5 Time Management Tips for Youth Pastors

Steve Cullum
July 8th, 2021

There is only so much time in the day! How am I supposed to get it all done? 

I don’t know how many times I have asked myself this question. Seriously, if I could take back all that time, I could have probably got at least one more thing done. But here we are… 

I say we because I am right here with you in this. Even though I have learned a lot of ways to manage my time, I still find myself struggling here and there. I have had seasons where I felt like I was doing really well, and then before I knew it, I found myself gasping for air. So before we begin, I just want to tell you that you are in good company! 

I also want to admit that none of these tips are completely brand new or earth-shattering. In fact, you might have heard them before. But you know what? They work! 

Take Inventory and Evaluate

Have you ever sat down to list all the things you do for your job? I’ve been given this task a couple times, and while I didn’t like it in the beginning, it ended up being a great way for me to take a personal inventory. We need to take a serious look at what we are regularly doing. How many of those things are necessary? How many of those things can be passed off to someone else—either empowering a volunteer or to another person on staff? How many of those things are important but can probably be put on hold for some time? And how many of those things need to go away altogether? Similar to our ministry programs, we need to be evaluating our personal lives. This also goes beyond our jobs into our personal and family lives. For example, maybe you realize you are working 60 hours a week and also spending 20 hours a week pursuing a hobby, but you are wondering why you can’t make time for God or your spouse…. Well, I can tell you exactly why those things are not happening.

Use a Calendar

I know a lot of us think we can remember everything. Maybe you can, but we should also use the tools we have to our advantage. A mentor of mine told me a couple years ago that it’s best to get everything out of our brains that we can, so we can give more room to the other things we need to think about. When it comes to a calendar, I recommend putting everything in it, and I mean everything. Schedule out your quiet time with God, schedule in date nights with your spouse, and schedule in your days off. Then begin putting in your weekly tasks, meetings, and events. Don’t forget to also add in your preparation time for upcoming events and programs. This will allow you to map out your week. And when someone asks you if you can do something, you can easily look at your calendar and give that person a solid yes or no based on facts. 

Give Yourself a Break

Most, if not all, of us tend to work better if we have regular times of rest. So make sure to at least take time each day, each week, and each year to rest. Take an hour or so each day to refocus, breath, and connect with God. Take a Sabbath day each week to not do any work, and instead, reconnect with God through sleep or something fun. And take a regular vacation, for at least a week, to get away and give yourself an extended break. During these times, I also recommend you use this awesome feature on your phone called “Do not Disturb,” or maybe just shut your phone off altogether. In connection with that, I recommend only responding to emergencies during non-office hours. If it can wait until tomorrow, let it wait until tomorrow. Instead, spend that time resting, with your family, and with God. All of this will help you then be more productive during work hours. With solid rest, you will actually get more done in less time.

Talk With Your Direct Report

Maybe you feel like your schedule is out of your control. If that is the case, you need to have a chat with the person you report to at your church. As I said earlier, there might be a few things that you have simply taken on that are not in your job description; however, there might also be some items that are on there that should not be. If you are struggling in this area, you should be having regular conversations with your direct report. Maybe he or she does not realize the time it takes to do some of the tasks they are expecting from you, or maybe you are actually taking longer than you need to on some tasks. Either way, that person is there to help you, but they cannot do so if you are not regularly talking about it. They might be completely ignorant that you have not had a day off in six months, so let them know.

Get Help and Accountability

We are always telling our students that accountability is important for a growing faith, but it is also important in time management. If you struggle in this area, maybe it is time to ask your spouse or a close friend to help you. This can take many forms. Maybe it is giving that person access to your calendar and asking them to let you know what they think. Maybe it is running certain decisions by them. Maybe it is meeting on a regular basis to talk about time management and evaluating together. One thing I try to do is give my wife veto power over the ministry calendar. Before I publish it for students and families to see, she looks over it and gives me feedback. The thing is that we don’t have to do this alone, so let’s stop trying to do so. Find someone who can point out the things you are struggling to see and help you make decisions. It’s okay to ask for help! Chances are that you’re the only one who expects you to figure this out on your own.

I also want to recommend a few books that have helped me in this area, specifically around the importance of avoiding busyness. 

An Unhurried Life by Alan Fadling

Refuel by Doug Fields

Choosing to Cheat by Andy Stanley

One thing to remember is that there are always seasons. Ecclesiastes 3 even speaks about these seasons. There will be times when you have quite a bit of extra time and there will be seasons when you have very little wiggle room in your schedule. For the most part, this is okay and natural. Sometimes, these seasons are, for the most part, out of our control. The goal, though, is to make sure you are not constantly struggling to find the time. 

Ministry, just like the Christian life, is more like a marathon than a sprint. So we need to make sure we are taking care of ourselves to last for the full marathon. Yes, it is ultimately the work of God, but He chooses to use us. And if we manage our time wisely, we will be able to accomplish even more for His kingdom and His glory!

Steve Cullum

Steve Cullum is the student pastor at LifeBridge Christian Church in Longmont, CO, where he oversees their ministry to sixth through twelfth grade students and their families. He also hosts The Student Ministry Podcast and volunteers for the National Network of Youth Ministries. You can follow him on Twitter @stevecullum.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.