After years of relying on my computer’s digital clock to keep track of time, I finally realized that I had lost all sense of time’s passing. I couldn’t figure out where all the time was going each day. Hour would merge into hour, morning into afternoon into evening. Where is my time going? I’d sit down to work at 6am and a few minutes later it was 6pm. What happened there? The hours had passed, but how? and where did they go? 10am seemed the same as 1pm and 4pm.
I looked around my study and my eye landed on an old clock I’d been meaning to throw out. One of these ancient round things with numbers round the perimeter and three different arms anchored to the center. I’m going to try that, I thought. So, out with the screwdriver and rawlplugs, and up it went just above my screen, and always in the line of sight.
A tick-tock clock
As soon as it started ticking, my life changed. I had a new, deep, and profound sense of the passing of time. Every tick was unique and unrepeatable. The tocks marched onwards unstoppably and irreversibly.
And instead of a few pixels and 4mm high digits that barely changed in appearance throughout the day I now have a very visible foot-high reminder that time is passing. 10.05 looks very different to 10.25, the sweeping arms visualizing and emphasizing the sweeping tides of time. Internet activity can now be measured in inches as well as minutes.
These new sights and sounds demand accountability and productivity. They are my way of more sincerely praying, “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90:12).
Email is my worst enemy, so I only check it three times a day
Keeping email open all day is the quickest way to kill your productivity
First thing in the morning I glance over most emails and address only the critical ones. Midday I check progress on the critical emails I addressed in the morning. And before I go to sleep my main goal is to clear volume and smaller or menial tasks. On especially busy days I only check twice a day, cutting out the midday scrub.
Delaying or ignoring emails is a good way to make people not as dependent on you.
2. Choose your most important goal each week.
Focus time and energy on it at the cost of other, less important things, and do it until completion
3. Know your productivity limits.
Everyone has a maximum number of productive hours per day, after which output drops off significantly
4. Be like Dorsey: Take breaks to prevent burnout.
We encourage founders to not underestimate the importance of exercise, sleep, and taking breaks to restore energy and creativity.
It’s better to average eight solid hours of productivity a day than it is to output 12 hours of mediocre ones.
Twitter cofounder Jack Dorsey is running two $1 billion plus companies and he finds time to take Saturdays off to recharge.
5. Skip some meetings.
One meeting can blow an entire day of productivity.
Know why you’re meeting, and make sure it’s important–try to keep them to 30 minutes, max.
Here’s part of the lecture I gave to the students in my Leadership class on managing time in pastoral ministry.
I’ve given you a theology of time and a devil-ology of time. In the light of that, let me now give you 10 practical ways to manage time. 1. Peace The most important time of the day is first thing in the morning. Get up early enough to have a quiet time for reading the Bible and prayer. Those first moments of peaceful orientation of the mind and soul are the foundation of a successful day of ministry. And the key to getting up early enough is getting to bed early enough the night before. If you are finding it impossible to get up early enough for an undistracted time of Bible reading and prayer, you are going to bed too late. 2. Plan After your quiet time, use paper, a whiteboard, or electronic means to list all the things you have to do in the day. Or, ideally, pick up the list you prepared the day before. Someone once said that for every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned! Slight exaggeration but a lot of time is saved if we pause to get organized rather than just plunge into the first thing that comes to mind. And make sure you have only one to-do list!I keep that list with me all the time and keep adding to it. Some items are for that day and other items will be for the future. But everything that needs to be done goes on that list. I try not to carry anything about with me in my head.3. Prioritize You are not going to get everything done, so you have to let the less important things wait. Organize the list of to-do’s into the following categories: Urgent: There may be phone calls, visits, or emails that simply have to be done that day.Big: Make sure you do something substantial in the study each day. It may be a few hours on a sermon, or a few hours writing an article, or a few hours of focused study, etc. It is very easy in the ministry to let the little things squeeze out the big. The little things are less demanding on the mind and soul and give a sense of “I’m getting things done!” But time must be set apart for the longer-term, substantial things. It is usually best to do this first thing in the morning, after personal/family devotions.Daily: There are some routine things that happen every day, or should do. They are not urgent and the world won’t fall apart if you don’t do them; but if you let them build up, then you will eventually become overwhelmed. Some examples may be answering emails, making phone calls, organizing your diary and coordinating it with your wife’s, balancing bank accounts, and backing up data (or use Dropbox). Visits & Meetings: Are there any pastoral visits or meetings planned for the day? Work out the most efficient way of combining these to minimize travel time. What other errands can I do on these trips?Long-term: Eventually you will be asked to write articles, review books, contribute to reports, deliver lectures, etc. Try to find one slot in the week that you dedicate to these more long-term projects. It is usually best to schedule these projects for completion every 2-3 weeks rather than let them build up on you, so that you have five to do in two days time! If you don’t schedule it, it won’t get done.Andrew Carnegie once asked a consultant, “What can you do for me about time control?” The consultant said, “I’ll make one suggestion, and you send me a check for what you think it’s worth. Write down what you have to do on a piece of paper in order of priority, and complete the first item before you go on to the second.” It’s reported that Carnegie tried it for a few weeks and sent him a check for ten thousand dollars. 