One of the most enjoyable assignments (at least for me) that I set my students in our Leadership class is to get them to fill out a “Ministry Timetable.” Basically I ask them to imagine an ideal week in ministry and present it to the class in a one-page spreadsheet. It’s especially fascinating because we have such a wide range of cultures in our class – from North America, Africa, Asia, Europe, etc. Quite a lot of stereotype-smashing takes place!

It’s also quite amusing to watch the faces of students as they realize they’ve left themselves only four hours sleep a night, or that they’ve forgotten they have a wife and children, or that they might need to eat from time to time!

And then there’s the fear that begins to spread across their faces when it begins to dawn on them that much though they’d love to spend 30 hours on every sermon, it’s probably going to be closer to 10! And what happened to all that personal reading time that they were looking forward to? It’s been mercilessly swallowed up by administration, meetings, and more meetings.

And of course, like the best war plans, even the most realistic ministry timetable doesn’t survive the first encounter on the battlefield of pastoral ministry. Nevertheless, it’s still worthwhile for pastors (indeed all of us) to analyze our working days from time to time and ask ourselves if we are allocating time correctly. Scott Belsky recently did this and identified five different kinds of work that fill his day.

  1. Reactionary Work: Responding to messages and requests – emails, text messages, Facebook messages, tweets, voicemails, and the list goes on. You are constantly reacting to what comes into you rather than being proactive in what matters most to you.
  2. Planning Work: Planning Work includes the time spent, scheduling and prioritizing your time, developing your systems for running meetings, and refining your systems for working.
  3. Procedural Work: Neither reactionary nor strategic, procedural work is the administrative/maintenance stuff that we do just to keep afloat: bills, tax returns, recurring items.
  4. Insecurity Work: Includes the stuff we do out of our own insecurities – obsessively looking at certain statistics, or repeatedly checking what people are saying about you online, etc.
  5. Problem-Solving Work: (I’d rather call this Creative Work). This is the work that requires our full brainpower and focus, whether it be preparing a sermon, writing an article, posting a blog, etc.

Scott then goes on to give hints on how to audit your work day and how to manage each type of work best. His most telling admission is probably true for most pastors as well – that the majority of each day goes into Reactionary Work.

What other kinds of work should a pastor have in his day? I can think of quite a few.

Any that should not be part of our work day? I can see a very obvious one.