Making the Most of My Time

I finally completed a task I began weeks ago.

For a while I had been feeling like I was running from one end of the week to the other. I started seeing warning signs in my life:

  • Emotionally down
  • Overly tired
  • Taking comments personally
  • Overwhelmed at work and at home

There are more, but you get the gist. Lots of red flags.

I imagine you, like me, have multiple things and people deserving your attention:

  • God
  • Family
  • Work
  • Spouse or Significant Other
  • Personal Time
  • Side Work
  • Household Chores

Because we have so many things and people needing and desiring our attention for perfectly good reasons, we have to be diligent in prioritizing them. No one thing or person can have all of your time, but all of those things and people must have some of your time. If we do not plan out our lives we will end up burnt out; not only that, but no one will get the attention they need and some may get lost in the shuffle.

Here is how I tackled my life. You can begin with your home life or your work life. I began with work.

  1. I took my job description and wrote a shorthand, bullet-point version. I could see the details if I looked at the original job description; I just needed a reminder.
  2. I assigned each grouping a letter so that I can categorize every task and meeting according to the objectives they address. This way I can also show my boss that I am making space for every objective on my job description.
  3. I looked for overlap and for broader categories in order to simplify my focus even more.
  4. I created a 7-day calendar in Excel and marked out the exact number of hours I needed to work on average. I have multiple rehearsals and Sunday services to contend with, so work and home can bleed together very easily. Clear delineation of time spent where is essential.
  5. I blocked out all of my recurring meetings and rehearsals and labelled them with letters according to their focus.
  6. I assigned groups of tasks to particular days.
  7. Next I tackled my home priorities. I have seven, ranging from time with God to time for myself. Some things need more attention, and I am dialing back other areas.
  8. I blocked out my set home appointments in order of my priorities.
  9. I scheduled time in for all of the primary people in my life.
  10. I listed the tasks that I need to accomplish in certain time blocks.
  11. I color-coded my master schedule according to work and home. I created a master work schedule showing only my work hours, tasks, and meetings, and a master home schedule showing only home priorities, tasks, and appointments.

I am just beginning to implement this plan, but I already feel more clear-headed. Granted this all took time – probably 5-6 hours – but the end result is worth it. I feel content knowing I am paying attention to the people and things that most deserve my attention.

Practical Considerations

One of the practical sides of this change is that I will only be posting once a week.  At this point in my life I want to be writing but I cannot keep my relationship and family commitments effectively while trying to write three times a week.  I have been feeling very stressed by my personal goal of writing that much.

Perhaps sometime in the future I will write more again.  For now I hope that you will continue on the ride with me.  I will continue to share thoughts related to Worship, Leadership, and Life, as I have in the past.  I am no sage or Yoda, but I enjoy writing in the hope that you find my experiences instructive.

How are you organizing your life and prioritizing your time?

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Re-Post: Six Steps for Taking Your Worship Ministry to the Next Level

Throughout the month of April I am taking a break from writing in order to focus on other things.  As a result I am re-posting some of my most popular articles.

Trying to understand how to grow your church’s worship ministry can be challenging and overwhelming.  Anyone, however, can discover how to take their worship ministry to the next level by applying six simple steps.

I distinctly remember the feeling of wondering how in the world I was going to unearth the next steps for my ministry.  I had been at this church for five years and now they were applying a new accountability structure requiring me to really understand where we needed to go in worship.

Not knowing what steps to take, I was completely overwhelmed by the untold possibilities.  What kinds of new music should we introduce?  What kinds of physical improvements did we need to make to the auditorium?  Should we keep the pews or go with theater seating?  Should we replace the aging projectors with HD or standard definition projectors?  What role should the choir have in the next five years?

Nothing had prepared me for these kinds of decisions.  Nothing in my upbringing as a pastor’s kid, in my two professional music degrees, or in my year at Bible college had hinted at resources for making these questions.

