Practical Time Management Tips for Pastors

Practical Time Management Tips for Pastors

#1 – Who says you have to do that?

Time management begins with obligation elimination. Some of the stress-inducing items on your calendar may not need to be there in the first place.  Does anything really hang in the balance for that meeting or task?  What would happen if it just went away?


#2 – First things first.

The principle of first fruits applies to more than money.  Do the most important thing you need to do early in the day.  And do the most important tasks of the week on Monday or Tuesday.


#3 – Choose a few tools and master them.

There is no perfect app or productivity system, so stop looking.  Choose something that works fine and then perfect it.  You don’t have to be on the latest, greatest app if sticky notes work just fine.  When you do choose the one tech tool that works for you, invest in truly learning the capabilities.


#4 – It’s okay to say “no” or “not now”.

Every opportunity that comes your way is not an obligation.  Try saying this: “I don’t have the time to do a great job on that right now, but let me put you in touch with someone who might be able to help.”


#5 – Let someone break the tie.

If you can’t decide what you should take off your calendar, get someone who isn’t emotionally involved to break the tie.  If you’re choosing between two things that seem equally important, let someone else speak into your life.


#6 – You don’t have to always be available.

This is tough for pastors, but taking care of a congregation means you have to first take care of yourself.  And you don’t have to be available to everyone all of the time.  That job belongs to Jesus. Block time on your calendar so you can work on the things you need to work on.  Block nights, days and, weeks on your calendar for time off. And choose to not feel guilty about it at all.


#7 – Plan your week on Sunday night.

After the dust settles on a Sunday night, spend about 30 minutes planning your week.  Think about your desired outcomes, the most important projects, and the people you want to connect with.  Here is a PDF you can use to plan your week with purpose.


#8 – Think outcomes, not tasks.

Instead of thinking of all the things you need to do, decide what 2-3 outcomes you want to experience.  Align your tasks and calendar to those outcomes.  It’s a subtle, but important difference.


#9 – Make appointments with yourself.

Most people’s calendars are filled with other people’s priorities. So make sure you block time to work on the things you need (or want) to work on.  Protect time on your calendar for these important meetings.


#10 – Go home.

At the end of the day, go home.  The work will be there tomorrow and nothing bad will happen.  Same thing for the end of the week.


#11 – Batch projects.

Without intentionality, you can spend an entire day responding to emails or messaging people on social media. Schedule some time at the end of the day to handle email.  Give yourself 30 minutes to engage on social channels.  Keep these tasks together and just don’t worry about them at other times of the day.


#12 Work through the Eisenhower Decision Matrix.

It’s a funny name but it’s a powerful exercise.  This four-box grid can help you intentionally design your calendar.  You’ll find more details, as well as a printable template, here.

Here’s the bottom line:

  • Important and Urgent:  Do it.
  • Important but Not Urgent:  Schedule it.
  • Unimportant but Urgent:  Delegate it.
  • Unimportant and Not Urgent:  Drop it.

If you’re a Church Fuel member, you’ll find a worksheet and walk thru video on the member’s site.


#13 – Make templates.

Do you have repeatable tasks?  Make a checklist or a project template.  Do it the same way and in the same order each time.


#14 – Manage your energy, not just your schedule.

Make sure you know when you’re most productive.  As much as you can, align your schedule with when you feel the most productive. If it’s in the morning, use that time for real work and push your meetings to the afternoon.


#15 – Activity is not the same as productivity.

You can check off a lot of tasks and still not accomplish anything of value.  Make sure you know the difference.


#16 – Take control of your phone.

You aren’t required to have every social media app on your phone. And all of those notifications can be disabled.  A phone is a great tool, but it’s a colossal time-waster for most of us.


#17 – Dial back the news.

While it's good to know what's going on, instant access may not always be a good thing.

Take a break, set boundaries, or lessen the desire to be in the know.


#18 – Skip the meeting.

It’s okay if you skip a standing meeting every now and then.  Appoint a delegate and give others the chance to participate.  Or better yet, give someone else the chance to lead.


#19 – Book a guest speaker and get ahead.

Invite a guest speaker to speak on Sunday for no other reason than getting an extra week ahead.


Take a Next Step

As you read this list, hopefully, you found a few ideas that could work for you.

You’re doing important work, and we want you to stay in ministry for a long time.  That means creating boundaries and working strategically.

For more practical advice on leading a healthy and growing church, download The Senior Pastor’s Guide.  It’s packed with lots of tips on leading yourself, leading people, working with volunteers, and doing ministry.

Download the guide here.

How Church Leaders Can Design a New Staff Role That Fits

How Church Leaders Can Design a New Staff Role That Fits

When a church’s leadership decides to create a new position on staff, sometimes it’s a result of healthy, normal growth. The church is in a position to welcome a new role to the team to expand or begin a ministry—such as adding a College Pastor after the youth program is running smoothly.

