SMS: Know Your Margins (Part 2)

I grew up playing catcher in baseball and was goal keeper in soccer.  Both of these positions required quick reactions.  My body became conditioned for fast-reflexes in order to catch the ball or make the save.

I’ve found that many have become conditioned with a similar cat-like reflex when asked, “how are you?”

The automatic reaction: “I’m Busy”

Yesterday I posted the first in this SMS series on knowing our margins.  You can read that here.

I’ve done my fair-share of consulting and coaching with other Youth Pastors, the “times” have varied and a lot of this had to do with attitude, current situation/stressors and job satisfaction.  I was one who always undervalued the time it took to do different tasks; if I were to take that self-assessment I’d come up with 30-35 hours, but reality was far different than perception.  On the other hand, I’ve had Youth Pastor friends who have far over-valued the time it took to do the things listed.  One Youth Pastor came up with 73 hours for those questions I listed in the first post.

No matter what your estimated answer is/was, your perception is your reality until you gage it against your true reality.  That’s the process we’ll begin today. That’s right, I said begin.

Those who want to live in perception, will not do this next step; however, I will give you this word of advice, I think learning your reality will pay HUGE dividends in the end.  You’ll become more efficient in your time management, learn to be a better communicator with those who need to know your busy-factor (spouse, family, leadership board, Pastor, etc.). However, not doing this step will allow you to keep that built-in excuse of being “too busy.”

Margin Inventory: Reality

Grab a blank sheet of paper or an open Word Processing Doc to commit your answers to a page (or several pages if you do this fully).

Next step, you have two choices, Reality or Close-to-Reality (C2R). Depending on if you would like to do this activity over the course of a day, a week or a month you’ll create a more accurate reality.  Believe me, your answers and reality will only be accurate if you take the real-time to figure out how much time is actually spent on each area of your job/ministry.  I do understand that some will choose to take an hour total to do this task (rather than 15 seconds per question) to get their C2R Margin.  Others will take a week to get a better sample and some will choose to track a full month.  I highly suggest taking a full month (or at least two full work-weeks) to do this.  In a few weeks I’ll write a conclusion to this Margins series to talk about the ramifications and applications for your Reality-Margins.

You’re going to create a self-accountability time-sheet.  You’ll need anywhere from five to twenty minutes per day to do this.  I’d suggest that each evening (at the end of your work day) you recall your schedule for the day.  Keep track of the amount of time you spent on each thing.  Below is a list of common-youth ministry tasks:

  • Program Times (Youth Group, Sunday School, Small Group, Event)
  • Staff Meetings
  • Lesson Prep (Youth Group, Sunday School, Discipleship, Small Group)
  • Program Prep (research games, errands for food, games, etc.)
  • Contact work with students, staff or parents
  • Minstry Time Online (facebook chats, blog-reading for ministry enhancement, etc.)
  • Administrative Tasks (phone, emails,planning events)
  • Attendance at events or on-campus for students (games, plays, concerts)
  • “Other” (sermon prep, other church activities, etc.)

I believe the best thing you could do is once a day (evening) take 5-10 minutes to record your day.  Below is a sample from a Youth Pastor’s day…

  • 8:45 Office  (went through emails, snail-mail, and perused facebook)
  • 9:15 Research and phone call for fall camp (researched prices, took notes, called 3 camps to get dates/rates)
  • 9:50 Drove to Cutter’s Point coffee for network meeting
  • 10:00 Cutter’s Point network meeting with Scott, Amber, Tim, Kyle, Roger and James.
  • 11:30 Lunch with Scott and Kyle (talked fall camp options)
  • 12:45 drove back to church
  • 1:00 Admin task (emails, facebook messages, online chats)
  • 1:40 Small Group prep (read James 3, did some commentary work)
  • 2:30 Phone call with Tyler in Colorado (accountability partner, talked ministry, family and small group advice)
  • 3:15 Worked in Pages to create some possible flyers for fall camp themes
  • 4:00 Went home
  • 6:20 Drove to small group
  • 6:30 Small Group (6:30-8:00)
  • 8:00 Talked with Josh and Josh’s parents after small group (great conversation)
  • 8:45 Drove home

Add Up your ministry hours and even break them up into the different categories from above:

Answer the Following:

  1. What task did I do today that I enjoyed the least?
  2. What, if anything, could I consider “wasted time?” Furthermore, how much time was wasted?
  3. What key things did I not get to today that I wanted to get to?
  4. What part of my day brought me the most joy?

Key: Honesty!

This is not an accountability form for you to give to others (at least not right now), this is truly a self-assessment.  Again, we’ll get to the ramifications and implications in a few weeks (stay tuned).  In that blog we’ll bring the information together to create your Reality Margins.

I look forward to the conclusion (a post or two) in a few weeks, until then, I hope this begins to guide some thoughts and shape your Margins!




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