Time Management Series
“Making Time for Your Ministry – Part I”
by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., adapted from SkillTrack® 12.1
Time Management

Ministry, as the gift of God to the church, deserves our highest and best, including making the very most of time given to ministry. That is what we come to in this article, for every calling and role in ministry.  To do so is to stand in the very stream of biblical understanding: It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up . . . (Ephesians 4:11-12 NIV).

As a church leader, your most important time management need may be in preparation for worship and ministry. However, it also requires ministry time to care for others, participate in church meetings, office administration, relationship building, community/mission projects, and a host of other services. How can it all get done? Good question. Developing time-management skills is a large step toward practicing servant leadership. By it, you set an example for others, you follow ethical motivation, you equip others for their tasks, you effectively  transform activity into mission, and you become more efficient in your own ministry assignments.

Offered here are basic time practices for any minister and five selected ministry functions for making the most of your time. Part I presents the basic practices and ministry function #1; Part II (SL#34) follows with functions #2 through #5, with the implied expectation that any time reclaimed from the “not-important” could be reallocated as more time devoted to “important things.”  The goal is not simply increased quantity of work, but a satisfying quality and balance of life including such as family, personal, service to others, and, of course, your job! Sometimes a few basic steps can keep you from repeating the same tasks each week, so let’s start with the basic practices:

  • Framing the Larger PictureFirst,
    let’s reach back into the basics of time management and apply them to the practice of ministry:

    • Seek to understand the biblical meaning of time.
    • Inventory exactly what happens to your time.
    • Develop your ministry plan on the three principles of purpose, balance, and priority.
    • Include in specific time-use planning the three practices of performance zone, consolidation, and pacing.
    • Schedule your ministry time effectively; avoid time-wasters.
    • These should lead to several “good time habits.”
  • Establishing Your Ministry Time Plan
    • Consolidate your ministry tasks which may come to you in several ways: from your formal position description or expectations–assumed if not written; and assignments that have become permanent.
    • Now make a list of these tasks, combining them into functions or categories.  The listing in SL#27 and SL#29 will serve as a starting place, but work on it until you have a customized list that fits you.
    • Assign to each ministry function a level of priority using a simple 1, 2, 3–1 low, 2 mid, 3 high priority. Priority should represent the relationship that function, or set of tasks, has to the mission of the
    • Establish a reasonable (required, actual, average) number of total ministry work hours per week for each ministry function; should not exceed the total hours of your expected workweek.Reflection/Application:
      Of your 40- to 48-hour ministry workweek, do you spend a major amount of that time on high priority?
  • Practicing Good Time Habits
    If you generally practice good, commonsense time habits, it will assist you in every area of ministry.

    • Arrive 30 minutes early–especially if it gives you a better slot in the traffic pattern; or provides you a quiet time before the storm breaks.
    • Leave 30 minutes late–if it gives you a break in the traffic, but also if it provides you time to “debrief,” to read, or to write your “to-do” list for tomorrow.
    • Have materials with you so that you can read, or write, or listen, (instead of fume) while you wait; not everyone is going to be on your timeline.
    • Change your pace or task at selected intervals; do not wear yourself down or simply move to trivial activity.
    • Use longer time frames for more demanding, priority tasks; use “short time for short stuff.”
    • Seize the moment: concentrate on the task at hand, the problem before it becomes a crisis; and claim the opportunity while you can.

Now let us move on to five ministry functions:

  1. Time for Preaching/Teaching Preparation“Be Prepared” could be a helpful watchword for those of us in Christian ministry. The Apostle Paul wrote to his young associate Timothy:
    Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction
    (2 Tim. 4:2 NIV). The following are some “time-use” suggestions for
    you to consider:

    • Prayer and study are basic disciplines that enrich all preparation.
    • Treat preparation for preaching, worship, and teaching as a firm study appointment. Your congregation, whether 50 or 500 members, depends on you to be fully prepared.
    • Plan your preaching ahead of time–by the month, quarter, season, or even a full year; such periodic planning maximizes your use of time.
    • Bunch your study into blocks of time, (two or more hours) and as early in the week as possible.
    • Keep a “sermon need and seed” file in a notebook, file drawer, shoe box, or computer.
    • Include in your study computer resources: bible translations, concordances, dictionaries, commentaries, etc. (see Bibliography/Web Links for selected study links).
    • Follow a sermon series to conserve time and to enrich your preaching/teaching; series may include: Bible book, Bible biographies, doctrinal, devotional, thematic, topical, etc.
    • Maintain a “completed sermon” file so that you can readily retrieve and use for other preaching assignments.
    • Develop basic sermon/lesson worksheets; see sample worksheet and revise or expand to fit your need and style.

Sample Sermon Worksheet

Preaching Text: ___________________________________________________
Sermon Subject: (1-3 words)

Sermon Title: ______________________________________________________
Central Idea of the text: _______________________________________________________
What does the text say?

Sermon in a sentence: _________________________________________________________

What does the sermon intend to communicate?

Major objective of the sermon: ____________________________________________________
What do you want others to be or to do?


Sample Sermon Structure:

Sermon Title:

Sermon Text:

Introduction: (several paragraphs): text. textual background, illustration, human need, etc.

Body of the sermon: (each point represents two pages/5-6 minutes each) The sermon should usually be developed by exposition of the text, illustration, argument from other texts or experience, application; may use story form.

Point I. __________________________________________________________________

Point II. _________________________________________________________________

Point III. ________________________________________________________________
(Develop other points as needed; usually not more than 4 or 5 points.)

Conclusions: (a few paragraphs, two minutes or so; this could include the invitation)

Invitation: (brief, specific appeal based on, or implied by the sermon)

Reflection/Application: You need to work on this and make it fit your sense for each sermon.

See SkillTrack® Vol. 5 – Pastoral Preaching:
Leading from the Pulpit
for guidance in framing, structuring, and
developing the sermon and sermon series.

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© 2006 servantleaderstoday.com; hosted and copyrighted
by Lloyd Elder & Associates, Inc.
For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at www.servantleaderstoday.com
Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership