Do you know what we all hate?

Inefficiency.

Let’s be honest. We do. Traffic backups? We hate them because they are inefficient.

inefficient

Waiting for WAY too long in line at a restaurant. We hate it. Why? It’s inefficient.

Waiting 5 minutes for our outdated laptop to power up? We hate that! Why? Because, it’s inefficient.

Do you know what we love? Efficiency. It saves us time, money and energy.

There is no place that we should be more intolerant of inefficiency than our churches. Our staff, programs and processes are all being funded by the sacrificial generosity of church attenders who are under the assumption that their gifts are going to the highest possible good. As my boss often says to me when I propose spending money:

“How do I justify this idea to my 80-year-old mother who gives beyond her means to support this church?”

Ok. Extreme example. And yet, I think we all agree that our churches should be leading the way in efficiency.

So, how do we become more efficient? Well, that is a ginormous question so let’s narrow the scope to how we and our employees spend the most valuable of resources: our time. I have 4 ideas that have worked well in improving time effeciency in our church.

WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING?

The first step in becoming more efficient and productive is understanding what we’re supposed to be doing. This question should be answered by an accurate and detailed job description.

Without this tool, we don’t know what winning looks like and we all want to win. Work hard to clarify this. Every position in your organization should have clear responsibilities. Here are my four main tasks, directly from my job description:

  • Team Leadership
  • Teaching/Curriculum Development
  • Student Ministry Programming
  • Volunteer/Parent Development and Care

This is what I’m supposed to be doing. Doing well in these areas means I’m winning.

WHAT AM I DOING?

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

The way we uncover this information is through a time study we do for one month around twice per year. If you’re unfamiliar with this practice, it is simply recording in detail what you are working on throughout the day. We have a standardized document that we all modify for our own job description.

time_study

Those are just sample numbers, but you get the idea.

The key to a time study is honesty. It is absolutely worthless if you or your team fudges on what they actually do. You must win the trust of your people before administering the time study and assure them that no one will be penalized for how they are spending their time.

An honest time study will reveal some interesting data:

  • 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)

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

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

If you’d like, you can click here to download the time tracker file we use and modify it to fit your own context.

ASSIGN TIME TO THE JOB DESCRIPTION

Once you have a decent understanding of how much time it actually takes to complete tasks, assign time to the tasks spelled out in the job description. We do this in percentages. Here’s how my 4 main tasks breakdown by percentages:

time_allocation

Yes. I am aware that these numbers don’t add up to 100%. There are a few top secret tasks in my job that I can’t tell you about :).

PLAN THE WORK

Why in the world is it important to assign time to each task?

Because, now you can create a work schedule that actually leads you to win! We do this by creating a block schedule. We call this planning our work. Here’s a mock block schedule based off my job description:

block schedule

If you’d like you can click here to download this as a template to use.

REFINE

There’s two things I’ve learned from this process:

  1. This really works. You and your team will become more efficient
  2. The process is fluid.

We are constantly refining. For one thing, job descriptions can and should change. First, if you become more efficient, you’ll have more time which means you can devote time to new tasks. Second, things change in any organization. Priorities might change. Or, perhaps you discover through this process that a particular team member’s role needs to shift to tasks that better suit their gifting. This entire process should be fluid. Constantly refine and continually push for greater and greater efficiency.

USE IT

So, these are my four action steps for becoming more efficient personally and helping my team become more efficient.  I would highly encourage you to give them a shot.  Our work matters.  Our time matters.  Let’s become the most efficient and productive organizations and people that we can possibly be.

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