If planning counts as productivity, the week between Christmas and New Year’s is my most productive! This is my week for setting goals and planning out the “big rocks” in my calendar for the coming year.

I have found that if I am to wisely steward the multiple roles God has entrusted to me—including husband, dad, grandfather, pastor, college president, friend, and more—it helps if I set aside blocks of time for what is central to meeting these roles.

In other words, I can’t just hope it will all get done or assume my calendar will clear throughout the year. I need to be intentional about carving out time for what God has entrusted to me to accomplish.

Here are some I work in every year. (If you’re not a pastor, yours will be a little different, but hopefully this list will give you a clearer picture of what yours would be.)

  1. Marriage retreat—Healthy marriages take time. This is why we host an annual couples retreat and encourage Lancaster Baptist couples to attend. Because hosting a retreat isn’t the same as absorbing a retreat, Terrie and I also plan a few days every January to get alone together. We typically read a book on marriage during that time, take some time to look ahead at our calendars, and spend lots and lots of time together. After the busyness of Christmas, this is a time we both greatly look forward to each year.
  2. Family days and vacation—If you schedule family days and your time for vacation ahead, your family will not only get to enjoy the time together, but will also enjoy the anticipation of planning for these times.
  3. Sermon planning and study—Although I’ll spend a significant portion every week in sermon study, it helps me tremendously to set aside a few days a few times a year to plan out the themes and texts for upcoming series. I’ll typically finish this time with a list of sermon titles and texts for the next few months.
  4. Personal retreat days—A few times a year (I shoot for every 6–8 weeks, but there are seasons I miss completely), I need a full day to catch my breath and decompress. It helps if I can plan two days off in a row—the first to decompress and the second to spend extended time in prayer and refueling personally and spiritually.
  5. Staff training—Our annual staff training is typically two days, and it is the pivot point ministry-wide between our summer and fall modes. I spend significant time over the summer preparing lessons for this time and look forward to having these hours off site with our entire staff to tweak alignment and prepare for the coming year of ministry.
  6. Long-term planning—If you don’t periodically pull yourself out of the current and focus toward the future, you’ll simply tread water. Months in advance of a large event, I’ll take a morning or a day with our staff leaders for us to brainstorm and settle on the big-picture plans for that event. (For instance, we just did this two weeks ago for our Easter services and outreach next year.)
  7. Reading—Keep a list of books you want to read or topics you want to study, and have it ready for when you do have a personal retreat day. Additionally (and my next post will be about this), you’ll want to learn to incorporate reading into your weekly routines.

Ministry can be incredibly unpredictable. There is no way to schedule funerals six months in advance or to know when a family in your church (or your own family, for that matter) will go through a major life crisis.

But taking time at the beginning of the year to schedule time for your key responsibilities will get you much closer than just hoping the time will create itself.

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