While every one of us may develop certain leadership skills, being a good follower, especially understanding what it means to follow Christ, requires a different idea of excellence and a different kind of hope. ~ Marilyn Chandler McEntyre
Ask any leader and she’ll tell you: Time management is a big deal.
There’s always more to do than time to do it, and more people who ask for time than you have time to give. So solid, even masterful time management skills are essential to good leadership.
But the challenge is even more complex for spiritual leaders. We aren’t just trying to be effective at leading; we’re also trying to be effective at following. Jesus is the Head Pastor and President of the Church we serve, and our primary job as servants under His authority is to follow His lead.
But the thing about Jesus is that He’s…well, unpredictable. We may know the goal, but He doesn’t always get there the way we expect He will, or should, or even the way He did it last time. As one pastor I know used to say, our God is “infinitely creative,” which was a Christian-speak way of saying that God is often taking lefts when we think He should go right, slowing down when it’s crystal clear to us that He should be speeding up, and generally finding ways to reach His desired endgame that no one among us could have ever predicted.
So how do you schedule your day as a leader when you’re following a God like that?
What I’m about to say may sound overly dramatic, but I genuinely believe it’s true: How you handle scheduling can make or break your spiritual effectiveness as a leader. Why? Because the time management systems promoted by the corporate world do not include concepts like full surrender to God’s leadership or moment-to-moment availability to the Holy Spirit ~ both of which are critical to any Christ-follower’s approach to time management. This means it’s possible (and actually quite common) for Christian leaders to be very effective at managing their job and very disconnected from the God they’re working for. But what does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul, right?
So how do you strategically plan your day and stay open to the sometimes counterintuitive leading of God’s Spirit moment by moment throughout the day? Every leader I work with eventually develops their own unique system, but here’s a place to begin. I call it the Blueprint Method:
- Use an online calendar (such as Google calendar or something similar) to schedule everything. As Covey suggests, schedule your time based first on what’s important, then on what’s urgent. I also suggest you schedule margin of 10-15 minutes after every item on the list to allow for interruptions (which WILL happen, so why not plan for them?).
- Every night, print out the calendar for the next day. Take a quick look at it, and invite God to speak to you about it as you sleep that night.
- The next morning, as a part of your reflective time with God, pray over the day’s schedule again. Fully surrender the entire day to God ~ every meeting, every task, every conversation, and invite God to speak to you about any aspect of the day He wants to change. Warning: This could lead to anything from rescheduling a meeting to grabbing lunch at the park instead of at your desk to canceling the entire day and spending it in solitude and prayer. Don’t be surprised when God stretches your faith in this.
- Whatever you feel led to change, take a risk and change it. Remember that God is the Giver of the gift of administration. He knows how to handle your schedule so that everything that needs doing gets done. Take a risk to trust what you think He is saying, even when it doesn’t make sense to you. How will you learn to follow His voice each day if you aren’t willing to take a risk, right?
- At day’s end, reflect on the changes you made. Did the “fruit” of those choices confirm that you heard correctly? If so, awesome! If not, ask God to teach you where and how you misread His leading.
- The next day, start fresh, and begin again.
What personal strategy do you use for planning your day and following God’s lead? Let’s learn from each other. Share your best practices in the comments below, or on Facebook or Twitter.