I wrote an introduction to these practical tips and tools here: Bi-Vocational Ministry: Forget Balance.
I’ve been in Bi-Vocational Ministry for 13 years…pretty much since I stepped into my first Youth Pastor role at age 23; I’ve worked a second and sometimes third job to support this passion of ministry in the Church. So here are some practical tools I have found along the way that have helped me to create a rhythm to life which can often get over stuffed with scheduling demands that I don’t have control over!
One major component of finding rhythm is our schedules! The calendar can be our friend OR our worst enemy.
John C. Maxwell said, “Time management is an oxymoron. Time is beyond our control, and the clock keeps ticking regardless of how we lead our lives. Priority management is the answer to maximizing the time we have.”
Priority management. This is one key component to creating rhythm in our daily, weekly and monthly lives. For Bi-Vocational leaders it can feel like we’re being pushed and pulled from one meeting, task or problem to then next. I tackle the calendar in specific order and I look the year, then individual months, then weeks before I ever look at what a day will hold. I must make one confession before we continue: I still carry around a paper day planner and pencils. YEP, judge away! I like being able to SEE the entire year, month and week. So with that said here are a few things I keep in mind as I tackle this crazy thing called time and schedule:
BIG DATES: I sit down in November of each year and map out the big dates. Not just the BIG Church dates, remember you’re trying to schedule 3 core elements here: 1 (or 2) jobs, family and pastoral ministry….ok who am I kidding you can’t forget what your responsibilities are! So birthdays, anniversaries, family vacations, big/high stress work weeks or days, and the church’s calendar with all the seasons and holy days marked out….all of these go on the master calendar(and if you are using a technology based calendar-make sure you have a back up list of all these items…nothing worse than getting to May and not have June through December because of a computer crash!)
Once you’ve put all the big stuff down then you can move to a month to month evaluation of your calendar….
Sabbath/Rest: I prioritize this. I look at each individual month starting in January and ask 2 questions: 1. What day is my weekly Sabbath day? 2. Are there weeks because of BIG DATES that I need to shift and get creative with this day? Then I do that…keeping in mind that if I prioritize it most weeks it will happen and help to create rhythm for me(no one can foresee emergencies…that’s why we strive for rhythm not balance!)
On a weekly basis I look over my calendar and evaluate, prioritize and shift these things:
Personal Growth Time: Some call this devotions and others refer to it as their quiet time…whatever it is…Pastor, hear me, YOU…you of all people, bi-vocational leader CANNOT afford to let your prayer, reading and relationship with God grow stale. In the long run the rhythm and pace you keep will not matter if you have no refreshing from God, no filling up to pour out…you MUST, to survive and THRIVE, spend time with Jesus.
TOO MANY MEETINGS: Maybe you’re an extrovert who LOVES meetings…I am not. So this evaluation piece is spoken from my perspective, an introverted Lead Pastor who works 8 hours a day in an office where I talk to people a lot…so take this for what it is: A VERY HIGH PRIORITY FOR ME…but maybe not for you. I evaluate each Sunday night my week. I look at what work holds and I look at what church holds. ALL of my Church leadership meetings, planning and discipleship occurs in the evenings. I cannot get around it….for some reason my team is still not eager to schedule a 5 am Monday morning leadership team meeting. I can’t figure out why! In all reality, I COULD schedule a VillageHouston something every night. I lead a community group, I lead our leadership team meeting, I could have dinner or coffee with a different church member every night. But this is NOT healthy for me or my marriage. So I try to stack meetings together. Can I accomplish all three leadership team one on ones in one evening so that I have another evening in the week free for sermon prep, dinner with my husband or some reading? Does this work for them and for me? Also, if one week is packed with meetings I work hard to simplify the next and shift some meetings to later in the month.
Each morning I look at what the day holds and communicate to Ryan, my husband, what I have going on. This prepares both of us for how much energy I will have when I arrive home, if I’ll be home at my normal off time or if I’ll be in leadership meetings until after 8pm. It also helps us stay connected in our schedule.
Use your lunch times at work as a time to refocus, refresh and rest if possible! These half hour or hour slots where you do not have to be at your desk can be great opportunities to have your personal growth time, to exercise or simply to read a book you enjoy! Take that time for you and God…try not to add another task to it!
Here are some tools that have helped me, even though I am not a technology person:
Avocado App This app is AWESOME. It’s specifically designed for couples and it keeps you in the know about each others schedules. Ryan and I both have crazy meeting filled calendars and trying to make sure that when I need the car he doesn’t is a LOT easier with Avocado. It shares your appointments, it reminds you when you have a meeting or when your spouse has a meeting. It is great. We have found it super user friendly and helpful when trying to schedule events, meetings and dates for one or both of us.
Doodle Doodle Poll is great if you’re always trying to wrangle several people into a meeting who have demanding schedules. It takes away all the back and forth emails of “I’m free Friday after 3 but before 5.” and simply lets people pick which time is best for them!
Google Drive-I use Google Drive instead of Dropbox. I know, I’m weird. But Google Drive has made it so that wherever I go I have the docs, sheets and pics I need. I sign into my Gmail account and BOOM Google Drive. I find it easy to use and organize!
I hope these practical ideas and tools for scheduling will help you in your life and ministry. I must say, I do not have children so I have not shared about any specific scheduling tools that help to keep track of their stuff as well. If you have found a tool that helps in your scheduling rhythm share it in the comments below so that we can all benefit!