I’m a to-do list kind of guy. I’m writing this post on my “day off” and I still have a to-do list that I’m a “slave” to. Today my to-do’s are:

  1. Write a blog post
  2. Take my wife to a movie
  3. Check customer service issues
  4. Send happy-birthdays to social media contacts
  5. Write 1+ chapter in Rats! (the sequel to the If You’ve Got to Herd Cats book)

Most church leaders I know work off of a to-do list of some sort and in my personal opinion they’re a great tool to get things done.

But most church leaders would be better off if they began each day making a To-Don’t list before they start making their To-Do list.

Why a to-don’t list? The simple reason is because church leaders tend to get so caught up in the urgent and unexpected and the “expected” (by the congregation) that they allow the mission-critical tasks to slip by. And because those mission-critical tasks aren’t particularly “urgent” or demanding, they not only slip by, but they slip by unnoticed. Let them slip by regularly and you’ll too soon learn the consequences in terms of low visitor rates, low guest return rates, shrinking attendance, and slipping finances.

Here are some mission-critical tasks that often get shoved to the side:

  • Intentional networking with unchurched people
  • Following-up with last week’s visitors
  • Handwriting notes to recent visitors/guests
  • One-0n-one accountability and coaching with staff and lay ministry leaders
  • Mentoring next-level leaders
  • Making appointments with key community leaders for vision casting and networking
  • Walking the campus and asking the “right” questions (Effective Staffing for Vital Churches, chapter 14)
  • Dealing directly and biblically with unresolved conflict (see On Not Being Nice for the Sake of the Gospel)

And here are some things that may need to be on a to-don’t list:

  • Creating a bulletin
  • Creating worship slides
  • Keeping office hours
  • Membership visitation
  • Hospital visitation
  • Shut-in visitation
  • “Catching up” on social media
  • Updating social media
  • Creating the next church brochure
  • Attending another committee meeting
  • Attending denominational meetings
  • Attending ecumenical meetings
  • Attending interfaith leadership meetings
  • Pastoral counseling
  • Creating reports
  • Filing
  • Going to the post office for church mail
  • Sorting church mail
  • Reading another antique theological book
The key to effective leadership isn’t so much about getting things done right (that’s a manager’s job); it’s about getting the right things done. So start off your day – or better, do this the night before – by creating a list of things you’re not going to do today, and then create your to-do list with some mission-critical tasks up there at the top.