Of course, the congregation and leadership had plenty of ideas, which only made me feel more overwhelmed.  One person was certain they had just found the sound technology our church needed.  Another well meaning person had very strong suggestions about the kinds of music we should use and how loud it should be.  Others said, “Make up your mind and don’t worry about the nay-sayers.”  Elders urged caution.

Over time I began to get a sense of how to move forward without being overwhelmed.  Below are six steps anyone can take to get a grasp on where God might be leading them.

  1. Pray.  So often this is the last thing on our list, even as ministry leaders.  Solomon, near the beginning of his reign, asked God for the wisdom and understanding to rule the people of Israel, and God granted his request.  Jesus also reminds us, “Ask, and it will be given to you.”
  2. Study God’s Word.  Learn what God has to say about worship and it’s place in the church and in our lives.  God is your ultimate leader.  Know what is close to his heart.
  3. Study your senior pastor.  Regardless of whether your church is elder-led, pastor-led, or congregation-led, your senior pastor is going to set the tone and agenda for the church.  He is the one God has set in place to lead your church.  Get to know what is on his heart.
  4. Study your church vision.  Everything you do in the future will need to be in service to your church-wide mission.  Dig into it, even if you think you already understand it fully.  Take it apart with your senior pastor so that you can understand how to apply it accurately to your ministry.
  5. Study the health of your ministry. The growth your ministry needs may be more internal than external.  Some seasons are for growing in size and others are for strengthening what we have.  Endeavor to know your ministry better than ever before, whether you have been leading it for two months, two years, or 20 years.
  6. Study your personal health.  We often forget that we can only lead within our capacity and experience.  Sometimes the best growth steps for our ministry involves growing ourselves in order to improve our leadership.

Through prayer and study God will begin to reveal to you the areas of your ministry that need shoring up and the areas that are doing well.  Over the next week we will dig deeper into how you can plan the next steps for the ministry you lead.

Which of these six steps needs attention in your ministry, and how are you going to address that step this week?

Six Steps for Taking Your Worship Ministry to the Next Level

Trying to understand how to grow your church’s worship ministry can be challenging and overwhelming.  Anyone, however, can discover how to take their worship ministry to the next level by applying six simple steps.

I distinctly remember the feeling of wondering how in the world I was going to unearth the next steps for my ministry.  I had been at this church for five years and now they were applying a new accountability structure requiring me to really understand where we needed to go in worship.

Not knowing what steps to take, I was completely overwhelmed by the untold possibilities.  What kinds of new music should we introduce?  What kinds of physical improvements did we need to make to the auditorium?  Should we keep the pews or go with theater seating?  Should we replace the aging projectors with HD or standard definition projectors?  What role should the choir have in the next five years?

Nothing had prepared me for these kinds of decisions.  Nothing in my upbringing as a pastor’s kid, in my two professional music degrees, or in my year at Bible college had hinted at resources for making these questions.

Of course, the congregation and leadership had plenty of ideas, which only made me feel more overwhelmed.  One person was certain they had just found the sound technology our church needed.  Another well meaning person had very strong suggestions about the kinds of music we should use and how loud it should be.  Others said, “Make up your mind and don’t worry about the nay-sayers.”  Elders urged caution.

Over time I began to get a sense of how to move forward without being overwhelmed.  Below are six steps anyone can take to get a grasp on where God might be leading them.

  1. Pray.  So often this is the last thing on our list, even as ministry leaders.  Solomon, near the beginning of his reign, asked God for the wisdom and understanding to rule the people of Israel, and God granted his request.  Jesus also reminds us, “Ask, and it will be given to you.”
  2. Study God’s Word.  Learn what God has to say about worship and it’s place in the church and in our lives.  God is your ultimate leader.  Know what is close to his heart.
  3. Study your senior pastor.  Regardless of whether your church is elder-led, pastor-led, or congregation-led, your senior pastor is going to set the tone and agenda for the church.  He is the one God has set in place to lead your church.  Get to know what is on his heart.
  4. Study your church vision.  Everything you do in the future will need to be in service to your church-wide mission.  Dig into it, even if you think you already understand it fully.  Take it apart with your senior pastor so that you can understand how to apply it accurately to your ministry.
  5. Study the health of your ministry. The growth your ministry needs may be more internal than external.  Some seasons are for growing in size and others are for strengthening what we have.  Endeavor to know your ministry better than ever before, whether you have been leading it for two months, two years, or 20 years.
  6. Study your personal health.  We often forget that we can only lead within our capacity and experience.  Sometimes the best growth steps for our ministry involves growing ourselves in order to improve our leadership.

