The first thing I do when coaching a Senior Pastor is to require them to (a) see a dietician, (b) get a complete physical, (c) meet with a financial planner, and (d) consult with (or hire) a personal trainer. After a year with me, I want them to be in the best physical, financial, and relational shape of their life.
The next thing we do is pull apart, then rebuild, hour by hour, their personal weekly schedule. Schedules should be built around spiritual giftedness, time availability, and organizational goals.
Here are the five most common scheduling mistakes I see from Senior Pastor’s calendars:
Scheduling Mistake #1: Taking Monday Off
For every church that is growing, effective, and led by a Senior Pastor that takes Mondays off, I see one hundred that are not.
Taking Mondays off is a clear sign that two big problems are going on in your life. You are out of shape, and your time off isn’t working for you.
Pastors tell me, “But I’m exhausted on Mondays.”
My immediate response is, “Why do you want to take your day off when you’re exhausted?”
You’re exhausted because you are not at your goal weight and you eat poorly. You aren’t fanatical about sleep, stress management, and investing in your future by taking creative time off. I know because I’ve been there. Oh trust me, have I been there. We all have.
Scheduling Mistake #2: Taking Off One Day A Week
The solution for exhaustion on Mondays is taking two full days off a week on Fridays and Saturdays so you can do the fun and interesting stuff you keep putting off.
Everyone in your congregation takes two full days off a week. So should you. I’m talking NO sermon prep. NO church calls. NO emails, social media, or church meetings. NOTHING.
You need to get serious about making your body a “living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (Romans 12:1). You aren’t holy when you’re exhausted. You don’t write sermons well when you’re exhausted.
Let’s face it: part of the reason you are exhausted on Mondays because you don’t “exhaust” yourself on Friday and Saturday.
Get out. Invest the creative energy needed to plan days where you can do the amazing things there are to be done in a 60-mile radius of your house. Make a list for the year and check them off one by one. Put them into your calendar. Actually make appointments for them.
If someone convinced you to start a Saturday night service, and you’re now seeing the errors of your ways, kill it, just like we did. Most Saturday night services are focused on the short-term. We need to focus on the long play.
The health of you and your staff is more important in the long-term than adding another 200-400 people to your church.
Scheduling Mistake #3: Staff Are Allowed To Choose Their Days Off
Another common problem I find is that Senior Pastors take one day off (usually Monday or Friday), and the Worship Pastor takes another day off (like a Thursday). When you allow that, you miss two full days of collaboration a week.
Staff members taking off “whichever day works best for them” is something you see in highly unproductive staff cultures. This is most common in unorganized churches under 400.
If you want to lead your church to break the 200, 400, and 600 barriers, you must change this. You are carrying over bad habits from a previous size and culture. Everyone must take the same two days off, except your support staff.
For those concerned about “an emergency happening while everyone is off,” you must realize that this is a mindset issue, not a reality issue. In 16 years here at CCV, with thousands of people connected to our church, we’ve not had one problem that caused us to rethink this strategy. Equip your support staff to be able to discern what is a real emergency or not. Provide support staff responses ahead of time, and if you absolutely must, place a “pastor on call.”
Scheduling Mistake #4: Your Work Week Begins Monday
Emotionally speaking, most Senior Pastors “begin” their work week on Tuesday and end it on Sundays. They lie low Sunday afternoons and Mondays, then kick back up again first thing Tuesday.
Whether this is actually how you view your week, or how it feels on a week in and week out basis, I’d like to change that.
I want you so refreshed by your time away on Friday and Saturday that you blast through the gate preaching on Sundays. Sunday afternoon you throw yourself into planning your entire week. Then you hit it hard first thing Monday.
The most practical way to make this shift is to change your calendar in Outlook so that your “weekly view” begins on a Sunday. That way your days off will be at the end of the week on the right.
Why is this important? You need to get all your work done by the end of your week (Thursday night). Then you can invest in yourself and your family on Fridays and Saturdays.
Scheduling Mistake #5: Important Activities Scheduled For Late In The Week
I want you to hold in one hand your list of priorities and in your other hand your list of available time slots for work. Now, rank these in order of “most productive time slots” to “least productive time slots.”
Now I want you to take your highest priority and place that task in your most productive time slot. Then do the same with your second priority, and your second most productive slot. Do that until you have no more available time slots left.
If you’re like most Senior Pastors, when the exercise is over you’ll have a long list of things you “thought” were important, for which you have no available time to fulfill those tasks. They must be delegated or discarded.
For instance, most Senior Pastors start their number one task (preaching) too late in the week. The reason this happens is they aren’t taking two days off the week prior and aren’t in great shape. Once we address those issues, Monday and Tuesday mornings will become your most productive time slots. That’s where you’ll insert sermon writing.
You must get your sermons done by Tuesday at noon.
Why? Because the farther removed you are from your days off, the more you move from your most rejuvenated state to your least.
If you don’t schedule your highest priorities first, your work will always be misaligned with your energy flow. Match your highest priorities with the time of the week when your well is the deepest.
Do this and watch what happens.