Growing up, I had a dog that enjoyed bursting through an open door and running free. Because it was often my brother or me that let her sneak out, it was our responsibility to run her down and bring her home. My dog, a master at fakes, jukes, and misdirection, made it a frustrating endeavor that could stretch out over hour. Chasing her left us tired and angry.
Early in my ministry, my week could also sneak away, leaving me chasing emergencies and struggling to identify which direction I should go. By the end of the week, I was tired, frustrated, and hadn’t accomplished much. I knew if I was going to last in ministry, I would need to stop chasing my week and develop a more sustainable strategy. I made my priorities CLEAR.
CLEAR stands for
- Curriculum Planning
- Leadership Development
- Event Coordination
- Relational Work
At the beginning of every week, I allocated 30 hours across the week for these tasks (The remaining ten is used as flex time or time at ministry programming). This allocation changed depending on the needs for the given week but would allow for both short term and long term planning.
Curriculum Planning involves not only preparing for the upcoming weekly programming (Sunday’s always coming!) but also long-term learning and experiential elements. Weekly curriculum includes not just what comes out of my mouth, but also what goes on the screen. This development includes social media and assessing effectiveness of curriculum.
Leadership Development includes my own personal development through books and other resources and that of my volunteers. I try to extend what I am learning to them whenever possible and appreciate their investment in our students. Frequently, this includes a lunch and conversation. If I am having lunch out of the office, I try to do it with one of my volunteers.
Event Coordination entails planning, executing, and reviewing the multitude of events around youth ministry. These hours are filled with making sure the goals of the event are clear, any necessary volunteers are recruited, spaces are reserved, and all logistics are attended to. Service projects, senior activities, 6th grade transition activities, bonfires, etc. fall into this category.
Administration allocates time for paperwork or money matters throughout the week. These tasks (verifying waiver forms, reconciling credit card receipts, answering e-mails, etc.) can quickly soak up a whole day. I set a an hour or two at the beginning and end of each day to rein in these tasks.
Relational work is part and parcel of ministry. It can easily get put off until it is forgotten. I make sure to build in time to be with students whether that is in person, on the phone, via text, or writing postcards.
A ministry work-week can quickly sneak out, getting away from you and making it difficult (if not impossible) to catch up. Faithful and sustainable ministry requires the minister to intentionally strategize to keep the week under control.