Ministry is a vocation like no other, requiring you to be a jack of all trades! Take this past week as an example – I have had to deal with a leak in the toilet; consult with an audio visual company regarding future church enhancements; convene two prayer meetings and a Kirk session; conduct a wedding and a funeral; conduct four AMBA surveys in churches in the North Highlands all in addition to the weekly preparation and delivery of weekly worship! There really is no job like it. I have learned the hard way that strict diary management is the key to successful ministry!
Managing a diary has never been a strength of mine. Several double bookings and many late nights burning the midnight oil have been caused by over-committing my time, forcing worship preparation to be written late into the night. I am in awe of those ministers that feel comfortable enough to leave sermon writing until Saturday or even Sunday mornings! I am afraid I would be filled with fear if I did not have something concrete pulled together by Friday latest.
Recently, I realised that my lack of forward planning was having an impact on my wellbeing. I felt overwhelmed and identified that I needed help. I turned to the wonderful resources available through ASCEND and signed up for six Pastoral Supervision sessions as part of my first five-year ministry entitlement. These sessions were of enormous benefit.
During one session, my supervisor used the analogy that my full diary was like a farmer’s field that had been ploughed right up to the edges. I had not allowed for any margin to deal with those inevitable yet unplanned items that crop up during the week. Most importantly there was no margin to allow myself to focus on my own wellbeing. This was a revelation. The image of the necessity to have a margin in my life struck a chord. I now consciously try to block out some “margin time” in my weekly diary; time which can be juggled around to deal with those unexpected, additional events. This is still very much a work in progress but remains a top priority for me to focus on.
The weekly preparation and delivery of worship can at times feel like a never-ending hamster wheel. No sooner is one service over when the next one is looming! I have learned that my sermon preparation works best when I can review the scripture readings as early as possible so that they sit with me over the next few days. Almost unconsciously, any scenarios or information I come across during the week become potential trigger points for the unwritten sermon I am mentally preparing. My sermon writing usually flows much better when I have been more engaged with the scripture readings for longer, so I try to prioritise this way of working.
It can also be difficult to say NO to the many requests that come my way. I now understand that without any allowance for personal time there is a detrimental impact not only on me but also on how I respond to others. I now make a conscious effort to prioritise time for a long daily walk with the dog along the beach. Prioritising these walks not only benefits me physically it helps clear my mind and is often when my best thoughts come to me. Forcing myself to take a break has actually helped me to become a better minister!