Essential Skills: Managing Your Personal Calendar
There are many skills that ministry leaders need to develop. Among them are skills like teaching & preaching, leading meetings, planning events, caring for people, responding to crises, and so on. However, there are some less fashionable skills that are just as essential. Here’s the second of five skills that have been on my mind lately.
Managing Calendars (Personal)
Calendars are integral to the success of your ministry. In your ministry, there are events that you do weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually, for some even biannually or triennially. In your personal and work life, there are things you do and meetings to attend daily, weekly, biweekly, monthly, quarterly, and for some annually. To be effective in ministry you have to learn to manage your calendar on both fronts: program and personal. If you don’t, chaos ensues! Following is a post about my personal calendar.
The nature of my life as a both an Associate and a NextGen Pastor requires a four week rotation of calendaring. Here’s a peek at what that looks like right now. Of course, things change so this is just the current iteration of it.
Here are some guiding principles as you set up your own calendar.
- Be Intentional. Decide what you need to do and when you need to do it in advance and block it out on your calendar. If you need to replace it with something like an emergency or an urgent appointment, then move that block to another day or time to make sure you get it done.
- Be Thorough. There shouldn’t be a lot of time that isn’t planned or spoken for in your calendar. Your church needs you to be intentional with your time, making it as efficient and effective as possible.
- Be Decisive. You can’t afford to give hours and hours of open-ended time and head space to browsing the internet for illustrations and videos or spinning your wheels on message planning, project/event planning, or even talking with who ever you happen to run into, etc. You need to do things quickly which require confidence and trust in the Spirit’s leading in decision making and planning. No putzing around.
Admittedly, I recognize that I also need to be intentional about making time for casual conversation with staff and my team as well as congregational walk-ins. And I do the best I can to do this, you just won’t see it scheduled in the calendar.
Offsite NextGen & Family. We try to get our entire NextGen, Marriage & Family (Parenting) Team together once per quarter for about three hours for prayer and to talk about big picture values, the needs of various families, and upcoming initiatives.
I’ve learned that carving out at least three days each month during the third week to focus on writing/planning my message outlines, message notes/handouts, SGL guides, and music for the next month or two is very helpful. All these plans are now being posted to Basecamp for team discussion. I have to work very hard to protect those days. This includes not attending staff meetings including our weekly pastoral/senior leadership meetings. However, when my lead pastor requests it, I flex and attend anyway.
On Tuesdays, we have a Strategic Meeting approximately once a month (sometimes the 2nd Tuesday, sometimes the 4th Tuesday) where we meet as a NextGen team and discuss big topics that have broad and long range impact.
Following our NextGen strategic meeting, we have our tactical meetings twice a month for each area. During these meetings we talk about things directly related to kidmin or stumin and sometimes we talk about things directly related to performance and leadership development.
Office. Each Monday morning, I start the day with a little settling into the office, clean up the desk, check in with other staff, etc.
Guest Inclusion. Then I take a few minutes to contact guests from the weekend’s services. It’s part of our Guest Inclusion plan. A pastoral call within 24 hours of attending lets them know that I noticed them, that I’m available for any questions, and that they’re invited to our next Pizza with the Pastors.
Balcony. Then I try to have some protected balcony time to think ahead and look out over our ministry from the balcony (so-to-speak). This helps me establish priorities and clarify initiatives for the week.
Appointments. I’ve found that I can’t handle any more than three appointments (not standing meetings) per week. If I have more than that, I’m not able to also accomplish what I need to accomplish. I’ve carved out three blocks of time during the week for these. They are Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. If they don’t get used, I fill it with projects or message planning.
Music. Currently, I’m temporarily covering the role of Worship Leader for Students, as well, until we get the funding to re-hire that position. So this is when I print out the rehearsal folders (which takes about 10 minutes).
Message Slides. The afternoons are then dedicated to finishing up the message slides and making any final tweaks. I only have till 3:30PM. That’s when I take off to pick up my kids from school.
My Tuesdays are crammed with meetings and tasks.
Pastoral. We begin with a two hour pastoral/senior leadership meeting where we discuss a wide variety of issues related to the church, care, ministries, services, etc.
Full Staff. This is followed immediately by a 30-45 minute full-staff meeting where we go over the ministry calendar for the next two months, report and discuss any “good-of-the-order” types of things, and pray together.
NextGen. Immediately following this meeting I connect with our NextGen team for strategic and tactical meetings on the 2nd and 4th weeks (see above).
