The 40 Hour Pastoral Work Week

Question: How do you spend your average week in terms of work time? Would love to hear the breakdown of hours spent in different areas of ministry. Trying to evaluate how I offer myself to my work and not sure I am fitting God’s call for my current setting.

My answer: What’s helped me …

Mark Forster’s time management system, Autofocus, and it’s various forms. The pile of tasks is easy to review and much simpler than GTD.

80/20 Rule – only 1 out of 5 things I do are vitally important – they deliver 80% of the value of what I will accomplish today. Forster suggests that these will be about five tasks. Focus on them first, give them the highest energy. As the other tasks deliver only 20% benefit for a 100% of the time invested in them, I can procrastinate on them, do them when tired – but they still need to be done. Major waste of my time is my confusing a “trivial many” task for a “vital few” task.

I divide the week into Steven Covey’s four quadrants – I try to do Q1 tasks on Monday, Tuesday = Sabbath, Q2 on Wednesday, Q3 on Thursday and Q4 (cleaning up lots of little details) on Friday. In this way, less important work is pushed off till later in the week.

My time as an institutional church pastor fits into the following acronym – PASTOR – and each pair should get a fourth of my time each week, plus a quarter for discretionary time, or I will fall behind. 10 hours each for a 40 hour institutional work week.

PA – Pastoral Care = Q1 – people in crisis. A = Q2 is for Attention – those little ways of noticing people that add up. Thank you notes, cards, a brief conversation, a phone call to say hello. A stitch in time saves nine. Be present. Walk slowly through the crowd.

S … R – S=Q1, the sermon, bible study, the teaching ministry, Sunday morning. Reading = Q2 which supports it. (This includes continuing education.)

TO. T = Q1 my tasks, to do list. O = Q2 the organization, doing things in cooperation with others – committees, teams, partnerships. “Equip the saints for works of ministry which build up the body of Christ.”

The extra ten hours to equal a 40 hour institutional work week flexes to focus on whatever of these categories needs more time that week. Can be PA or TO or SR of some combination of those. Or just time to catch up on the backlog.

Denominational meetings and work is beyond the 40 hours allocated to my “institutional” work week. So is hanging out with clergy buddies and going to ball games in the community. So is time for my personal devotions. No factory worker gets paid for this, and it’s my voluntary contribution of time. Limiting “institutional work” to 40 hours is very freeing in my schedule – James D Glasse called these 40 hours “paying the rent” in the book Putting It Together In The Parish.

Discipleship and evangelism are relational, and are woven in throughout all these categories.

Trying to figure out how to manage my time and not be overwhelmed has been a huge problem for me since graduating from seminary in 1980. I wrote a book about this in 2002 to meet my own needs, and it is available for free download here:
Chapter 3 talks about how to use the 80/20 rule.

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