How to Manage Your Time Like an “Effective” Pastor

Time management is one of the major keys to success. Everyone has the same amount of time, so the use of that time determines how a person will grow, develop, and potentially change the world. Time management is especially important for pastors, whose many and varied responsibilities can consume a lot of time. A recent study (2010) on how pastors use their time reveals some interesting trends.

The goal of the study was to determine how “effective” pastors compare with “ordinary” pastors in terms of their time management. For the purposes of the study, an “effective” pastor was considered to be one whose church was in the top five percent of conversion growth in the United States. The control group of “ordinary” pastors were leaders of church without a high ranking in conversion growth.

  • Get less sleep. The average snoozing time for effective pastors was just a bit over six hours. Compared with a generous eight hours for the average pastor, this is a pretty remarkable difference. Is sleep important, or an overrated luxury?
  • Study more for your sermon. The biggest difference between effective leaders and ordinary church leaders is the way they spend their time in sermon preparation. Effective pastors spend an average of 22 hours each week preparing sermons. The other pastors spend a mere four hours in sermon prep time. How much time can you give to preparing sermons?
  • Make less visits. Effective pastors don’t spend as much time visiting as do ordinary pastors. The average pastor of an average church spends 33 hours each week making visits, while the “effective” pastor only spends 10 hours visiting. Is visiting important for your role as pastor?
  • Spend more time in personal evangelism. Effective leaders spend an average of five hours each week in personal evangelism activity. The group of average pastors in the study spent far less time sharing the gospel with others.
  • Hire a custodian. Effective pastors do not have custodial or janitorial responsibilities. Average pastors, on the other hand, spend at least eight hours per week in custodial responsibilities.
  • Spend more time with your family. Effective pastors spend 22 hours weekly with their families, while average pastors spent 18 hours weekly.

What does this list tell us? Are we to make these changes to our schedule in order to become more effective pastors?

Probably not. Many of the differences between the two groups of pastors are probably the differences between large churches with multipastor staffs, and smaller churches with a single paid staff member — the pastor. The way you spend your time as a pastor is the product of the church you pastor. Someone who pastors a church with a custodian probably doesn’t need to polish the pews and vacuum the foyer. Someone who pastors a church with a “visitation pastor” and a “counseling pastor” probably won’t be spending the majority of his week driving to hospitals or counseling appointments.

On the other hand, there is a lesson to learn from these facts. At the most basic level, time management is important. To take it a step further, the way we manage our time stems from the way we prioritize our life. Pastors of all churches, “effective” or “average,” must set their priorities, and schedule their week in keeping with those priorities.

Maybe those average pastors aren’t so average after all. Maybe they are exceptional at what they do in their context. Maybe that’s a goal that all of us should strive for — managing our time to the best of our abilities in our specific situation.

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