The pastor’s personal calendar is your way of making sure that you can effectively and efficiently accomplish the great work of the ministry without destroying your health or losing your family.
Weekly, monthly and quarterly schedules are important.
I’ve even made a video a few years ago sharing how I plan and schedule my work week, which you can view here.
There are very few things more practically important than a pastor’s personal schedule because it either: enables him to do what he’s been called to do with excellence, or it causes him to bounce from one day to another without any real plan or purpose.
1. Realize your personal rhythm
Not everybody is a morning person or a night owl. Some get up early and do their best work before the sun comes up. Others are barely ambulatory before noon but then fire up all eight cylinders until well after midnight. Some of us love the spring or the long days of summer and others enjoy the cooler days of the fall and winter. Every pastor, like every person, has a natural, personal rhythm – those times of the day and year when you’re at your best – so plan your work and personal ministry accordingly.
2. Review past calendars and commitments
One of the best ways to plan for the future is by looking back at what you’ve done and where you’ve been in the past. Review your previous calendars and commitments to see what you can expect in the future, what you should commit to, and what you should decide against doing again. This is the first step to ruthlessly guarding your time.
3. Have one version of the truth
It’s so easy today to have one calendar synced across different devices. Don’t work off of a paper calendar at the office and schedule other appointments on the go on your phone and then have a family calendar on your refrigerator. Have one calendar for work, family and personal commitments.
4. Schedule personal & family commitments first
As a pastor, you won’t have a ministry without your health or family. You’re called to be the priest for your home. You’re called to treat your body as the temple of the Holy Spirit. In the rush and pressure of ministry, it is often very easy to neglect your own physical, emotional and spiritual health. It’s far too easy for your family to be pushed back to third, fourth or even last place. Avoid making that mistake by scheduling significant family events and time for personal health and growth first.
5. Schedule “Big Rocks” second
Your yearly calendar will likely be anchored by some “Big Rocks.” These are special events, ministry emphases and important days that require a significant amount of planning, promotion, and involvement. Put these on the calendar first, because there will likely be days or even weeks of lead up required to make these successful.
6. Coordinate your calendar with your wife
You will limit your effectiveness as a pastor without the full support of your wife. Help her by having a scheduled time every week to go over your calendar to avoid any conflicts or oversights.
7. Stretch yourself
Not a morning person? Still, set your clock and get up an hour earlier to get ahead on your day. Since we’re often in charge of our own schedules, it’s easy as a pastor to fall into a rut and relax the rubber band, which leads to complacency. Always be looking for and stretching towards ways of accomplishing more. Never be satisfied. Look for opportunities to be more effective and efficient.
8. Build margin into your schedule
I have to admit that I failed at this for the first decade of my ministry. I ran and ran until I dropped, generally due to sickness. Now I purposefully build rest and times of fun into my calendar. One of our deacons, who works long and difficult hours as a heart surgeon, told me he schedules a getaway every two months. He said that as long as you have something to look forward to, you can work through anything for two months. I put that through my pastor’s grid and now make it a priority to take Fridays with my family and to schedule a vacation or break with either my wife or family every quarter. It’s far better to last out than to burn or rust out.
9. Enlist someone to manage your calendar
It’s good to have a gatekeeper. I know that there are some pastors who don’t want anybody else to handle their calendar, and I get that. However, I don’t like saying no, I like to be able to do everything that anybody asks. If I’m not careful, I can over commit or extend myself. That’s why it’s helpful for me to refer those who ask for an appointment to contact my secretary. She oversees my calendar and makes sure that I am where I need to be when I need to be there. If you don’t have a secretary, ask someone in your church – or maybe your wife – to help you with this. I’ve found that most church members are more than willing to help a pastor with these sorts of things.
10. Share your weekly schedule with your church
Many church members have little idea what a pastor’s weekly schedule and requirements are. Share with them your desire to minister, let them know that you’re available. Share the hours and days that you have specifically set aside for appointments. Also let them know when you normally spend time with your family, exercise or just take a break and relax. If you’re obviously doing the work of the ministry and not slacking, only the most carnal of church members will begrudge a pastor time with his family or a break to renew himself physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Schedules can be hard to keep up.
But follow my advice, and stick to your calendar so you can keep your ministry running smoothly and successfully.
Have a question or advice of your own? Leave a comment below!