The business guru Peter Drucker says that the single most important characteristic of effectiveness is that we know where our time is spent.
And ministry being ministry, that means a whole range of duties and tasks – including the unexpected.
Into an already full week, God sends a funeral, a pile of urgent admin from your denomination, and a trip to the garage for your car so you can’t get anywhere fast.
Where did that week go? The unexpected grabbed it.
One of the flashing amber lights for me is when someone says, ‘Chris, I know you’re very busy, but…’ Not because I am at everyone else’s disposal, but because ministry is about people, and it should alarm me if I don’t have time for them.
Now, you could just hunker down and resent that. One common experience is to plan your week to the minute and then spend your week buzzing round the place, not needing any coffee because you’re jazzed up enough to be barred from your local coffee shop. ‘Now, sir, I think we’ve had enough. Just leave quietly and get yourself home.’
Alternatively (and this really is for the control freaks – go-with-the-flow guys already know this) plan for the unexpected. You don’t know what it’ll be, but something will come crashing into your week and eat up four hours of your diary. It’s inevitable. So put it in. Just assume it. Puts gaps around stuff. Flag up in advance what can be moved. It’s an obvious point, but busy pastors consistently try to fill every minute with productive ministry – and week after week feels like a failure because the unexpected squeezed out the important.
Instead, plan your ministry like one of those kids’ puzzles where you have to move the tiles around, and the puzzle only works if you have a missing piece. Put some flex into your week deliberately, so that you’ve the room to handle the unexpected.
And when it doesn’t happen, you can go back and read some Peter Drucker. Or even better, your Bible.