4. Pick Pick the right time for the right tasks. If you don’t set aside time for tasks, they are unlikely to be done. Make sure you choose the right time slot for each task and allocate enough time for it.Devote large blocks of time to important tasks. Squeeze less important tasks into smaller blocks and consolidate smaller tasks into one block to release larger blocks for important tasks.And don’t multi-task. Glen Stansberry says: “Every time you switch your attention, there’s a cognitive ramp up time. It can range from a few seconds to a few minutes. So, if you constantly cycle between checking email, IM, twitter, texts, voicemail, calendars, blackberries, apps, scores, stock quotes, news, current projects and more, then respond to each, the time you lose to incessant ramp-up becomes substantial. Instead, minimize time lost to non-stop cognitive ramping by batching your time and focusing on individual categories of tasks with intense, yet discrete bursts of attention.”5. Perform I’ve written on procrastination before (here, here, and here)6. Pace Some pastors live life at Wall Street trader pace. Others go for the “let it all hang out” pace. Neither helps the pastor or his people. Somewhere between these two poles is where we should find ourselves; and pace will vary from person to person. Find a pace that allows you to get a good amount of substantial work done, that will allow you to have time for people, and that will not discourage people from seeking your time.Set yourself time limits on work like sermons. You can spend an endless amount of time perfecting a sermon. If you are to have time for other duties, you have to draw a line somewhere. You also have to be able to distinguish between tasks that require a much higher quality of work than others. For example, a sermon for a nursing home on a Sunday afternoon does not require as much preparation as the main preaching sermon of the week.Pace your to-do list as well. If you have ten extra things to do this week, do two a day rather than try to do ten on day one. That breaks up the mountain into small manageable steps. One way to speed up the pace at which you do mundane tasks (if not all tasks) like email, is to use a stopwatch or timer.“Pace” is the best place I can find to also mention exercise. Glen Stansburry said: “It sounds counter-intuitive, but you have to spend time exercising. Research has shown that exercise boosts cognitive function, creativity, problem solving and productivity. In fact a NASA study showed employees who exercised daily worked at 100% efficiency after 7 hours, while those who didn’t saw a 50% drop, meaning it took them twice as long to accomplish the same thing. So, exercise, in effect, creates time.”Build in buffer time so that you have space to accommodate if something interrupts or goes wrong. If you don’t and something does set you off-schedule, then it will be impossible to get back on track and you will lose momentum.And get enough sleep. It helps boost your memory!7. Purge One of the benefits of the class time-management exercise is that you will hopefully have identified a number of time-wasters in your life. Probably just the exercise of recording your time was revealing to you and had its own corrective effects. There’s no question that the biggest drain on pastors’ time now is the Internet. You will have to find a way of controlling this either through self-discipline or with the help of time clocks and filters/blockers.8. Protect According to Julie Morgenstern, the average information worker is interrupted by another person or by technology every 11 mins and it takes 25 mins to fully refocus. So, if you are ever going to get quality study time and sermon preparation time, you will have to protect the time you set aside to do this. Mark out “study appointments” in your schedule as if you were visiting with someone, and make it non-negotiable. I found the mornings were the best for this. I usually protected 8am to 1pm, Tuesday to Saturday. I protected the time by informing my elders of my study time (which also percolated into the congregation), putting the phone on the answering machine, shutting down email, etc. I made a point of returning all phone calls at lunchtime. You have to balance accessibility with productivity.You will want to have a notebook nearby to jot down “to-do” and other thoughts that occur while you are preparing sermons, so that you don’t think, “I better do that before I forget.”9. Pause You need a Sabbath like everyone else, a time to take a break from work and take time out for yourself and your family. When we home-schooled, I took off every Monday. My wife was strict about this. Only twice did I persuade her that I really needed the extra day to work. In both cases, I accomplished no more by the end of the week than if I had taken the time off and rested.10. Pray Pray for help to value time and to use it wisely for the eternal welfare of your own soul, and that of many others too.