Through prayer and study God will begin to reveal to you the areas of your ministry that need shoring up and the areas that are doing well.  Over the next week we will dig deeper into how you can plan the next steps for the ministry you lead.

Which of these six steps needs attention in your ministry, and how are you going to address that step this week?

5 Steps for When You Are Confused, Overwhelmed, or Frustrated

We have all been in situations where we have felt confused, overwhelmed, frustrated, or some combination of the three.  You may even be there now.

Few things are as depressing as being in such a dark place in your life that you cannot see your hand in front of your face, so to speak.

None of us truly wants to remain there, but finding your way out of that black hole can be very difficult.

I may have talked about this before, but I remember being in such a dark place when I was in college that I cried myself to sleep every night.  I understood what David meant in Psalm 63 when he said that he was in “a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (63:1, NIV)

Since then there have been many times when I have been confused and overwhelmed, not knowing what to do.

One truth – 7 words, however, have transformed my ability to face these times.

In 1 Corinthians 14:33 (ESV) Paul says these 7 amazing words:

God is not a God of confusion.

Think about that statement.  Paul goes further.  The whole verse goes like this:

For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.

Consider also that God’s first recorded words in Genesis (and in the entire Bible, for that matter) are these:

Let there be light.

God is a God of clarity, light and peace.  Everything else comes from someone else: sometimes us, and sometimes the evil one.  But not God.

These words do not mean that I will never face confusion or uncertainty.  These words DO mean, however, that God is on my side and the darkness, those feelings of confusion or of being overwhelmed are not reality.  They are coming from somewhere else and God is working to help me get back to clarity, peace, and light.

Here are 5 steps for when you are confused, overwhelmed, or frustrated:

  1. Stop.  Do not make any major decisions or changes.  If you make a major decision when you are confused you will end up making the wrong one and regretting it for the rest of your life.  Making a decision when you are confused is like handing car keys to a blind man.  Dangerous and, well, stupid.
  2. Pray.  Ask God for help.  He is the only one with the right perspective on your situation and on how you are wired.  You cannot find lasting peace and clarity without him.
  3. Contemplate.  Ask good questions.  If you are not good at this, ask a trusted friend or counselor to help you.  How did you become confused in the first place?  Why are you feeling overwhelmed?  Do you have too much stress at work, unresolved tension with a spouse?  Have you forgotten to take a critical medication?  (I’m not joking!  Some of us have to admit we need medication to help us function normally.)  Are you dragging unconfessed sin or bitterness around with you?
  4. Resolve.  If any of your questions yield answers that need action, do those things right away.  Do not wait.  If you are too stressed at work, investigate your boundaries, work-load, and work environment.  If you are not taking the correct medications, fess up, quit pretending to be smarter than your doctor, and take your medicine like a good boy.  If you are harboring bitterness, forgive.  Nothing will make you sicker faster or cloud your vision more than bitterness.  That stuff is poison.
  5. Move.  After you have resolved all of the issues you discovered you can finally continue moving forward in whatever area where you were previously experiencing confusion.  Most likely you will have more clarity and peace at this point.  If you do not, seek a counselor so that you can get to the bottom of your issues.

God is not a God of confusion.

You are not meant to wander through life looking for the light switch.  You can emerge from the darkness, and God is ready to help you.

How have you worked through feelings of confusion and of being overwhelmed?