Note from Rowland: the following will need the format tidied up, but I don't have time at present!
I was brought up by good Christian parents to believe that work was good, laziness was bad, and that sanctity is measured by omnipresence at church meetings...
Once or twice in sermons I remember someone quoting the words from the old clock in Chichester cathedral:
‘When as a child I laughed and wept, time crept.
When as a youth I dreamed and talked, time walked.
When I became a full-grown man, time ran. And later
as I older grew, time flew. Soon, I shall find while travelling
on, time gone!
Will Christ have saved my soul by then?’
Someone else calculated that we would answer to God
for every second of the 613,620 hours we were allotted in our
threescore and ten years, and we must make these seconds ‘count
As a student-pastor in my first church (Narwee Baptist
in Sydney) I tried to fulfil this sort of calling. One November
I sat for thirteen 3-hour exams. There were two sermons most weeks,
Bible studies to be led, parishioners to be visited, new ministries
to develop (the missionary giving increased 2000%), two persons
were added to the church staff, I lectured at various times in
two Bible Colleges, drove a taxi once a week to pay university
fees, played sport every Saturday (and at other times) and led
beach missions in holidays. (And I was married with two small
In my first ‘full-time’(!) pastorate – Blackburn
Baptist Church, Victoria – we had, at one stage, 25 people drawing
salaries. In my first year there I finished off a Masters’ degree,
completed a B.D. after five years and said ‘yes’ to too many interesting
I enjoyed doing several things at once. Often on
long walks I listened to a ‘walkaround’ radio/cassette clipped
to my belt, carried a sheaf of letters and dictaphone, and had
a small book in my pocket. (I there learned the ‘art’ of reading
Biblical scholar A.S. Peake used to like the story
of the American author who wrote one article with his right hand,
another with his left, dictated a third to his secretary, and
in order to lose no time, rocked the cradle with his foot. Peake
said his own life ‘is like that of an acrobat, who has always
one ball in his hand and five in the air’. He paid for his timeaholism
- when he was sixty he was an over-tired man.
The first step in my ‘cure’ came when our teenage
son complained that while I might be home more than some busy
fathers, my ‘head was mostly somewhere else’. He noted that when
the telephone rang, a parishioner’s demands overrode those of
the family and wondered why.
Then a difficult pastoral experience in Canada encouraged
a total overhaul of my priorities. I saw how my work-ethic had
spilt over into workaholism. My self-esteem had been too much
identified with what I was doing instead of how I was as a son
of the Father.
I dropped out and spent the most ‘productive’ year
of my life, reading some spiritual classics. I learned to read
Scripture with my heart, rather than just my head. The Cloud of
Unknowing – a chapter a day – nourished my spirit for many months.
I learned, existentially, what I had been preaching – that life
does not consist in the abundance of one’s achievements.
WHAT IS TIME?
Augustine said, ‘If nobody asks me what time is,
I know; if I want to explain it to anyone who asks me, I am at
The New Testament suggests three ways of understanding
time: ‘chronos’ (measurable, quantitative time), ‘kairos’ (‘timeliness’)
and ‘aion’ (time-limited and time-unlimited). None of these is
abstract: but though we are ‘exiles in time’ we also possess ‘eternal’
Unfortunately, we have done to time what we have
done to nature: obeyed only half the Creator’s injunctions. We
have tried to ‘subdue’ it (as in the time-management courses)
rather than be ‘replenished’ by it.
An adequate Christian understanding of time ought
to be redemptive rather than exploitative. Our lives ought not
to be measured by either their duration or accomplishments. The
Puritan ethic (‘work is good and pleasure is bad’) and hedonism
(‘pleasure is good, work is bad’) are both wrong.
‘Managerial’ approaches to time are espoused by institution-captives.
And most ‘mystical’ or contemplative understandings emanate from
institution-celibates. They may suffer either from unholy involvement,
or else other-worldly withdrawal.
How then can managers – out in the ‘real’ world -
and pastors, with the many competing demands on their time, work
both effectively and serenely?
I believe we need both managerial and mystical, hard
and soft, ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’, Western and Eastern, approaches
to time usage. With God’s help, we can learn both to ‘master’
time and also ‘submit’ to it.
If ‘how-to-get-more-done-in-less-time’ is our only
concern, the clock will become a tyrannical master. Perhaps we
should learn to ‘waste’ time regularly as well as ‘spend’ it.
After all, when we are with a lover or close friend we may not
have a conscious agenda at all. Pastors and others in the helping
professions will ‘spend’ hours of their precious time with those
in need. We only deliberately ‘waste’ time with those we love:
it is the purest sign that we love someone if we choose to be
in their presence when we could be doing something more ‘constructive’.
(Maybe this is why pastors of growing churches or managers of
large corporations generally do not make good contemplatives,
TIME-MANAGEMENT TIPS FOR PASTORS
Pastors have more ‘discretionary time’ than any other
group, but surveys show they have great hassles with time-management.
They spend too much time doing secondary things.
If a pastor or priest is committed to the idea of
the ministry of the whole church, they will need to educate their
people regarding biblical priorities for them and their flock.
For example, the only text in the New Testament about caring visitation
says all those whole religion is ‘pure and genuine’ should be
doing it (James 1:27). The pastor-teacher equips people for such
ministries, so he or she must be rigorous about training and delegation.
