If you’re going to be effective in ministry, you’ve got to learn how to manage your time. Ecclesiastes 8:6 says, "There is a right time and a right way to do everything, but we know so little."
The problem with your time is not the clock. The problem is not even time, rather it’s how you use it. To get mad at the clock is like getting mad at your scales in your bathroom. It’s not the scales’ fault that you don’t like the way they read. Time is simply a measurement. So we must learn how to manage it better.
Anyone in ministry needs to know, "How do I balance all that I've going on at work with all that I’ve got going on at home with all that I’ve got going on at church?"
We all have the same amount of time – 168 hours a week. The only question is, "How am I investing it? We want to learn to invest it wisely so that we won’t be like the guy in Isaiah 49:4 who said, "I have used up my strength but accomplished nothing." For some of us, we fear that’s becoming our life verse!
Ephesians 5:15-17 offers three steps to understanding how to manage your time better:
1. Analyze my lifestyle
Verse 15: "So pay close attention to how you live. Don’t live like ignorant men. Live like wise men."
Pay close attention. Carefully evaluate your schedule. Seriously consider how you live. Be aware of time robbers. Don’t be in the dark. Don’t say, "I wonder where all my time went!" That’s unwise. People say, "I’d like to be involved in this particular ministry, but I just don’t have the time." You have the same amount of time as everybody else. It’s just how you use it. So he’s saying analyze your lifestyle.
In order to save time, you must first know how you lose it. You discover the leaks and figure out where it’s going. Proverbs 14:12 says, "There’s a way that seems right but it ends in death." We need to look at our lives and realize that sometimes what we think is right is a big waste of time. If we look seriously at a lot of the things that we think are really good, we'll see they're just not worth much. Aristotle said, "The unexamined life is not worth living."
Sit down and make a time log: "How did I spend last week?" Or, over the next seven days, keep a record of how you spend your hours. Look at them one at a time. Where does your time go? Just by keeping a record, you’ll use your time better. That’s how Weight Watchers works. Whatever you record, you’ll manage better.
2. Utilize the present
Verse 16: "Make the most of every opportunity you get."
The Bible says we’re to take advantage of today by capitalizing on opportunities. Be alert to the possibilities. The best time to manage your time is right now – not tomorrow, not next week, not next year. Now. Proverbs 27:1 says, "Never boast about tomorrow because you don’t know what will happen between now and then."
Vince Lombardi once said that any football game are often won in 10 or 12 crucial decisions. They make or break the game. When you utilize the present, you’ve analyzed it and you take advantage of the opportunities as they come up. You capitalize on those advantages.
How do you make the most of the present? Two things:
• Do it now. That’s the best time advice I can give you. Three little words: Do it now! Don’t procrastinate. If you had a bank account and I were to tell you that every morning someone was going to put in $86,400 into that bank account - you could spend it any way you wanted to, but at the end of that day, whatever money you had not spent in that account, you lost - do you think you’d try to spend it? Or do you think you’d let it go to waste? But guess what? You have 86,400 seconds every day! You’ve got to draw them out. You’ve got to take advantage of them. Utilize the present by doing it now. Sometimes I get stuff in the mail that says, "For a limited time only." We should write that over a lot of possibilities in life, because they are for a limited time only.
• Eliminate time wasters. 1 Corinthians 10:23, "I may do anything, but everything is not useful or constructive." Paul says, "I can do anything. I’m free as a Christian to do anything. But it’s not all useful. It’s not all constructive." He’s saying that many things in life are not necessarily wrong. They’re just not necessary. You’ve got to eliminate the time wasters.
Time wasters tend to be unique to all of us. It's amazing how creative we get when we have a job to do that we don't want to do. We creatively put off things we really need to do by quickly getting a bunch of other stuff done.
3. Prioritize what’s important
Verse 17: "Don’t act thoughtlessly but try to find out and do whatever the Lord wants you to do."
When you talk about time management, you’ve got to do what God wants you to do. That’s the secret. Doing God’s will. You have just enough time to do God’s will. If you do not have enough time right now, it means one of several options.
1) You’re doing something God never intended for you to do.
2) You’re not doing what God intended you to do.
3) You’re doing the right thing in the wrong way.
You have just enough time to do God’s will. He would not have a will for your life and then not give you the time to do it. So if you don’t have enough time to do everything you need to do, it means God didn’t expect you to do it all.
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and best-known churches. In addition, Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose-Driven Life and The Purpose-Driven Church, which was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th Century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for ministers. Copyright 2005 Pastors.com, Inc. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
Adapted from Rick Warren's Ministry ToolBox, a free weekly e-newsletter for pastors and church leaders, available at Pastors.com.