Everyone has 24 hours in the day and in spite of continued technological advancements we cannot manufacture any more minutes. This makes time arguably the most valuable commodity. While all professions struggle with time management, ministers seem particularly susceptible to the temptation of busyness.
Christianity Today recently re-posted a great article from Eugene Peterson, The Unbusy Pastor. Peterson provides the minister wise counsel on using a calendar to reserve time for the most important components of life and ministry. I heard this advice early in ministry at a conference, (likely someone quoting Peterson!) The practice of scheduling and guarding calendar space for personal devotions, time with my children, and dates with my wife proved invaluable to me as a pastor. It helped me balance family, ministry, and school during particularly taxing times.
Let me share another piece of practical time management advice that has served me well over the years. “If you say yes to one thing, you are automatically saying no to something else.” I do not recall where I first heard this wisdom, (perhaps it originated with Peterson as well!), but the simple sentence helped shape my concept and use of time. It alerted me to the dangers of yes!
“If you say yes to one thing, you are automatically saying no to something else.”
Ministers typically want to help people. They do not like to disappoint people or turn them down. Therefore, when presented with a request or opportunity, the minister often quickly agrees to participate or commits to attend. This easily leads to over-committed ministers with full calendars.
Recognizing the danger of yes forced me to slow down and process requests and opportunities. Saying yes to serve on an associational committee would inherently mean saying no to attending some of my kid’s athletic events that occurred on the same week night or saying no to some needed down time. Saying yes to an extended lunch with a staff member would mean saying no to an additional hour of sermon preparation or force that hour of sermon preparation to the weekend which would then impact family time. Saying yes to a breakfast speaking engagement would mean saying no to the typical morning routine of driving kids to school or saying no to alertness and attentiveness needed for a counseling session later in the day.
The danger of yes did not lead me to decline all associational committee opportunities, lunches with staff members, and opportunities to speak at breakfast engagements. (Recognize that the yes equation works both ways. If I always selected family and down time over ministry opportunities, I would have hampered my ability to minister). The danger of yes helped me consider the implications of opportunities. The danger of yes helped me think more closely about which opportunities to accept and which opportunities to politely decline.
The next time you receive a request on your time or someone presents you with an opportunity to serve, take time to consult your calendar and remember, “If you say yes to one thing, you are automatically saying no to something else.”