Confession … I love my To Do list. Every Sunday afternoon I sit down with my iPad and the Notability app, I copy the Weekly Planning template, open my weekly calendar (that my church administrator keeps up for me), and I plan my week. I add my appointments, my most critical “must accomplish” task, and the day-to-day things I want to accomplish.

But as important as my daily to do list is, there is a much more important list most church leaders need to embrace.

The To Don’t List.

Simply put, there are probably – almost certainly – a lot of things you’re doing in the church that others could do … that others should be doing. And there are probably a number of things you’re doing that no one should be doing, but you’re doing them because you’ve got to keep the fiddler on the roof (that is, Tradition!).

When you do things others could do, you’re robbing the blessing someone else could be getting for accomplishing ministry; you’re robbing yourself of the time and energy you could be investing in growing your church (or in your family!); and you’re robbing God by misappropriating your calling for the sake of … grandstanding? martyrdom? savior-dom? self-satisfaction? perfectionism? laziness? The list could go on, but there are always reasons for doing things others should be doing – none of them legitimate.

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Ephesians 4:11–13

Church leaders exist to ____? I don’t see “editing bulletins” in that list. I don’t see “doing membership care (AKA, pastoral care)” in that list. There are a lot of things not on that list. What IS on that list is equipping the church to do the work of the church … including all those things you’re doing that someone else could be – should be – doing.

How do you create a To Don’t List?

Start by creating the Only Me list.

This is a list of those things that ONLY you can do. If you’re the pastor, that’s a very short list – in fact, for most of us, it’s about five things.

Typical Pastor’s Only Me List

  1. You must conspicuously model faithful spiritual development.
  2. You must discern and cast the church’s vision.
  3. You must oversee and maintain mission and vision fulfillment.
  4. You must recruit, develop, and maintain an effective ministry.
  5. You must spearhead church fundraising.

That pretty much covers everything you’re responsible for. Anything else, someone else could – and should – do.

Membership care? Biblically not there … the members are responsible for taking care of the members. See Acts 6 for a great example. Meetings? Only attend the ones that specifically further one or more of the five Must Do’s. For instance, if the stewardship meeting is all about cutting the budget, you have no business attending it. You’re about fundRAISING – and to be honest, so is the stewardship committee – but that’s another post!

Preaching? Evangelism? That’s covered in point #2. You’re responsible for casting the church’s vision to those INSIDE the church and those OUTSIDE the church. In fact, as the chief vision-caster, you’re the defacto face of the church in the public’s eye.

What’s not there? Well, that’s the second step. Once you’ve created a list of those things that ONLY you can do, then it’s time to …

Develop your Don’t Do list.

In my case, my To Don’t List included hospital visits, membership home visits, doing funerals or weddings, keeping office hours, attending non-essential meetings, pastoral counseling, selecting music, doing bulletins, and the list goes on … and on.

Sort your Don’t Do list.

Once you have your list complete, the next step is to figure out which of those tasks should be relegated to the Don’t Do At All list and which of the tasks are absolutely necessary for the growth of the church. These lists will vary, but be brutally honest. Does Vacation Bible School really bring new people into the faith and into your church? Probably not … but you can check. How many families have joined your church and remained active because their child attended your annual VBS over the last five years? If the answer is one or two families (in most churches it’s zero families), then the next question to ask is whether it was worth the resources that the church expended, taking in to consideration the hours, the funding, and the energy the church used to pull off VBS … and if there were more efficient ways to accomplish the same ROI – your Return On Investment.

Assign tasks.

Next, go through your list of necessary tasks and begin assigning them. This doesn’t mean that Betty will necessarily say “Yes!” to your assignment, but some of the folks you ask will – once you’ve asked in person. Some of the tasks you’ll immediately be able to assign, but there will be some tasks that you won’t be able to think of anyone who could step up and do.

For tasks where there’s no one to step up at this point, you’ll need to decide if they’re really that important. If they’re really not, put them on your Don’t Do list and stop doing them. If someone in your congregation is really invested in that task getting done, they’ll step up. If not, it’s probably not a ministry that needs to get done.

Engage your Don’t Do list.

The last thing is to engage your Don’t Do list by Not Doing them. You may not be able to stop everything all at once, but every week put your Don’t Do list onto whatever planner you use to remind you. Keep these Don’t Do’s in prayer, asking God to send you the people who can take the tasks off your plate … but at the same time, take the time you’ve saved by engaging points in your Don’t Do list and invest it in growing your church. Spend more time with those outside the church (see #2 in the Must Do list) so you can find those people.

Stop doing … for the sake of your church. It’ll bless those who step into ministry. It’ll bless you by giving you time to do more effective ministry. And it will bless God by more effectively furthering God’s mission to make disciples.