Lukas Blazek/Unsplash

The unique challenges of ministry add to the complexity and importance of time management. So much of congregational work is unscheduled and unpredicted. We rarely get more than a few days’ notice for a funeral. Roof leaks and interpersonal disputes may require our immediate attention, despite the pressing demands of the current liturgical season.

Congregational leaders do their work at the intersection of spirituality, administration, pastoral care and community engagement. A minister could easily spend an entire day tackling the list of tasks in any one of these areas. For that reason, most pastors live with the unshakable feeling that they will not ever get everything done. And they’re probably right.

We may be overlooking an important piece to the time management puzzle, though. Calendars and sticky notes only remind us of what needs to be done. It is just as important to discern what to leave undone. Making a to-do list is not the same as prioritizing what needs to be done and when. When Martha complained to Jesus that Mary was not helping her with meal preparation, Jesus told Martha that her sister had chosen the “better part.” Mary decided what she was not going to do so that she could do what was most important.

The objective of time management is not figuring out how to do everything. Leaders who are driven by purpose and vision must regularly discern what needs to be done. Revisit what you and others think you should be doing and choose what not to do. If we do not choose what to neglect, the list of core responsibilities will grow ad infinitum. That is not sustainable — or fun. When we intentionally decide what not to do, we limit our choices, which makes it easier to prioritize our daily and weekly goals. We cannot do everything, so let’s decide what we don’t need to do and do more of what matters.


Managing time (not God)

By Matthew T. Phillips

Managing the asset of time

Q&A with James Dubik

Before you go…

I remember the first time in my pastoral ministry that I turned down an invitation to do something someone else wanted me to do — something I was not that interested in doing. This happened in my first or second year as a pastor. The details escape me now, but the feeling is still palpable. Exercising personal leadership regarding how I spent my time gave me a deep awareness of how important and precious time is.

This week, you will make choices. I hope you will decide what you are not going to do as you determine what you need to do.

Blessings and peace be with you as you lead through the Lenten season. You can always reach me and the Alban Weekly team at

Prince Rivers

Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity

More on this topic

Reframing our questions

Sometimes our friends and coll...

Does your church respect you?

When we esteem one anothe...