If there was a way for you to cut down on your workload by a third to a half, reduce your stress by half and increase your effectiveness twice over, would you do it? I think most of us would jump a the chance, especially those of us who are bivocational. Sounds like a bad internet ad, though, doesn’t it? Well, it is not. There IS a simple way to do all of these things and more. In a single sentence it is this: Put your schedule for the next six months to a year down on paper. Seeing that is it the beginning of a new year, this is the perfect time to start off on the right foot. But if you are reading this article at another point during the year, don’t despair! Start where you are and you will see the benefits anyway.
How does this help you? First, you will know what you are preaching a long time in advance. You can gather scripture, notes, illustrations and music ideas well in advance. Many of us (even fully-funded pastors!) have those times when it is Saturday and we still don’t know what our sermon outline looks like. That will be a thing of the past…and the stress that goes along with it. Second, the person who does your music will have more opportunity to select and practice music. Music specials will be easier to schedule. Key dates will be incorporated into your schedule rather than being added at the last second. Now, instead of simply planning a single Mother’s Day sermon and a Father’s Day sermon, you can schedule a sermon series around family life that takes both of those days into account!
One of the most influential books I have read in the recent past was on how to do this scheduling efficiently. This is Nelson Searcy’s book, “Engage: A Guide To Creating Life-Transforming Worship Services”. It is available as an eBook as well as in hard copy. I highly recommend that you add this book to your reading list.
My personal practice is to use an Excel spreadsheet that is color coded to create a schedule (see illustration at left). All Sundays and known ministry days are added first (Tuesday prayer meeting, etc.). These are followed by holidays and special days during the year. Advent, Lent and Thanksgiving are chief among these. Sermon series and special events are scheduled around these dates. This is only one way of doing these tasks; you will find a method that is meaningful to you. Give it a try, and I guarantee you will see benefits to your ministry quickly!
Happy New Year!