I don’t know how you plan your daily schedule—I assume that you do plan— but I have a simple system. I keep a list that I update on a regular basis. Actually, I need to update the list several times each day, for if that doesn’t happen, I easily get distracted from focusing on those things that I need to accomplish. I also remove things that I have accomplished— removing items gives me a sense of accomplishment. That, briefly, is how I do my daily schedule.
Just as my daily list guides my daily activities, I find it helpful to make another list of important items. That list contains my study plans, reading goals, and relationships with individuals important in my life. This list also changes—items are added or deleted. December may be a good time of the year to review such a list. If you make a list, what would you include on it? How long would it be? I don’t know the answers to either question, but I will share the kinds of items I find essential and those that you may wish to consider placing on your list. Such a list will assist you in your ministry, and help you decide how to spend your time.
Reading the Word for my benefit. Obviously, as ministers, we use the Bible when we prepare sermons or Bible studies. But I find that I need to spend time reading the Bible for my personal benefit and growth. I choose passages that I believe will bring me a blessing. From experience, we know that such reading of the Bible has to compete with busy schedules, but this reading is vital for our spiritual well-being.
Devotional life. In addition to reading the Bible, I find that reading what other Christians have written encourages me. There are many good books, but for a number of years I have found the rather small book, Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing,* to be a wonderful companion. I find this book encouraging and faith building. Its worn covers are a testimony to its value to me.
Continuing education. Most ministers spend a number of years studying, so why is it necessary to be involved in continuing education? It is because additional study is done in a disciplined situation. In that setting, we are expected to participate and respond and thus our minds are sharpened.
Planning. This involves taking a long look at what we do. What would you like to accomplish in the next month, six months, or a year? If you are a pastor, what plans do you have for your congregation(s)? If you are a teacher, should you update a particular class within the next year? The absence of planning almost guarantees that though we may be busy, we most likely will accomplish little. Planning is an important path to successful ministry.
Family. My parents, during their lifetime, and my extended family were a blessing to me. Now, the Lord has blessed me with a wonderful wife, children, and grandchildren, and they, too, have become such a blessing—they bring me joy. What about your family? Do you let them know how much you appreciate them, or do you assume they know that? I need to remind myself that my family needs to know how important they are to me.
Reading. What am I reading? I am reading a broad range of books. Recently, I read excellent books on leadership, the Resurrection, biographies, biblical studies—and other topics. With reading that is too narrow, we will find ourselves out of touch with our members. Ask your colleagues what they are reading, and you may find that they may recommend to you a book that you need just at this moment.
Colleagues. I list colleagues because a number of them have been a blessing to me both personally and professionally. Some need encouragement and others encourage me, but to keep the relationship healthy, I need to focus on them as well.
Where are the other five? This includes my partial list of activities, actions, and people that are important to me. It’s up to you to add five more to the list—or more if you wish. In fact, your list may be different, but I hope you will have a list. If you don’t have one, you may be frustrated in your ministry. Just as a daily list helps us to have a more effective day, a long-term general list will be a blessing in our personal and professional life.
This December, or whenever you read this editorial, I hope you will start a list of people and activities that will enrich you. Whether you keep this document on paper, on your computer, or in your mind, visit it often. Revise this list regularly, but most importantly, focus on it. Such a list can function as a compass. It will not force you to do anything but will advise you so that you can make informed decisions about your personal and professional life.
* Ellen G. White, Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1955).