Yesterday I proposed a basic theology of time. Today I will give you a devilology of time, time from the devil’s perspective. I’m really asking, “What would the devil teach a class on time-management?” He would have three main points:
Squander it This hardly needs amplification. It is simply letting time slip through our hands without using it productively. And it’s especially easy for a pastor to fall into this as he has no time-clock or boss to check how he’s using his time. Time can be wasted in various ways:Laziness: We simply go about our business too slowly, too halfheartedly.Disorganization: We may be running around, but we are running around as headless chickens because our studies, our finances, our administration, our libraries, etc., are a mess.Inefficiency: We may not be using the available technological tools to simplify tasks. We phone when we should email. We use Strong’s Concordance rather then Bible software. We write out things by hand again, and again, and again, rather than use a word-processor. We try to study in the afternoon when we are sleepy rather than first thing in the morning. We read where there are lots of distractions rather than where we can really concentrate, etc.Indiscipline: We too easily choose to surf the Internet rather than study a text. We spend too long on the phone to friends when there are people to visit in hospital. We fail to plan the week or our day and end up aimless or simply reacting to the demands of others.Procrastination: Someone once said that the Devil only has one day on His calendar: “Tomorrow.” Stretch it This involves lengthening our days, our working hours, so that we can do more and more work. Psalm 127:2 addresses this and calls it “vain” or pointless, partly because when we stretch our hours, we often simply stretch our work to fill the hours, rather than pack more in.Again, with no fixed hours, this is so easy for pastors to do. We can start stretching our hours, and yet we are not getting more done, just taking longer to do it. Isn’t it amazing how quickly we can prepare a sermon when we have a deadline!Set yourself office and working hours, let your wife and family know them, and try to stick with that.Squeeze it This happens when we have so much to do that we do nothing well. We try to squeeze so much into the day that we squeeze the quality out of our work, and also the joy and satisfaction out of our work. We aim too high, spend our day stressed, and end up looking back dissatisfied at all we were not able to do. We can sin by doing too little, but we can also sin by attempting to do too much.It always strikes me, when reading the Gospels, that there did not seem to be any sense of rush about the Lord’s life. He seemed to be largely unhurried, calm, and peaceful. Yet he never sinned sins of omission.Disenrolling now When born, we are automatically enrolled in this dark class under this dismal teacher. And even if the Son has disenrolled us and set us free, we find it hard to unlearn the lessons completely. How much we need the Holy Spirit to empty our minds and hearts of devilology; and instead fill them theology; and maybe especially with Christology.
Why are those of us who live in the richest countries in the world suffering from so much painful and debilitating time-poverty?
Time is far more valuable than money. It is far more limited and far more difficult to recover when lost. So what are you doing reading blogs? And what am I doing writing one? Well, I’m going to spend a few minutes outlining a basic theology of time. And maybe a few minutes spent reading this today could save you much more than a few minutes in the future.1. God gives time (James 1:17) We do not deserve a second of time in this world. Through sin we have forfeited our right to exist. Every moment of life, therefore, is a gift of God. If a man were standing beside me giving me a dollar bill every second, or every minute, I would love him. But God is standing beside me and giving me something far more valuable – the seconds, minutes, and hours themselves.2. God gives enough time (Eccl. 3:1-8) We often say, “I just don’t have enough time.” I know we are rarely saying it as a complaint against God, but it does reflect upon God. If someone gave you a hundred tasks to do in one minute, you would view that person as unjust and unfair. It’s simply not enough time. But God has given us enough time to do all that He requires of us in this world. He is not unfair or unjust. Perhaps, our perceived lack of time is caused by trying to do more than God requires of us. 3. God gives limited time (Psalm 31:15) We have a limited time on this earth. Our arrival and departure times are on God’s timetable. However long our time here may be, it does have a limit that we shall not pass.4. God judges our use of time (Romans 14:12) We are used to the idea of God judging our words, or our use of money. But the idea of God watching over our use of time is not often at the forefront of our thoughts. Words are audible, money is visible, but time seems so much more nebulous, so much more difficult to get a hold of. Yet, as it is His gift, we will be called to give an account for our use of it.5. God commands us to redeem time (Ephesians 5:16) To redeem a person means to act to secure a captured person’s rescue by paying a price. To redeem time, therefore, means to act to secure the recovery of wasted time by paying a price. And that price, as we shall see in the next few days, is self-discipline and self-denial. 6. God offers eternal life to those who have abused time (Romans 6:23) Though many of us grieve over “the years the locusts have eaten,” God promises to restore those years (Joel 2:25). And what a restoration! He gives far more than we have taken. Despite us taking God’s gift of time and using it against Him, God still offers us the gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ (Rom. 6:23).