But sometimes, establishing and hiring for a new role is the result of critical gaps in responsibilities or an overworked church staff that’s close to burnout. Adding a new position on staff can be the flag that keeps the ship sailing.

With either reason, it’s crucial to carefully plan for any new role you’re considering adding to your church staff. Without this careful consideration, leaders can make mistakes like creating a full-time role that only has enough duties to be part-time or adding a role that the rest of the staff isn’t equipped to support.

You want to set a new staff member up for success—especially if they’re in a newly created role. That’s why pastors and church leaders should consider the following areas when creating a new position.


#1 – Title and Description

Choosing the new role’s title isn’t the first step.

The first step is to write a clear description of what the role does. Outline the key responsibilities the person will hold and what skillset, education, personality, etc. is required for the role. Unclear expectations too often result in underperforming or underutilized staff. But this can easily be prevented with a clear, detailed role description.

Next, determine a title that accurately represents the role and fits seamlessly into your church’s organizational chart. Ask: On which level does this position belong in our org chart? Which title option best fits their experience and degree of responsibility?

You don’t have to start from scratch. There are over 50 job descriptions in the Church Fuel Resource Library that members can use as-is or as a customizable template.


#2 – Relationships and Responsibilities

When it comes to creating and onboarding a new position, churches have more relationships to consider than a typical business or other organization.

There are the usual questions about who the role reports to and which team members they manage. But on church teams, it’s also important to think about the volunteers that the role will lead, support, or help manage.

And church staff members often have a responsibility to help guide people spiritually. As you plan for a new role on staff, make sure that there’s clarity around volunteer responsibilities and what, if any, spiritual leadership is required.


#3 – Future Growth

As people who ultimately seek to further the kingdom of God and equip people for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:12), church leaders shouldn’t only add a new role to the staff because of the work the person can do today. We should always have the person’s spiritual growth in mind and consider how the new role can expand in its ministry capacity.

What would a promotion look like for this new role? How can you ensure that the role has space to grow in responsibility? When someone fills the role, they should feel confident that they have a future with the ministry and that, as they develop their skills, the church has a plan for their advancement.

A recent study by found that 82% of people would leave their jobs over a lack of progression. The church isn’t excluded from this. Before you add a new church staff role, conceive of every possible growth opportunity available for the team member in it.


Take the Next Step

If you’re not sure where to start with creating a new church staff role, we’re here for you. We created a checklist with 13 areas to cover when establishing a new role. This resource also includes the right questions to ask every step of the way.

Click here to download the free New Role Checklist.

A Practical Guide to Reaching New People in Your Church

A Practical Guide to Reaching New People in Your Church

Most churches want to reach people and help them grow in their faith.

After all, that’s the Great Commission.  We’re supposed to go into the world (evangelism) and make disciples (discipleship).

Those are the two primary activities of every church.

The two jobs to be done.

But let’s be honest.

Most churches do a better job at serving their members than they do reaching new people.

Even though the organizational pull is to care for insiders, for a church to grow and thrive, it must reach new people.

If your church is serious about reaching new guests, particularly those who are not attending any other church, here are five things to consider.


#1 – Plan your follow-up in advance.

Yes, I know more guests is the goal.

But before that happens, go ahead and create your follow-up process.

Decide right now what’s going to happen when someone visits your church.

If you haven’t had a first-time guest in 3 years and everyone in your church is related to you, this is where I would start.

The very act of creating the follow-up process will help you build an inviting culture and chip away at an insider mindset.

To start a plan, use The Follow-Up Framework from Church Fuel.

The framework has four key questions:

  • What do you want first-time guests to know?
  • What do you want first-time guests to do?
  • What do you want first-time guests to feel?
  • What do you want first-time guests to believe?

Head to this page to watch a short training video on the framework, and download the free template.

Once you’ve answered these foundational questions, you can sketch out your actual process.

Go to a whiteboard or open a flowchart tool and start outlining the experience.  Think about what you want to send people the week after they visit and stretch things out to as long as three months.

Your process might include some of the following steps:

  • An immediate text message. Text In Church can help here, and their guest follow-up template is a breeze to implement.
  • A phone call or voicemail.  A church in Charlotte, NC uses SlyDial to leave a ringless voicemail for a guest. The person’s phone never rings, but a voicemail is waiting for them when they get to the parking lot.
  • An automated email sequence. The content of these emails can be tailored to new people and answer the most common questions.  Don’t try and share everything in your follow-up emails; be personal and conversational.
  • A handwritten thank you note.  In the digital age, this might feel antiquated, but it’s one of the most personal, and often the most effective, follow-up strategies.