Weekend Service Production. On the 1st and 3rd weeks, I often participate in our service production meetings where we walk through the final details for staging, cueing, lighting, transitions, and timing for our weekend services.
Midweek Service Production. Every week, we meet for 30 minutes to do the above for our young adult service (which is Wednesday nights at 8:30PM). Then we meet 15 minutes to do the same for our student service. Usually, immediately following we take a few minutes to work out any AVL bugs that need my attention.
Personal Music Practice. After I pick up my kids from school, get them a snack, and get them going on homework, I pull out the guitar and work on memorizing lyrics and chords.
Band Rehearsal. I usually show up to rehearsal between 6:00pm & 6:15pm to set up and be ready to start rehearsal at 6:30pm. We’re usually able to finish up in about an hour because we only do three songs and tracking helps us keep things tight and efficient.
New Connections. As an Associate Pastor, one of my responsibilities is to collaborate with another pastor to develop our area of alignment called New Connections. This area includes the pathway and materials for Guest Inclusion, Welcomers, Ushers, Information Center, Section Friends, First Impressions, and Pizza with the Pastors (monthly). We usually limit our work to the two hour slot that is scheduled so that it doesn’t bleed over into other priorities too much.
Office. This slot allows me to work on whatever is necessary. This might be the night’s message, a project, a communication piece, or phone calls and emails. Sometimes I pull out my photo roster of all the kids and students to work on memorizing names and faces.
Appointments. This is another slot I make available for meeting with people outside of our staff.
Office. Another slot to work on whatever is needed.
Finalize Message. This is where I do a final run through of the night’s message(s), setup my Bible (I tape my notes to the inside of my Bible so that I can speak with out a podium and only a bible in hand), and try to memorize the key components.
Home. After I pick up the kids I like to go home and chill. Well…actually…warm up…I like to sit in the hot tub to relax. I’m finding that this helps me prepare to be a better “non-anxious presence” while at church.
Church Dinner. Our church hosts a dinner that is available to everyone 5pm-6pm. We often sit together as a family for a few minutes before I zoom off for the night.
Warm ups. I lead the band through a final sound check and run through (if time).
Kids/Students. Kidmin runs 6:00pm – 7:30pm. Stumin runs 6:15pm – 7:30 (MS) / 7:45 (HS). Welcomers in place and doors open at 6:00pm.
Young Adults. Prayer huddle begins at 7:30pm. Band warms up at 7:45pm. Welcomers in place by 8:00pm. Service starts at 8:30pm. Groups start at 9:25pm. Desserts at 9:50/55. Building clears around 11:00pm. I get home around 11:30pm/12:00am.
Intern Supervision. This is when I meet with my intern for young adult ministry for supervision, processing, planning, etc.
Stumin Debrief/Planning. This is when we process the good, the bad, and the ugly from last night and then when we plan for the next two weeks.
Appointments. This is the third slot I make available for appointments.
Guest Inclusion. I take a few minutes here to contact guests from last night. This might be a phone call or a text message depending on their age.
Confirmation. It usually takes me about an hour to prep for my Confirmation class (Sundays, 9:00AM). This class is for 9th graders and is the second year of a two year program.
Message Outline/SGL Guides. This is when I try to tweak my message outline, notes/handouts, and SGL guides. Then either I or our stumin director will post the SGL guide to our SGL’s Facebook group or email to those who aren’t on FB.
Then go get the kids!
My scheduled day off is Friday. Admittedly, I often do some work on Fridays to catch up a bit. It’s easy to get behind in the schedule.
Young Adults Planning. Every other week, I meet with our Worship Leader for Young Adults to plan our Wednesday night young adult services. He’s also the worship leader for one of our weekend services so we also process some worship ministry and AVL stuff together, as well.
My home & family day is Saturday.
I’m starting to learn to arrive as early as I can on Sundays.7:30am or 8:00am is best. Services begin at 9:00am. Kidmin/Stumin classes and the Family Village (for parents) all start at 9:00am as well including my Confirmation class.
What you don’t see scheduled in are things like choir concerts, football games, or weekend appointments which sometimes take the place of weekday lunches. But, yeah, that’s my personal calendar. It’s pretty crazy and I often color outside the lines. It’s never as neat and clean as the picture looks. But I do my best to make it work and to be efficient with it. You’re personal calendar will obviously be very different from mine but I think we can all learn from each other and peeking into my work life might be helpful at least in some way.
My next post in this series will be about Managing the Program Calendar.