Yesterday I wrote about the two ways of living that David Brooks outlined in the New York Times: “The Well-Planned Life” (WPL) or “The Summoned Life” (SL). And I asked which of the two was most biblical.
Just to recap, the person who lives a WPL takes time to find a clear life-purpose, then makes appropriate decisions about how to spend their time and use their talents. The person who lives the SL rejects the possibility of long-term life-planning, but as situations and circumstances arise, they ask, “What are these circumstances summoning me to do?” In fact, I think it would be more accurate to call this “The Reactive Life” (RL).
I believe that every Christian should live a WPL. No Christian should be just a victim of events, a helpless cork tossed to and fro on the ever-changing ocean of circumstances and other people’s expectations. We must take the time to prayerfully seek a life-purpose. God put each of us here for a specific reason, and we shouldn’t just drift from day to day, from week to week, from year to year, frittering away precious time without any sense of direction. We must take our time and our talents to God and ask Him what He will have us to do…and wait for His guidance. That simple act would save many Christians from many years of pointless ping-ponging around from job to job, from passion to passion, from person to person, and from place to place. If you read the original article you will know that Clayton Christensen advocates the combination of “a Christian spirit with a business methodology” in order to live a WPL. I’d like to deal with that idea at greater length in a future post, but I agree with the principle, and with the priority of putting Christian spirit before business methodology. HOWEVER, there are dangers in the WPL, especially in the selfish neglect of important relationships, as Brooks also hinted at. The person living the WPL can become insensitive to circumstances, events, and people around him. “I don’t care if my neighbor is sick…I have a plan and I’m sticking to it.” He can become frustrated with anyone and anything which interrupts his plan or renders his day “inefficient.” He can become deaf to God’s voice speaking to him through His Word, and through providence as his life unfolds. While he may have got his life-plan from God, he may neglect to get his everyday-plan from God. Everybody needs to allow an element of RL in their life.So, I suppose I’m joining David Brooks on the fence. However, I’m definitely falling over on the WPL side, as I believe it is more biblical than the RL. Consider Christ’s life. He did not get up every day and wonder, “What am I doing here?” or “Where am I going?” No, He had a very definite life-plan (maybe we should say death-plan), which He received from His Father. However, He also had the right balance between the WPL and the RL. While there were times when he would not be deflected by people’s demands and the pressure of unpredicted events, there were other times when he did respond to pressing need and urgent circumstances. If I can apply this especially to pastors, I would say that too many pastors live a Reactive Life. We often go from day-to-day just responding to events, phone calls, emails and others’ agendas. We may have a weekly plan which involves preparing two or three sermons. However, we don’t usually think much further ahead than that. I would encourage pastors to think more long-term, not just about their congregation but about their own lives. Take your time, your talents, your interests and your schedule to the Lord and ask Him to help you plan a long-term project. It might be to master Greek or Hebrew, to research a favorite subject, to do a Th.M. or D.Min., to write a book, to evangelize a particular place or group of people, to mentor a young man, etc. Prayerfully pick a project and allocate fixed and non-negotiable time to it every week. Let your family and elders know your plan and seek their cooperation. The person who lives the well-planned life is better-equipped to react to the unplanned events of life.
New York Times columnist David Brooks recently wrote about two ways of thinking about life: the Well-Planned Life and the Summoned Life.
The Well-Planned Life
Brooks’s presentation of the Well-Planned Life leant heavily on a 2010 Harvard commencement address given by Clayton Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor and a “serious Christian” (yes you read that sentence correctly). Brooks underlines Christensen’s Christian commitment by narrating how he refused to play College sports on a Sunday. But, Brooks says, Christensen “combines a Christian spirit with business methodology.”
In plotting out a personal and spiritual life, he applies the models and theories he developed as a strategist. He emphasizes finding the right metrics, efficiently allocating resources and thinking about marginal costs…When he is done, life comes to appear as a well-designed project, carefully conceived in the beginning, reviewed and adjusted along the way and brought toward a well-rounded fruition.
