Managing Multiple Priorities Effectively

by Stan Toler

Shortly after my election as a general superintendent, I found myself sitting in an airport responding to e-mail from a pastor in Oklahoma, picking up voicemail from colleagues at the Global Ministry Center, while hoping to carve out a few moments to review my notes for the next day's meeting in South America.

"Lord," I quickly prayed, "help me to spend wisely the precious day You have given me." 

Though the portfolio of tasks may differ, every pastor knows that scenario. How do you balance the phone calls that need to be made with the appointments on your calendar, the sermon that has to be written, and the pastoral situation that calls for your attention?

Here are four tips for keeping your life and ministry in balance.

Set Your Compass

These days, we are bombarded with too many possible priorities to manage them with a simple to-do list. Every leader must develop an internal sense of his or her most important values and use that internal compass to answer intuitively the question, "What matters most?" a dozen times a day. Have you identified your first things? 

Get Organized

Whether you choose a high-end productivity system such as Getting Things Done or a simple paper notebook, you must channel the constant flow of information into a single stream that allows you to make judgments and take action. Having all of your loose ends safely recorded will allow you to ignore them temporarily while you focus on higher priorities.

Learn to Trust

You can't do everything that needs to be done. Therefore you must delegate some tasks, including important ones, so you are able to focus on what matters most. To do so, you must learn to trust rather than control your teammates. Communicate vision, values and expected outcomes; then let others determine the best way to achieve them.

Seek the Spirit

Above all, seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit each day. Allow Him to give you wisdom for choosing the right place to focus your energy. Then trust Him to establish the work of your hands (Ps. 90:17). 

Can you do it all? Hardly! However, you can keep your focus, manage your time and make an impact for the kingdom today.