What you are about to read are my weekend reflections. Back a few weeks ago, I started doing this in a notebook for my own personal benefit. This isn’t a diary, trust me, I have a beard. But it is a time for me to reflect on the past week for the following purposes: so that I may contemplate on what most stood out to me Sunday through Friday; so that I can think on the biblical and practical lessons the Lord has taught me most recently; so that I can see what can be done more productively or differently; so that I can improve upon what I’m already doing; and so that I can encourage you in your own personal walk with Christ, or you area of ministry. Til now I’ve been keeping these reflections to myself, but I’d like to share them with you today. These are some of the lessons the Lord has impressed upon me this past week.
Time Management and Productivity
We are called by God to be stewards. A steward is someone appointed to look after, manage, or supervise another’s property. We know from Scripture that everything in the earth is the Lord’s, and that He has called us to steward His property. So Christians are to be stewards of their talents, their finances, and also their time. All of these things which belong to the Lord. But perhaps the most difficult area of stewardship is our time, and managing it well. Paul writes in Ephesians 5:15-16, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (emphasis mine).
In today’s world, it is increasingly difficult to spend our time most efficiently – let alone spending that time honoring the Lord in what we do. Well, the Lord has been teaching me a few lessons for the past few weeks, and especially this past week. One of those lessons is this: faithful time stewardship today ensures faithful time stewardship tomorrow. Or put another way, faithful time stewardship yesterday ensures more faithful time stewardship today. If we spend our time well today, it always ensures that tomorrow’s time will be spent even better.
Practically speaking, there are many things I’ve tried to do that have proved helpful in being a better steward of my own time. Knowing that if I spend my time well today I can spend it better tomorrow, I have implemented a few different habits that have certainly helped me. First, I’ve tried to wake up earlier and get to bed earlier. Waking up early is sort of a “love-hate” thing for me. I love the stillness of the morning, and I am as active as a carpenter’s pencil in the morning. But I have difficulty getting up at my first or second alarm. What helps me to wake up is to prepare my favorite breakfast the night before, and plan on doing at least one major thing that will get my blood pumping the next morning. That way, I’ve got something enjoyable to look forward to when I open my eyes in the morning. I know that I’ve got that delicious smoothie waiting to be enjoyed; I know that I’ve got at least 15 mins to run in my neighborhood as the sun rises. Of course, as a pastor, I work the same 9-3 hours as most everyone else. Those hours are not always spent at the office (which is my bedroom too), but they may be spent visiting, making calls, printing materials, or a host of other things. But no matter how busy I am during the day, I try to make it a priority to plan something enjoyable the night before, so that I can wake up ready to go. I mean, when did any of us stay in bed on Christmas morning anyway?
The second thing I’ve tried to do is ordering my daily tasks by importance and order. I’ll sit down on Sunday evening or Monday morning and write out everything I can perceive that needs to be done on what day(s) – appointments, sermon preparation, visitation, everything. And when I get those tasks written out, I will write a number to the left side of each task. This number indicates the order in which I need to accomplish the tasks. For example, if I’m heading to the church and I need to stop to make a visit, I’ll put a 1 out by the visit and a 2 out by my stopping by the church. That way, I can keep up with the order of things and not leave anything out. I also do this for the principle of doing first things first. If I get an unexpected interruption and I’m not able to complete some of the smaller, less important things, then I’m still okay. Why? Because I completed the first things first. The things that are most important in my to-do list need to be done first. That way I’m not having anxiety about completing those important tasks, and my less-important tasks can have as much flexibility as they need.
Training Others to Teach Scripture
When God gives us a task to complete, or when He calls us to a particular task or ministry, we are to do those things and fulfill those ministries with excellence because it is the Lord’s work that we are doing. Paul says that we are to give ourselves fully to the Lord’s work: “always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58, ESV). So for this reason and many others, all that we do should be done with excellence of service—whether it is teaching Sunday School, cleaning the worship center, setting up the student area, or helping a child make a craft.
In order to complete those tasks, and fulfill our ministries, we need to be properly educated and trained to do so. One of the best ways that excellence is ensured in our service is being well-trained at our vocation. Because of this, I try to emphasize the urgency and need for training in all areas of ministry at our church. If you teach the children, you need to know how to teach them and answer their questions. If you work the soundboard, you need to know how to monitor its diverse mechanics. If you teach students, you need to know how to teach in a way that is relevant to this stage in their life.
In the area of Sunday School, it’s been a pleasure for me to train a young man to eventually teach our high school students’ class. He’s been making a lot of progress as we’ve talked, and as I’ve given him a plethora of materials for his training. It’s taken more time out of my daily pastoral ministry duties, but it has been worth it and it will be worth it. I would encourage you to do the same, because we need to take time to invest in our church members, we need to disciple them, teach them new skills, and help them discover their calling or spiritual gifts (Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:4-11; Eph. 4:11-16; 1 Pet. 4:10-11).
Pray for this young man, and do the same in your churches – our teachers especially need to be continually refreshed so that they can refresh others. They need to be well-trained so that they too can one day train another to take their place. It’s the biblical model for enlisting and recruiting people to serve in various ministries: “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2, ESV).
As an aside, here are the best resources I’ve ever used or passed on to our Bible teachers:
1. Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary by Thomas Nelson Publishers.
2. How to Study the Bible by Robert M. West.
3. 40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible by Robert L. Plummer.
4. The ESV Study Bible by Crossway.
5. The Complete Bible Answer Book by Hank Hanegraaff.