Tick Tock: Time Management for Youth Workers

Youth Specialties
August 10th, 2016

When I became the full-time youth pastor at my church, I had the privilege of getting to work from home. I clearly remember saying,

“This is awesome! Every Friday, I’m going to the driving range to hit a bucket of balls!”

It quickly became evident that I wasn’t disciplined enough to be free every Friday to get my chip shot down. My time management was about as bad as my 3-iron, so I had to learn the art of “gettin’ things done.” This has been one of the best investments I’ve made in my ministry career. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:

Do it now!

This may seem simple, but when you make it a habit—even with small tasks—it’s a beauty. You get an email that needs a response—do it now (unless you need to pray before you hit send). There’s something sitting on your desk that needs to be completed and filed—do it now. You see the floor needs swept—do it now. You get the idea. It’s easy to fall victim to procrastination, which just works against the clock and your schedule. All you’re really doing is building a pile of stressful tasks you’ll have to deal with eventually. Even if it’s a small task, just do it now!

Eat the frog!

I learned this one from a pastor named Nelson Searcy, and it has dramatically changed how I think. It’s similar to my first tip, but it’s slightly different in context. Imagine you have a list of things to do, and one of them is to eat a live frog. You really don’t want to do it (I hope), but it must be done. So you put it off over and over and over, doing other stuff first. The problem is that the frog never goes away. He sits there, and you see him out of the corner of your eye, and you know it’s inevitable. His croaking becomes distracting, and it becomes difficult to focus on the task at hand.

We all have that “frog”—it’s the phone call you’re dreading, the difficult conversation you need to have, the mind-numbing expense reports you’re supposed to fill out, etc. The task sits there and nags at you, and it makes you less productive, because it steals your thoughts and motivation. Eat the frog! Get it done, and you’ll be able to focus on the things you’d rather be doing.

Write your sermon before Saturday night!

Whether you’re writing your own material or using someone else’s, teaching is vital. For me, preparing to teach takes the largest chunk of my time. I know I need to bring my A-game when I give a message, so I make it my number one priority early in the week. Mondays and Tuesdays are when I write my sermons. I’m most fresh on these days, and doing it early gives me time to study and tweak it throughout the week. Not only does this help me, it also means I can get things to my media team so they can prepare early as well.

Plan early!

This is a must do for everything. Plan for your meetings, events, and even for your time off. Why? Here’s why:

  1. It allows room for creativity. If you plan early, it leaves time for you to meet with people and gather great ideas that will help make whatever you’re doing top-notch. You can’t do this when you’re working on something that’s due tomorrow. Spontaneity is great for vacations—not for ministry.
  2. It leaves time for prayer. It’s no secret that desperation leads to dumb mistakes. Give God time to speak into what you’re doing.
  3. It allows for good team building. Leaders like the word If you have the right people in the right places, it will take pressure off of you. If you don’t plan early, you’ll have to scramble to find help, and this will likely end badly.

I also recommend putting together a preaching calendar. Plan out a full quarter or even six months. I like to start with a series and leave a few empty weeks for the Spirit’s prompting. It’s very stressful to be two days away from Sunday and not know what you’re speaking on. A preaching calendar will give you breathing room.

Hit the pause button.

This is last on my list, but it should be your first priority. Make sure you put your family and your sanity first. If you’re not careful, ministry can eat up every emotion, conversation, dinner date, or play date. Don’t let it! Stay fresh, stay involved, and stay motivated. Take time for you.

I hope these suggestions help! As Mick Jagger said, “Time is on my side”—but that’s only true if you manage your time well. I still haven’t mastered my chip shot, but I’m a lot more relaxed on the course these days!

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17)

earlEarl Henning has spent the last 15 years at Cypress Point Community Church in Tampa, Florida as the full-time Youth Pastor, Young Adults Pastor and leads the Care Ministry. He has been married to Nicholle for almost 23 years, has 2 amazing daughters who are attending college and a brand new mini-Dachsund! He’s passionate about family, playing music, gym-time and has a Converse collection that’s borderline “obsessive”. 

Youth Specialties

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.