4 Ways to be Efficient with Time as a Church Leader

Posted by Aaron Buer on May 19, 2022

Do you know what drives us all nuts?  Inefficiency.  Sitting in a traffic jam.  Slow service at a restaurant.  Waiting five minutes for our outdated laptop to power up.  All these things drive us nuts.  Why?  Because, they’re inefficient.  Wasted time.  Wasted energy.  Wasted money. 

There is no place that we should be more intolerant of inefficiency than our churches.  Why?  Because everything is funded through the sacrificial giving of attenders, who assume that their gifts are not going to be wasted.

How do we become more efficient?  There are lots of ways to answer this question so let’s focus on one aspect of efficiency—time.  Here are four strategies to help you and your staff team become more efficient with time.  


What Should I Be Doing?

The first step in becoming more efficient is understanding what you’re supposed to be doing.  The best way to answer this question is through an accurate and detailed job description that outlines the purpose and specific tasks of your role. 

Without this tool, how do you know what success looks like?  It’s arbitrary.  Every position in your church should have a defined purpose and specific tasks that are measurable.  

If you don’t have this, I would highly encourage that you walk through a process of clarifying the job description of each position in your church.  If you are the senior leader, ask your board to clarify this for you.  


What Am I Doing?

The second step is to understand what you and your staff are actually doing.  In other words, what are you actually spending your time on? 

In my church, our strategy for uncovering this information is through a time study.  If you’re unfamiliar with this practice, it is simply recording in detail what you worked on each day.   

The key to a time study is honesty.  Doing a time study is pointless if you or your team isn’t honest about how you’re actually spending your time.  

An honest time study will reveal helpful data like:

  • How long it actually takes to complete a task
  • How much time is actually being spent on non-essential tasks
  • What you enjoy doing vs. what you don’t (we unconsciously spend lots of time doing what we like)
  • How a particular role has evolved due to specific needs and changes

Here are a few tips for conducting an effective time study:

  • Make sure the time study is long enough to provide accurate information.  I recommend 30 days
  • Make sure the time study is conducted during a “normal” season of ministry or work.  A mission trip, VBS, or prolonged break will skew the information 
  • Create standardized categories of work for your people to choose from (teaching, admin, management, etc.)
  • A time study can be conducted while you are clarifying the job descriptions.  You don’t have to wait  

In my church, we attempt to have everyone do a monthly time study once a year, often twice a year.  We make this a normal practice that everyone goes through so that it doesn’t feel like anyone is in trouble. 

This practice helps us know how everyone is actually using their time.  It helps us create more accurate job descriptions, understand what new positions might be needed, and move toward more efficiency as a church staff.  


Assign Time To The Job Description

One of the key benefits of doing time studies is that you will gain an accurate understanding of how much time each task takes.  Once you have this information you can create an even more accurate job description for each position by clarifying how much time should be devoted to each task. 

For example, here are the four main tasks on our Pastor of Student Ministries job description:

  • Team Leadership 30%
  • Teaching/Curriculum Development 25%
  • Student Ministry Programming 15%
  • Volunteer/Parent Development and Care 10%

Not only have we clarified what tasks this person should be focusing on, we’ve also clarified how much of their 40 hour work week should go toward each task.  Of course, there is flexibility, but the time percentages provide good guidance on what a typical work week should look like. 

And yes, I know the percentages don’t add up to 100%.  This is just the top four tasks for this position.  The other 20% go to tasks like pastoral responsibilities, campus responsibilities, etc.  

Here’s my point:  There is a way to become more efficient by clarifying what you should be doing and how much time should be spent focusing on what you’re supposed to be doing through an accurate job description and time studies.  


Plan The Work

Ok.  One more step. Once you know what you’re supposed to be doing and roughly how much time should be spent on each task, the final step is to create a schedule that leads you to do what you’re supposed to be doing.  

I do this by block scheduling.  I start with my most important task, which for me is preaching, and I schedule preaching preparation on my calendar.  I schedule this in the mornings from 7 to 11 because that is my most productive time.  

After this, I move on to my second most important task, which is leadership and I schedule leadership meetings and strategic thinking time.  After that I move on to the third task on my job description and schedule that task. I think you get the idea.  

What often happens in church and businesses is that your schedule just happens, without any strategic foresight.  If that’s how you or other members of your staff are functioning, I can almost guarantee that you aren’t working efficiently.  

It’s much more strategic and efficient to plan your work and then work your plan.  


Wrap Up 

If you’d like to learn more about becoming more efficient and planning your work, I recommend the book At Your Best by Carey Nieuwhof.

I hope this has been helpful and leads you toward greater efficiency in your work.  

Topics: Advice

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