What To Do When You're Too Busy For Your Ministry

Posted by Aaron Buer on January 2, 2020

Ninety percent of the small talk conversations in my life start like this:

How are you doing?

Busy!  How about you?

We’re busy. 

Maybe it’s ministry. 

There’s always another person who needs help, another volunteer to recruit, another question to answer, another meeting to prepare for. 

Ministry keeps us busy.  

We wear busy like a badge of honor. 

It feels important to be busy.

I must be important because I’m so busy.  

Don’t get me wrong, I think busy is good...when we are busy in the right ways. 

Many of us are busy in unhealthy ways.

It feels like every week I hear about another ministry leader who has burned out in one way or another. 

We have a problem with busy.  

So, what do we do when we’re too busy?

Now is a great time for this conversation because the holiday season is a natural time to reset priorities and schedules.  

So, if you’re like me, and you’re feeling too busy right now, here are three strategies to get back into a healthy space. 

1. Schedule Everything

I don’t mind being busy. 

I like it.

Busy means productive. 

Busy, when we are busy with the right things, is good.  

With that said, busy is challenging. 

How do you keep all the balls in the air? 

How do you keep all the plates spinning?

How do you keep all the clowns...sorry, I ran out of circus analogies.  

Too-Busy-For-Ministry_Schedule

I recently transitioned from leading one team to leading many teams. 

I am finding it challenging to give each team the mental and relational energy they deserve. 

Maybe you can relate in some way.

Here’s how I’m managing this transition. 

I schedule everything. If there is a task required of me, I put it on my calendar. 

Why?

Because if it isn’t on my calendar, I won’t do it.  

When I say everything, I’m talking about everything.  

  • If I need to review a video, it’s scheduled.  
  • If I need to prepare a sermon, it’s scheduled.
  • If I need to prepare for a one on one, it’s scheduled.
  • If I need to wake up my son early and drive him to choir, it’s scheduled
  • If I need a date with my wife, it’s scheduled

If you are busy and you’re not getting everything done, this might be the simple solution you need. 

Put every task on your calendar and let your calendar drive your life.  

As you do this, I have a suggestion. 

Be strategic.

What matters most?

Put that on your calendar first. 

For example:  

  • Where is rest on your calendar?  
  • Where is time with Jesus on your calendar?
  • Where is time with your family on your calendar?

Put these and whatever else is critically important to you on your calendar first. 

If you don’t, I can guarantee that something else will steal that time.

Then you wake up a few months from now and realize you haven’t gone on a date with your spouse all winter and you’ve missed your quiet time for two weeks straight.    

If scheduling everything sounds like a form of slavery or prison to you...just try it. 

I’m telling you, it’s not even close to slavery...it’s actually freedom.  

2. Ask Your Supervisor To Prioritize For You

Now, maybe you’ve already scheduled literally everything and you’re still struggling. 

Or, maybe you’re in a season where there are simply more tasks and responsibilities assigned to you than time available in a workweek.  

I hate to say it, but this happens—especially in churches where resources are often limited. 

So, what do you do when there’s just too much to do?

Here’s what I suggest: Ask your supervisor to prioritize for you. 

Call for a meeting, show him or her your schedule and your assigned tasks and simply ask,

“What is most important right now?”  

And then, ask this:  

“What would you like me to stop doing to accomplish what is most important right now?”  

I love this question. 

I mean, I really love this question.  

There is freedom in this question. 

Hopefully, you will walk away with clarity around what matters right now and the freedom to press pause on less critical tasks. 

However, if the answer, is something like, 

“It’s your job to figure out how to do all of it,” it might be clear that your place of employment probably isn’t the best fit for you.

It’s better to know this sooner than later.  

Now, a point of warning. 

Do not engage this conversation if you haven’t done the hard work of organizing your schedule and maximizing your time. 

If your schedule is a mess and you come to me with this conversation, and I’m your boss...it’s a bad look for you.

I’ll probably say something like, “Here’s your highest priority right now: Get organized!”  

That’s not a fun conversation.  

3. Start Saying No

Once you have scheduled every task and had a conversation about priorities, it’s time to start saying no.  

Here’s the deal:  Every yes is a no somewhere else.  

  • Saying yes to a speaking engagement means saying no to time with your kids
  • Saying yes to that meeting means saying no to necessary sermon prep time
  • Saying yes to that video game means saying no to quality time with Jesus
  • Saying yes to that project means saying no to a day of rest

Every yes is a no somewhere else.  

If you’re like me, you find it difficult to say no to people. 

Too-Busy-For-Ministry_No

I’m naturally a people pleaser. It has always killed me to disappoint people by saying no.  

I stopped feeling that way when I came to understand that every yes is a no somewhere else.  

We only have so much time.

We only have one calling. 

We only have one family.  

We only have one life. 

If you’re too busy, you likely need to say no to some stuff so that you can say yes to the right stuff. 

Wrap Up

If you’re too busy and need some encouragement, reach out. 

If you have some brilliant ideas on how to navigate busy seasons, we’d love to hear from you.  Thanks for reading.  

Topics: Advice

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