And briefly, some other ideas:
* Multiply the effectiveness of preaching/teaching by encouraging lay persons to read spiritual books and articles. Overheat the photocopier!
* Have people - newly-arrived with older members of the congregation – to the
manse or rectory in groups. They will meet each other, and will
be gratified to be invited to your home.
* Take Wednesday or Thursday off, not Monday. Do light work on Mondays. And remember – you are not called to work harder than your Creator!
* Get a dictaphone and a secretary (a volunteer if necessary).
* Take lay leaders with you as you visit and counsel some of your people (in non-confidential
situations). On-the-job training is not a high priority with many
pastors for some reason.
* Put in a telephone-answering machine for prayer, counselling and family-times.
* Print out a sermon each week or month: people will give these away to friends.
* Learn word-processing.
* For intensive study of a chapter or articles, photocopy and then mark it rather than taking summary-notes.
* Listen to CDs of conferences you should say ‘no’ to attending.
* Use a month-at-a-glance diary to check that your program is
* Pray/counsel/encourage by phone, as well as face-to-face.
* Don’t be a victim of ‘in-basket time management’, simply doing
whatever comes along. You are called to ‘make it happen’. As a
pastor, you are the leader of those who are in a sense your ‘employers’
- both leader and servant. You will never escape that role-conflict.
CHRISTIAN PRINCIPLES OF TIME MANAGEMENT
1. Be positive: time is God’s gift, and you have
all the time you need to do his will for you. Jesus was busy,
but unhurried,and did what God had ordained for him to do. So
can we, if we are good stewards of our time. We can always make
time for things that are important to us.
2. Know what’s important: for example, loving the
Lord is more important that loving the work of the Lord. Ministry
to your family comes before your ministry in the church or to
anyone else. Pleasing God is more important that saying ‘yes’
to all the demands of others.
3. Know your life-goals, your gifts and your limits:
write them down, in three lists. As you grow, they’ll change.
What are your spiritual desires, your personal values? For example,
your ultimate goal is to grow into union with Christ. Next, you
will desire to become a godly community member, husband/wife,
parent, son/daughter. As a Christian, you will want to reproduce
your life-in-Christ in another by discipling him/her in the faith.
(What would you like to be said about you in your obituary?).
4. Begin each day with a quiet, uninterrupted hour
for spiritual reading and prayer. Do this in a special place -
other than where you work or study.
5. Set goals: (every day you’re doing this anyway).
Good goals, whether daily, weekly, or longer term, are specific,
achievable, measurable, and relate to one’s lifetime aims. What
is your main goal for this year?
6. List priorities: what is important, and/or urgent?
The ‘urgent’ may not be ‘important’!
7. Compile a daily ‘to do’ list: label each item,
say, A, B, C, etc. Be sure important as well as urgent things
8. Get started on A and work down through the list.
Perhaps CZs can be deferred indefinitely!
9. Take breaks: do some isometric exercises, or have
a rest. (Never think of resting as a poor use of time). Remember,
we get more and better work done in six hours than in seven, in
six days than in seven, and in six years than in seven.
10. Plan: good planning saves time. If you fail to
plan, you plan to fail. Planning is ‘thinking backwards’ from
your goal: what has to be done, by whom, with what resources,
by what dates, for the goal to be realized? ‘Planning is bringing
the future into the present so that you can do something about
it now’ (Lakein).
11. Learn to manage interruptions: ‘You make your
plans, but God directs your acts’ (Proverbs 16:9). Some of those
interruptions are laden with golden opportunity. ‘Throughout Jesus’
life you will find that almost everything glorious came out of
an interruption’ (Stanley Jones).
12. Ask yourself: ‘What is the best use of my time
right now?’ ‘What are my time-wasters?’
13. Keep your desk tidy: handle each piece of paper
only once. You should lose only one thing a year!
14. Remember: * Who kills time, murders opportunity
* You can’t kill time without injuring eternity
* Those who make the worst use of their time most complain of its shortness
* ‘Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for it is the stuff life is made of" (Benjamin Franklin).
15. Hurry isn’t necessary: ‘Whoever makes haste with
their feet misses the way" (Proverbs 19:2). ‘I have no time
to be in a hurry’ (John Wesley).
16. Above all: be idle sometimes, to the glory of
God. Pascal has said that most of the evils of life arise from
our ‘being unable to sit still in a room’. There is no fun in
having nothing to do; the fun is having lots to do and sometimes
not doing it.
The best time-managers never complain about lack
of time. Jesus and John Wesley had 24-hour days, as you do. Build
‘buffer-zones’ for meditation into your schedule: when you have
10 minutes to go somewhere make it 20; on an hour’s car-trip,
get there half-an-hour early. Sometimes take a walk with no place
You have all the time in the world to do what God wants you to do.
Robert Banks, The Tyranny Of Time, Lancer, 1983.
Edwin C. Bliss, Getting Things Done, Bantam, 1980.
Sheila Cassidy, Prayer For Pilgrims, Collins, 1980.
Ed Dayton, Tools For Time Management, Zondervan.
Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, H & S, 1980.
Alan Lakein, How To Get Control Of Your Time And Your Life, New American Library, 1973.
Michael LeBoeuf, Working Smart, Warner, 1979.
Thomas J. Peters & Robert H. Waterman, In Search of Excellence, Harper & Row, 1982.