You have to decide how long your campaign will last, how many steps you want to include, and what tactics you want to employ.  Try things and see what works in your setting.  Then adjust as needed.


#2 – Design your service with guests in mind.

Gavin Adams, the former Lead Pastor at Woodstock City Church, says we should not worry about being seeker-sensitive, but we should strive to be seeker-comprehensible.

The fact of the matter is many church services are designed for people who understand how church services work.  They assume people know what’s going on and have context for everything happening.

Your church members know the drill.

But new people don’t understand.

It’s not because they are dumb, it’s because they are new.

That’s why it is important to design everything in your church service with guests in mind.

Pretend someone is there for the very first time.  Pretend a 5th grader is attending “big church” for the first time in his life.

Keep those people in mind as you plan out what to say during the welcome, choose the songs to sing, and even preach your sermon.

This isn’t about dumbing down or watering down…it’s simply about explaining everything for new people.

And yes.

Every.  Single.  Time.

When regulars say, “We get it…you don’t have to explain it any more,” remind them the explanation is not for them but for new people.

You probably don’t need to change anything you do and you may not need to adjust anything you are planning to preach.  You just need to explain it.

Here are some examples.

  • If you’re asking people to turn to a book of the Bible, give specific directions and context.  Don’t assume people know where Philippians is.
  • If you’re observing the sacraments of Baptism or Communion, explain the meaning every single time.  Don’t assume people know what it means or why it’s important.
  • If you receive an offering, explain how to participate.  It might sound silly, but this is one of the most important moments in your church service.
  • If you’re making announcements, don’t toss around ministry names that won’t mean anything to a guest.

If you assume everyone is an insider, actions like these aren’t really necessary.  But if you’re trying to create a culture where guests are both welcome and expected, these steps are very important.

This kind of intentionality is how you build the right mindset.


#3 – Equip your people to invite.

In The Unchurched Next Door, Thom Rainer says eight out of ten unchurched adults said they would come to church—if only someone would invite them.

You probably know that personal invitations are the most effective way to reach new people.  But how do you get your church to actually follow through with this?

Churches often do a great job encouraging their people to invite their friends, neighbors, and co-workers. But encouragement and equipping are two different things.

People don’t just need encouragement to invite, they need the tools. You need to do more than ask them to bring people to church, you need to give them resources that make it easy to follow through.

Some ways you can do this are:

  • Print invite cards and place them at the doors.  
  • Write a Facebook post and send it to people with specific directions on when to post.
  • Create sharable graphics for people to use on social media.
  • Preach regularly on evangelism, inviting, and outreach, highlighting these specific tools in your messages.

Want to read more on this?  Here are 19 ways to equip your church to invite.

Equipping your church to invite is a key step in creating a culture where guests are welcome and expected.

Maybe you’ve tried a few things, but you just can’t get your members to invite others?  Here’s an article that may give you some fresh ideas: What do you do when your people won’t invite?


#4 – Make reaching guests a priority.

The biggest thing holding many churches back isn’t a lack of space, an outdated facility, a poor website, or a faltering program.

It’s a mindset.

Some leaders have a stuck mindset, falling back to the way things are because embracing change appears too difficult.

Some churches have an insider mindset, choosing to continue programs that benefit long-time members but ignoring the needs of changing communities.

If your church is going to reach unchurched people, it’s going to require the right mindset.

And this is hard.

It takes more than a sermon on mission and leaders to “cast a big vision.”

Reaching new people requires tough conversations, culture-building, feedback and evaluation, and a whole lot of intentionality.

It might require you to change your focus, change your activities, and even change your structure.

Even though your church should be well-balanced between evangelism and discipleship, there are times when you need to intentionally focus on one aspect of the Great Commission.

Course corrections are needed to maintain balance.


#5 – Set a goal for this season.

Whenever we ask pastors how many new volunteers they need, how much money they need to raise for ministry, or how many guests they want to reach, the answer is usually the same.


That’s a great sentiment.

But more is not a number. It’s a moving target that can never be reached.

If you want to reach new guests this year, start by prayerfully setting a specific goal.

Talk about the priority of reaching new people, the Great Commission, and the mission of your church, and then make it a goal to reach a specific number of new people.

When you have a real number, you can deploy resources to meet it.

Without a specific goal, you’ll oscillate between feeling good and feeling bad, with no real facts to guide your way.

What should your goal be?

That’s a matter for prayer and discussion among your leaders.

A good guideline might be 5-10 weekly guests for every 100 people in attendance.  Start with that baseline and go from there.

Look at your current numbers, consider your situation, and set a real goal.


Take a Next Step

As you read this list, hopefully you’re inspired to try new things to reach new people.

Ultimately, church growth is up to God.  It’s His Church and His Kingdom.  But He chooses to use us, and we have a stewardship opportunity.

