I’ve been a pastor almost 35 years and I’ve made lots of mistakes. But as I’ve grown wiser, I’ve learned that if I prioritize a few key choices, my life and leadership dramatically improve and my ministry becomes more effective. Here are three key choices I encourage every pastor to prioritize.
Priorities for every pastor
1. Place sermon prep time at the top of your list.
Whether you preach or teach regularly, unless you calendar when you prep your messages, you will likely shortchange adequate prep time. I’ve been doing it for decades now, but I still need 15 plus hours each week to craft a message. I calendar my study time in the mornings when my mind is freshest. In this post I delve more deeply into sermon prep time.
2. Craft messages that included three essential components.
- Build them around a strong Biblical basis. Make sure your messages are rooted in God’s Word.
- Always include clear application. This is where you connect the then and there to the here and now. People will remember your teaching better when they can apply to their lives what you say. It’s called self-referential learning. Stuff sticks in our brains when it’s self-referential.
- Keep in mind techniques to help your listener pay attention. Only what gets paid attention to gets learned. And if the church people don’t pay attention to your messages, they won’t make much of a difference in their lives. In this post I suggest 5 brain-savvy ways to help people pay attention to your sermons.
3. Keep yourself healthy.
Ministry leaders who prevail prioritize their health. And the arenas of health include your body, your relationships, your mind, your emotions, and your soul. To keep healthy in these areas requires we make these choices.
- Eat healthy.
- Exercise at least 3 times a week.
- Get enough sleep.
- Keep short relational accounts with others. Deal with conflict sooner than later.
- Challenge and stretch your mind by learning new things, even outside your ministry role.
- Process your emotional pain.
- Spend time with God every day, excluding sermon prep time.
As I’ve prioritized these three areas, ministry has become much more fulfilling.
What other areas do you believe pastors should prioritize so they stay sharp and effective?