By Pierre F. Steenberg
A pastor has much to do. A pastor is a preacher, a counselor, a leader, a comforter, a host, a scholar, a chaplain – the list goes on. Certain times of the week are prime time – Sabbaths and most weeknights for example. Weeknights come at a premium because that is when church members are available for visitation, Bible studies, and meetings, committees, and boards. The problem is that there are only a handful of weeknights in any given week. How do we get enough weeknights for everything that needs to be done?
In my ministry, visitation and Bible studies with potential members take priority. Of course, the church elders visit with me and other church members attend the Bible studies to be discipled. Throw in the weekly prayer meeting, and how many evenings do you have left for the myriad of meetings, committees, and boards? I just cannot afford the time to spend every other night in some meeting. These meetings are important, but they are not ministry and therefore I do not want them to be using prime time which can better be used for ministry.
Lastly, it can also be frustrating for lower committees to have to wait for weeks for the church board to meet and approve their request, budget, or event. What can we do with all these meetings?
The solution that worked very well for the churches that I served was to schedule all the meetings on one Sunday per month. Here is how it worked:
1:00 pm – Finance Council. We picked the first Sunday after the financials were due at the conference. This way we were sure that the month is closed and the books are ready. In our case, this was the second Sunday of every month. Beginning the meetings at 1:00 pm means that members came already having had lunch.
We scheduled one hour and fifteen minutes per meeting with a fifteen-minute break between each meeting. This was important because everyone knew that we had to get on with business as another meeting is beginning before long. We just could not run on and on. Just this schedule by itself made the meetings move right along, eliminated small talk, and helped us stay on task.
2:30 pm – Elders Council. This is where elders’ training took place, we discussed the church membership list, attendance, parishioners’ needs, the month’s upcoming visitation schedule, our mission and vision, each parish group (an elder was in charge of a parish), the sermonic calendar, sensitive issues, and so forth.
4:00 pm – Evangelism and Lay Activities. Here we discussed visitors, interests, Bible study contacts, evangelism ideas, programs, and outreach. We laid plans to grow the Kingdom of God.
I would pack a little sack lunch to be had during this fifteen-minute break.
5:30 pm – Church Board. Most nights we were done by 7:30pm. Since all the other committees (other committees such as men’s ministries, women’s ministries, and others would meet simultaneously with the elder’s council or finance council; I would not sit on those committees) meet on the same day they are now ready to lay out their plans to the church board. We can allocate budgets to proposals, etc. No committee or group of people have to wait for another day for the church board to approve things. It all happened on one day – done.
This plan freed up the prime weeknights for ministry. We never had committees during weeknights other than school board once a month (there was no time left to slot it into the same Sunday). This schedule also saved much travel time and expense as committee and board members only had to travel to meetings once a month. They too did not have to spend many a night in committees. Spouses serving on various committees could travel together rather than having to come to church on different evenings for different committees.
Would this practice work in your ministry and open up precious weeknights? Pastors are also often parents and spouses. As such we too need a night here and there for the family when Johnny plays in the school concert or to take his or her spouse on a date.
Pierre F. Steenberg is ministerial director for the Central California Conference