Making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:16
A couple of weeks ago, Kellen posted “Plan or Die” on the Cross Connection Network. It struck an area in my life that God has been at major work on–time management. One of the transitions I struggled with as I moved from life as a SEAL to life as a pastor was managing my time. In the Navy I had no use of a personal calendar. But as I transitioned to the pastorate, I quickly learned that I needed a calendar to keep straight the many meetings, appointments, and various events I was now juggling to keep. This was my main struggle that forced me to make the leap from the flip-phone to a smart phone as paper pocket-calendar served me no purpose as I wouldn’t keep it in my possesion.
With my new smart-phone, a Palm Treo (this was before my iPhone conversion), I was now able to fill my schedule and keep up with everything. It was sweet. I was living out (misinterpreted and applied) my favorite verse, “…making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16) by filling it packed full. This went on for years, until (well, it’s still a struggle technically) I preached on the parable of the soil found in Luke 8. The verse that really convicted me was Luke 8:14, “The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity.” This verse continued to convict me following the message…which is rare as I am normally convicted during my study time leading up to the message! I felt like the Lord was telling me to examine my schedule.
That Sunday night I laid my schedule for the upcoming week out on my desk. I felt like I was to check my hours of the upcoming week to see what things were choking me out. Although, I felt safe doing this as I thought I had a “light week” ahead and I though it would reveal a reasonable workload. As I went through my calendar seeking to tally the running hours for the week, I was shocked to discover that this “light week” was really a 50+ hour work week! The Lord clearly made His point with me–this was not what He expected of me and nor was it good for me or the church.
Kairos, not Chronos. Back to Ephesians 5:16, “…making the most of your time.” Whether or not I misunderstood the Greek here, my life certainly misapplied the intention this verse. I applied this verse by understanding “time” as chronos meaning to fill up my calendar with as many things as possible. This is wrong as the word is actually kairos meaning “to take full advantage of every opportunity” (Louw-Nida). It may just be me, but this changes everything concerning how I view planning out my week because it forces me to prioritize things which, in turn, forces me to eliminate things (from the schedule of course)!
“Plan your dive, dive your plan.” This was a saying we used in the SEAL teams concerning our dive plans. The concept is pretty simple. Plan your dive carefully. Then carry out the plan. To deviate from the plan would certainly result in major problems and failures along the way. How does this apply for me concerning my schedule today? Did you catch the title of this post? That’s how many hours we have each week. No more, no less. We will never get them back once they pass, but how we use them will play forward in eternity for good or bad.
Coming up with a plan. First, I confess, I have been slacking on planning my week. I could give you a bunch of good excuses, but I won’t. Typically what I try to do is account for every hour of the week. I plan out things like: a day off, family time, exercise, sermon prep, writing, and people time. As I plot these out, I am careful to keep a running tally of the work hours that have accumulated. My goal is to land somewhere between 40-50 hours of work and then as the week plays out I will note unforeseen events in my calendar.
Flexibility of the plan. If you are a pastor, you must be flexible and available. As I write out my week, I understand that I have to be flexible. Crisis’ come every week and I have purposed in my heart to be available as much as possible to my people. By mapping out my week and the joy of a smart-phone, I can make mid-course corrections as they come. Simply realizing how much time goes out has caused me to be more careful in saying “yes” to things and guarding things like family time that could so easily be stolen away. Simply being aware of the running tally has unveiled my ignorance concerning the use of the time God has given to me.
Benefits of the plan. The first thing I noticed was exactly what Kellen said in his blog, “I have more free time.” I was shocked! I simply became more efficient during my appointed times because I knew what the whole week looked like. I have spent more time with the family on Saturdays than I ever did before.
The second thing I noticed was a clearer conscience. The pastorate is an odd calling. It is not like other professions. We don’t produce a product per se, we are never really finished. I think because of this many pastors burn the candle at both ends the the expense of their personal health and the health of their family. We go and go and say “Yes”, “Sure”, and “No problem” (Jesus would, right?) when we are really burning ourselves out. By keeping a running tally of weekly hours I see how much time I put into things. Ultimately this helps me not to feel bad to turn off my phone and to play with the family.
I think Kellen’s title, “Plan or Die” is really appropriate when it comes to going the distance in the ministry. Our families need us to plan our weeks and then to abide by our plan. How are you utilizing the 168 hours that God is giving you this week?