Managing Your Time

October 4th, 2009

Youth ministry—as practiced today—leaves youth ministers with two options: get organized or go insane.

Some of you have already chosen the latter and are perfectly happy with your choice. (Being insane means you don’t have to worry about losing your mind when you attend your 400th youth retreat.)

But for those of you who still entertain an occasional rational thought, let me intercede with words of hope. If you work harder, youth ministry can be easier.

Now I realize that such sage advice sounds like something the pointy-haired boss in Dilbert might utter. But I really don’t think I’m peddling drivel. The principles of being organized are not hard to learn, they’re just hard to do. But if you’re disciplined in applying them, life does get better.

Getting More Done

At the end of the day there are only three ways to get more done: you can work faster (which seldom works); you can give your work to others (which is either a good or a bad idea, depending on to whom you have to give it); or you can stop doing the stuff that doesn’t matter and focus like a laser on what does. This third approach is the one that pays the most consistent dividends.

Parkinson’s Law

Work expands or shrinks to fit the time allotted. If you give yourself an hour to prepare a Bible study, it’ll get done. If you give yourself 20 hours, it’ll fill that time as well. Somewhere between the two is the ideal. The time you allot for a task should be based on how much time it deserves.

The Pareto Principle

80 percent of the job is done in 20 percent of the time. Which means after a certain point, the longer you work on a project the more likely you are to be throwing time away. For instance, I believe it takes at least 10 hours to prepare a good sermon. But the difference in quality between a sermon you spent 20 hours on instead of 10 isn’t twice as great as a sermon you spent 10 hours on instead of none.

One Focused Hour per Day

Most of us do most of our thinking work in a small amount of time. Therefore, developing a sustainable lifestyle doesn’t require a major revamping of our days; it simply requires that we add one good, focused hour to each day’s work. For most of us, that good hour comes early in the morning (for me, 60 minutes before 7:00 a.m. is worth 180 minutes after lunch).

Schedule Time to Schedule

At the end of every day—before you drive home—you need to plan tomorrow. At the end of every week you need to plan the next week. On a quarterly basis you need an extended period of time to look out over the next 12 to 18 months. The bigger your group, the farther out you should look, though there’s seldom much value in talking about things more than 1,000 days in advance.


Personal Development

Few things are more pathetic than a 35-year-old youth pastor who’s saying the same things he or she said at 25. Yes, it’s true that our core message shouldn’t change. But, elders were called elders because they grew in wisdom and grace. Therefore, growing in Christ and growing as a person are part of your job. Schedule time in your day to grow.


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.