Christensen observed how high-achievers usually misallocate their resources. If they have a spare half-hour, they use it to produce some tangible result at work (like closing a sale, writing a blog! etc.), rather than invest time and energy in far more important things like family relationships, which may not yield results until 20 years later.
Christensen’s advice? Invest a lot of time when you are young in finding a clear purpose for your life. “When I was a Rhodes scholar,” he recalls, “I was in a very demanding academic program, trying to cram an extra year’s worth of work into my time at Oxford. I decided to spend an hour every night reading, thinking, and praying about why God put me on this earth. That was a very challenging commitment to keep, because every hour I spent doing that, I wasn’t studying applied econometrics. I was conflicted about whether I could really afford to take that time away from my studies, but I stuck with it — and ultimately figured out the purpose of my life.” Having done that, he says, you are then able to make the right decisions about time-management and talent-multiplication. The Summoned LifeDavid Brooks then goes on to describe the “Summoned Life,” a life lived from an entirely different perspective.
Life isn’t a project to be completed; it is an unknowable landscape to be explored. A 24-year-old can’t sit down and define the purpose of life in the manner of a school exercise because she is not yet deep enough into the landscape to know herself or her purpose.
So, instead of plotting a course like a strategic planner, we should wait for the course to unfold and respond accordingly. The person leading the Summoned Life starts with a very concrete situation: I’m living in a specific year in a specific place facing specific problems and needs. At this moment in my life, I am confronted with specific job opportunities and specific options. The important questions are: What are these circumstances summoning me to do? What is needed in this place? What is the most useful social role before me?
Such questions can only be answered by sensitive observation and situational awareness, not calculation and long-range planning.
In America, we have been taught to admire the lone free agent who creates new worlds. But for the person leading the Summoned Life, the individual is small and the context is large. Life comes to a point not when the individual project is complete but when the self dissolves into a larger purpose and cause.
Brooks says that the more individualistic “Well-Planned Life” is more American, whereas the more social “Summoned Life” is common elsewhere.
Which is best? Well, in Brooks’s predictable “moderate” style he comes down firmly on the fence by concluding: “But they are both probably useful for a person trying to live a well-considered life.”QuestionHowever American or un-American these two ways of living are is not the most important question for us. Rather we should be asking, which is the most biblical? Or are both unbiblical? What do you think?I’ll give my thoughts tomorrow?
Thanks to Chris Roberts for his follow-up questions to my post on getting the right balance between preparing sermons and pastoral visitation.
I think the best way I can answer is to describe a “normal” pastoral week for me. Obviously “normal” can quickly become abnormal if you have a death in your congregation. And what was “normal” for me in my situation may not suit you in your situation. In my last congregation I had about 130 homes (some families, some couples, some individuals) to visit. About 75% of them were located in the small town of Stornoway, where I also lived, with the rest scattered in very rural communities north, south, east and west of the town. The furthest home was about an hour away. While the congregation had a good mix of ages, there were probably more elderly people than a “normal” city congregation due to many island folks being drawn back there for retirement, and many students having to leave to study on the mainland.1. My target was to visit every home in the congregation at least once a year. Allowing for vacations, special church meetings, funerals, etc, I reckoned I would have about 40 “normal” weeks in the year, which meant at least three pastoral visits a week. 2. In addition to annual pastoral visits to every home in the congregation, there were five other types of visit.a. The sick in hospital. I tried to visit both before and after operations, as well as a visit when the person returned home. I usually spent no more than 20 minutes with a sick person. b. The elderly in their own homes. I had a number of seniors who were not well enough to come out to church, but were still living in their own homes. I would try to visit them once a quarter (which was never enough!). Visiting time between 30-60 minutes.c. The elderly in nursing homes. I would also try to visit them every quarter. However, as they were surrounded by other people and tended to see more visitors, I would tend to visit the elderly in their own homes more than this group. Visiting time 30-45 minutes.d. The emergencies. “Stuff happens,” and so maybe once or twice a month I would have to make unplanned visits to homes with problems or special needs. Visiting time up to 2 hours.e. Non-church-goers. In the course of living in a small town and visiting other homes, I would often come across people who were not going to church anywhere, and so I would ask them if they wanted a pastoral visit. Maybe 25-40% said yes. Sometimes that resulted in people coming to church. Usually not. Visiting time about 1 hour.So, adding it all up, I probably