What if you replaced, “I am so busy”, with “I am so rested and ready to go”.

It’s not just about changing those words or saying them, it’s about living them out.  Pastors are the worst at creating margin in their lives.  I can relate, but in the past, I have been horrible at creating a margin to do the things that I love or spend time with the people I love.

Brad Lomenick in his book H3 Leadership states the importance of margin, “For all of us, time is our greatest asset.  We can’t create more of it.  We have to make sure we are using it wisely, and margin allows us to leverage time effectively.”  If you don’t create margin in your life, the urgent will crowd out the important things.

Early on in my ministry days, I realized that creating margin was one of the most important things I could do to sustain my ministry over the long haul.  Here are some ways I have learned to create margin.

To say yes to a new thing means saying no to an old thing

You can’t just keep adding things to your “plate” without getting rid of stuff.  Eventually, that proverbial “plate” will be too full.  My rule in this past season has been that if I say “yes” to something, I also need to say “no” to something already on my plate.  It’s easy to say yes to things, but to edit things you don’t need to be doing is difficult.

The longer I am in ministry the more I realize that opportunities come up all the time.  I don’t need to say yes to all of them.  What is one thing you need to say “no” to?  What is one thing you need to pass off?

Watching how many weeks I am away

Last year, I was away for 27 collective days out of 4 months.  A lot of those days away were weekends.  Spring for me can stack up if I am not aware of it.  Last spring, I went to catalyst west, missions trip, may camp, school assessment for an intern, and a grad trip.  When summer hit, I couldn’t believe I was so tired.  Looking at my schedule, I could realize why.

Now, I am looking at a yearly calendar from Nue Year (Use that link to get 10% off).  I use this calendar every year as a way to judge how many days I am away and how many days I should really be away.  It meant saying no to a lot of things this spring.

I don’t like passing up opportunities, but it allows me to focus on what matters most, faith, family, and friends.

How many days are you away?  How does it affect you?  Your family?  How can you create more margin in your year?

Having a plan

What is your year plan?  I create a year calendar to stay organized, but to prioritize what is important for the year.  If you don’t prioritize the important, the urgent will take its place.

When I have a plan, it’s amazing how often things come up that don’t fit in our goals for the year.  A band will randomly email me, sorry I can’t do that.  Someone will ask me to plan an extra event, but I already have a calendar in place.

When you have a plan that’s focused on your goals and vision for the ministry, the target is clear, and it’s clear what you shouldn’t be doing.  I get emails and phone calls for really good things, but they aren’t the important things.  When you are focused on the year, you are able to build margin into your calendar.  It allows you to say “no” to things that don’t align with your vision and values.

Do you plan for the year?  Do you use a calendar?  If you don’t, check out our free resources, the printable youth pastor series.

Stacking holidays

You know what’s better than one week off?  Two weeks off.  I will never forget the holiday that my wife and I spent in Hawaii without kids.  We had 3 weeks off.  The first week was all about decompressing work and ministry, the second week was about relaxing, and the third week was about getting excited about ministry.

Graig Groeschel shares his secrets on holidays, “For deeper rest personally, I take longer breaks.  To me, two consecutive weeks off isn’t twice as good as the first one, it’s way more than that.  Since it often takes several days to decompress, the best rest is almost always in a second week away from work.”  Stacking your holidays is a smart way to get a deeper sense of rest.

On holidays, I like to stack them back to back, and I have a few extra rules.  I don’t go to church on my holidays.  I heard this from Andy Stanley years ago, and I think it’s wise.  It’s hard to not think about work when you go to another church.  Andy Stanley shared how his dad didn’t take his family to church on holidays, and that was the thing that Andy loved most about holidays.  Holidays are for rest, not for comparing, not for working.

How are you planning out your holidays to get the most margin?  How do you get the deepest rest?  Do you stack holidays?  Should you?  Do you attend churches on holidays?  Do you check your phone?

In H3 Leadership Lomenick states, “Margin creates moments; it makes life more meaningful.”

How are you creating margin?  How are you building a better plan that helps you live a more meaningful life?  It’s so easy to just feel so exhausted.  I have felt that in the past few years.  I have felt completely at the end of my rope.  But, it made me re-evaluate.  Re-organize my life to create more margin.

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