For more practical advice on church growth, check out The Senior Pastor’s Guide to Reaching More People.  This free guide has 32 pages of advice, ideas, and strategies that you can implement in your church.

Download the guide here.

Side Income Ideas for Pastors

Side Income Ideas for Pastors

On one hand, there’s no such thing as “part-time” ministry.

But today, many pastors are bi-vocational or co-vocational.

For many, it’s an intentional choice, perhaps even an evangelism strategy.  For others, it’s an unavoidable reality; the supplemental income is necessary.

If you’re a pastor or a church leader looking for extra income, here are some ideas.


#1 – Speak at other churches.

You’re already a great speaker and you know what you have to say would be helpful in other churches.  But instead of just “being available,” consider packaging and promoting your three best messages.


#2 – Speak at local businesses or events.

Whether it’s a club having a special event or a business looking to do employee training, organizations are always looking for people to come and speak.  Intentionally create two or three non-sermon talks and actively promote them.  Let organizations know you’re available to speak on a few select topics.


#3 – Self publish a book on Amazon.

It’s never been easier to publish a book or eBook.  Collect your best sermons, write a devotional book, or chase down that topic that’s always interested you.  Stack this with the two ideas above, and you’ll have a bigger audience than most.  Learn more about Amazon Publishing here.


#4 – Write for other Christian businesses or publications.

Websites, journals, and even business are always looking for writers and content creators.


#5 – Become a coach or consultant.

You’re probably naturally good at this, but with a little formalization, you can develop a nice side business.  There are many programs where you can be certified and licensed, with lots of support for growing a coaching business.  Check out System and Soul, Giant, The Table Group, EOS, Intentional Churches, and Church Fuel.


#6 – Create an online course.

This industry has boomed over the last 10 years, but it’s not too late.  You can teach what you know on platforms like SkillShare, Teachable, or Gura.  Your course could be church related, Christian-focused, or something altogether different.


#7 – Host a paid webinar or seminar.

Rather than make a full-blown course, you could try a one-time seminar or training.  There’s a topic you know better than most people, and there’s a segment of the world that wants to know it.


#8 – Rental income.

This isn’t a quick fix, but it could become a nice source of passive income.  If you want to get into this world, start with the Bigger Pockets website and podcast.


#9 – Start a website or design business.

A lot of pastors manage their church website, which gives you a skill most people don’t have.  Consider packaging up your creative and/or technical services and offering them to small businesses as a retainer situation.


#10 – Start an SEO business.

Similar to the idea above but a little more technical, a lot of organizations need help in this area.  If you’ve got some basic understanding, you could quickly add some formal training and certifications and be up and running in a few months.  Start with Hubspot’s SEO course or this free SEO course from Moz.


#11 – Start a t-shirt business.

The creator economy has boomed over the last few years, especially during Covid. Partner with a designer if necessary.  You can get started on sites like Teespring and not have to worry about inventory.


#12 – Host, edit, or produce a podcast.

You’re a good speaker already, so it wouldn’t be a huge jump to host a podcast.  Maybe there’s a business owner in your church who wants to expand his or her platform.  Or maybe you’re more of a behind the scenes editor or producer.  Either way, this is a service a lot of people need and a good opportunity for retainer income.


#13 – Start a yard sign business.

I recently rented big Happy Birthday yard signs for my daughter’s special day, and someone made a decent amount of money.  A little bit of inventory and some high school kids to deliver and pick up, and you’ve got a nice little side gig.


#14 – Deliver food.

DoorDash, Uber Eats, GrubHub, and a host of other delivery services allow you to work a little bit here and there.  Many people make this their main source of income, but most do it to supplement.  Use the time in your vehicle to listen to real estate or business podcasts, and you’ll start to stack ideas.


#15 – Offer your services on task sites.

Fiverr, Upwork, and 99 Designs all help connect freelancers to people who need one-time or ongoing project work.  It may take a while to build up a portfolio or reviews, but there’s potential there if you have some basic skills.


#16 – Rent your RV.

If you own an RV, rent it out via Outdoorsy or RVShare when you’re not using it.  Many people purchase vehicles exclusively for this purpose and generate a decent amount of revenue.


#17 – Rent your car.

Turo is like Airbnb for your vehicle.  When you’re not using it, rent it out to others. The last time I was in Denver, I rented a Tesla from a guy who purchased three of them just for this purpose.


#18 – Rent your home.

Use Airbnb or VRBO to rent a room or your whole house.  This turns an expense (or at least some of an expense) into revenue.


#19 – Buy an existing website or app business.

Flippa is a marketplace for small apps or websites with revenue.  There are brand new ideas and sites with history.


If you want to learn a lot more about this topic, including advice on how to balance your side gig with being a full-time pastor, where you need to be careful to prevent a conflict of interest, and some general best practices about how to get started, watch this free training.