did about 10-12 visits a week. 3. Every Saturday I would decide which homes to visit the following week, based on need and geographical proximity. I tried to visit homes that were close together to minimize driving time between visits. I usually arranged the day and time of the visit at church on the Sunday.4. If a person or couple could be visited in the afternoon, that’s when I would visit. That left my evening visiting times for those who were working through the day.5. I usually set apart Wednesday to do most of my visits. Why Wednesday? Let me set out my week to explainMonday. On Monday, after Sunday’s exertions, I was good for nothing. From the beginning of my ministry my wife “forced” me to take Mondays off with her and our family (who are home-schooled). I’m glad she did, because the Pastor needs a “sabbath” too. I think there were only two times in my ministry when I decided to work on Mondays, and by the end of the week I regretted it, as I ground to an inefficient halt (but that’s another blog post). Tuesday. Fully rested, on Tuesday I was raring to go again. However, as visiting exhausts me, and I did not want to run down my gas before the week even started, I usually did not visit on a Tuesday. Instead I worked on reading, writing, and lecture projects on Tuesday morning, catching up on administration and phone calls in the afternoon. Evening spent with my wife and family.Wednesday. After a few hours in the study, I would usually leave the house about 11am to begin my visiting. I would begin with visits to the elderly at home and in nursing homes. After lunch on the go, I would then do some hospital visits (not in the morning because nurses and doctors are usually busy with patients then). By mid-afternoon I was on to my annual pastoral visits of those who were at home in the afternoon. After returning home for a quick evening meal, I would then be out again for the first of two evening visits (usually two of the annual pastoral visits). I would schedule these for 7 pm and 8.30 pm. Initially I tried to squeeze three in, but with traveling time between visits, that meant I was sometimes in a home for less than an hour. I found 90 minute visits to be the best length of time. Any longer and conversation would become more social than pastoral. Obviously if any major issue came up, then I would promise to return. Most of my congregation knew that I was on a tight visiting schedule and so they did not really expect visits to last the whole evening. I also found that if people knew you had another visit planned, it was easier to end the visit on time. I usually returned home before 10.30pm.Thursday. I’ve worked on building sites in Eastern Europe in sub-zero temperatures, and yet I found pastoral visitation far more draining! So on Thursday I would usually take an extra hour or so in bed, before getting into the study to prepare my message for the midweek prayer meeting and Bible Study. That would take me 4-5 hours. Late afternoon I would catch up on administration, and maybe begin “looking for a text” for my two Sunday sermons. Evening at the midweek meeting, often followed by a deacons or elders meeting, or maybe a counseling visit.Friday. Day in the study preparing for Sunday sermons. Often I would have to go out late Friday afternoon to visit someone who had taken ill since Wednesday. As I had not spent an evening with my wife since Tuesday, and as Saturday and Sunday evenings were taken up with preparation and preaching, I would usually reserve Friday evening for her and my family. Saturday. Preparing for Sunday sermons. I usually tried to be finished sermon prep by late Saturday afternoon so that I could go for a long walk on the beach to loosen up study-tightened body, listen to some sermons from Sermon Audio on the texts I was going to preach on, read a bit, go over my sermon, etc. I would never visit on a Saturday unless it was a real emergency. Sunday. VERY BUSY. No visits unless ultra-emergency. All energies devoted to preaching the Word.Concluding thoughts1. Again, please do not take me as a norm. As I look back, I think I should have visited more. On the other hand, I do feel my preaching and family life would have suffered if I had. You need to find the right balance for you and your situation.2. I had a great team of 10 elders and 12 deacons who also visited their designated areas regularly. That took a lot of pressure off me.3. Start as you wish to continue. Don’t start with three hour visits or people will be disappointed if you only visit for two hours the next time. Let your congregation know that they can expect at least one visit a year. My first congregation was much smaller (about 30 homes) and I tried to visit them twice a year. 4. Pray before you go, as you go, and after you go. Pray especially that the Lord would give you His loving shepherd’s heart. We do not want to be doing pastoral visits in a legalistic, Mormon-like spirit. 5. Get organized. Make sure that you keep a record of your visits so that you don’t miss anyone, and so that you can defend yourself if a forgetful elderly person says to the elders “He never visits me!” (it will happen). Also, although I started each year with the mountain of 130 homes to visit, if I was “ticking off” 3+ homes a week, I could relax knowing that I would get to the top of the hill eventually. 6. Ask parents to make sure that their children will be present for the visit.7. A death in the congregation will throw your schedule out for week or more (I’ll return to that another time).8. Remember your wife and family. The ministry can devour all your time…and your family. If you let it.