While deployed as an Army Chaplain on Operation Enduring Freedom in Europe, God taught me some lessons about time management. While my unit was not in a combat area, the deployment made me think about the brevity of my life and how I had spent my time up until that point.
I grieved over time I wasted and committed that I would seek to try to make the most of each day, seeing each day as a stewardship God gave me with which to make Kingdom investments. I vowed that I would not waste my time.
Scripture communicates the importance of managing our time well due to the brevity of our lives and the limited number of our days. The Psalmist writes:
The years of our life are seventy,
or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away.
Who considers the power of your anger,
and your wrath according to the fear of you?
So teach us to number our days
That we may get a heart of wisdom. (Emphasis added) Psalm 90:10-12 ESV
As youth pastors, it is important that we apply this truth regarding making the most of each moment and each day to our ministries. We must manage and use our time well to minister effectively to our students, youth volunteers, and parents. Allow me to share eight steps to managing our time well in youth ministry.
- Pray that God will grant you wisdom regarding how you should spend your time. The Bible says that we should seek the Lord through prayer if we would like to gain wisdom about a particular matter (James 1:5). We youth pastors should pray that God would help us in goal setting, task planning, and scheduling our calendars. We should go to the Lord first on this matter, before we turn to any other source or person for counsel.
- Set goals for your youth ministry. After you have prayed regarding how God would have you spend your time, set goals accordingly. Failure to set goals leads to bad time management, lack of direction, and wasting our time. Again, in the book of James, the Bible encourages us to set goals according to the will of God (James 4:15).
- Backwards plan to accomplish your goals. Plan backwards from the time you want to have the goal accomplished. Set various tasks that need to be finished with specific due dates to make positive progress towards the goal. Check off each task as you accomplish it. Backwards planning helps prevent procrastination and inefficient use of our time.
- Keep yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily calendars and follow them. Take your leadership on an annual planning retreat to plan the yearly calendar. Put as much detail on the calendar as possible. Once you have your calendar for the year, plan three months in advance, filling in the details for each item on the calendar for those months. As you begin the week, fill in the daily tasks you need to accomplish. Plan your daily calendars to accomplish those tasks.
- Prioritize your tasks and time, avoiding “the tyranny of the urgent” as much as possible. In his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey divides our tasks into four quadrants: urgent/important, not urgent/important, urgent/not important, and not urgent/not important. He contends that we should prioritize based upon the importance of the task, seeking to operate in the not urgent/important quadrant. By doing so, we can prevent some important tasks from becoming urgent due to lack of attention. In addition, we can avoid focusing on tasks that appear to be urgent, but are not important.
- Set aside a particular time of the day to check and reply to email, voicemail, and social media contacts. If you do not designate a particularly time to respond to emails, voicemails, and contacts on social media, they will distract you from accomplishing goals and tasks for that day. You will waste time trying to refocus on the task after answering that Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram message, or email. Designate a time to respond to such correspondence so that you can keep your focus and accomplish more with your time.
- Create your weekly schedule and post it or share it with your administrative assistant (if you are fortunate to have one). Include in your schedule times you are in the office, times you are out visiting, when you eat lunch, etc. For the times you are in the office, schedule blocks for walk ins, appointments, and personal study time. I use a red, yellow, and green color code. Green is walk in time; anyone can come talk with me during these times. Yellow is my by appointment only time; folks call ahead to meet with me during those times. Red is my study time; unless it is an emergency, I am not to be disturbed during those times. Although you post your schedule, understand that ministry involves flexibility. Sometimes real emergencies arrive that you need to address, regardless of what color is on your office schedule during that particular time.
- Disciple your leadership and delegate responsibility. One failure that youth pastors make is neglecting to disciple their adult volunteers and student leaders. Discipling them becomes a ministry multiplier for you and allows you to make more efficient use of your time. Delegate responsibility to your leaders; however, make sure you demonstrate to them what they need to do before you delegate to them the task.
Implementing these eight steps will help you manage time in your youth ministry efficiently. This efficient use of time fulfills the Psalmist’s charge to “number our days.” May we do so to the glory of God and the advancement of His Kingdom.
Soli Deo Gloria
Tim McKnight is Assistant Professor of Christian Studies at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. He has over 21 years of experience in ministry, serving churches in Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Alabama, North Carolina, and South Carolina. He served in youth ministry for 12 years and in the pastorate for 9 years. In addition, Dr. McKnight served as an infantry chaplain in the U.S. Army, deploying on Operations Noble Eagle and Enduring Freedom in 2001. He holds a BS in Criminal Justice from Bluefield College, and a M.Div. and PhD from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He blogs at drtimmcknight.com