunch, coffee meetings). Pre-covid I led a Tuesday evening men’s group and cooked dinner for them. It was a No Study Required Bible Study … we read scripture and shot from the hip. The only prep I did was to cook – something I found relaxing and rather satisfying. Oh, and the food always meant there were plenty of guys who wanted to be a part of the study.
Wednesday mornings started off with a 30–60 minute prayer session with church members, pastors, and occasionally some city officials to Pray for Raytown (our city). We prayed by name for leaders and churches in our city. After that, I was in the office to do some writing, planning, website updates, coordinate with my social media person and any other staff who wanted to meet, and to have a meeting with my music director and worship leader. I made myself available to the tech team that put together the ProPresenter presentations for worship as well. In the evening, I attended the Wednesday evening Bible study, but it was led by others.
Thursdays I was out of the office and in the city with meetings if I could schedule them or else I just hung out in the community, dropping into businesses to say Hi, etc. Thursday evenings were Church Meeting nights and I attend policy meetings and then any other meetings where my input is required … which it wasn’t whenever I could help it. (Over the years, I’ve had a great team of leaders that I trust to pursue the mission and the vision, so I stood back and encouraged them.)
In the midst of my week, I would do one-on-ones with staff and ministry leaders (typically out of the office whenever possible – I loved working lunches).
I only visit the hospitals on rare occasions – I had a “Care Team” that tended to the member care, though I did drop in now and again. (I always went to staff/staff family and ministry leaders/family if they were in need of a visit and I made sure to visit those who “needed” a visit).
I NEVER dropped in on a member in their home, but if anyone wanted to see me, I ALWAYS made room in my schedule to meet them … but they had to call the office and schedule an appointment through the office staff. I tried to avoid meeting in my office or in the church building and preferred either to meet on their turf or at a coffee shop/restaurant/bar. However, on those occasions when I needed to meet with a church bully, yes we had our share, I ALWAYS met with them in my office.
If there was pastoral counseling to do, I did one session then referred. And those meetings were always in the church building.
So, that’s pretty much my schedule. I was committed to spending at least half of my time out of the church building and in the community. As I’ve said for decades, “You can’t grow your church from your office.” I also made sure I spent more time with the unchurched, first-time visitors, and new members than I did with the “church family,” with a heavy emphasis on the unchurched – because that’s where the fruit of ministry really lies.
“How Will I Find Time To Do All That?”
That’s one of the most common questions I get from pastors. Most pastors are so busy running the church and taking care of the members, that they can’t find the time to make serious inroads into the community, let alone spend 50 percent of their time investing in growing the church.
That’s why I shared my Get More Time Planner system that I use … and that most of my clients use. If you’ll work the process, I guarantee you can free up at least ten hours every week – ten hours that you can use to connect with the unchurched, share your faith story, and grow your church.
And I’m offering it free to pastors who are serious about growing their churches beyond the status quo. Just click on the button below to scoop up your copy.
This is an awesome post. Question: did you ever invite those baristas and bartenders or fellow patrons to an upcoming sermon series?
Great question. I would have, except that during those years I was working in a house church network (micro church in today’s verbiage) – and there was no preaching or sermons in that venue. I DID invite them to the house church with limited success (some did, most didn’t – not unlike it is today!).
Where and when is your personal, presuming daily too, private devotion?
When I was in the parish, it was the first thing I did after showering and dressing (I’m funny about being ready to start the day when I’m intentionally in Jesus’ presence).
These days, I’m up most mornings at 5– 5:30 so my wife and I can go to the gym together. When we get home, it’s Feed the Dogs, Get a Shower, then I make breakfast. If the weather’s nice, we meet each other on the front patio and share breakfast and do our devotions and prayers together. If the weather is uncooperative, we meet in what we call the Mystery Room (long story!) and eat breakfast there and do our devotions and prayers together. Typically, we’re done and heading to our respective offices by 8–8:30.