We all know pastors who we highly respect (regardless of the size of their ministry). They are people of integrity and wisdom, and they are also often highly productive. They just seem to get a lot done, but they don’t live stressed out, constantly busy, overwhelmed lives.
What’s their secret? Is it just the anointing of God? Or is there something they are doing that we can learn from? Here are seven key habits — practiced diligently, regularly – that over time can shape pastors and prepare them for ministry challenges.
- They maintain a consistent, vibrant devotional life. This is so much more than just having a daily time with God. Highly effective men and women have learned to really put Jesus first in their lives, and to let their ministry be the overflow of that relationship.
- They make their physical health a priority. That doesn’t mean they spend hours in the gym every day, but usually do some kind of physical activity, pay attention to their diets, and make sure to get enough sleep. There are always seasons where that is difficult or impossible, but overall, they maintain good health. No one is effective when they are exhausted.
- They invest in themselves. Effective pastors are learners. They know that when they stop learning and growing, the organization they lead will stop growing as well. Almost always, that investment includes reading. They are always looking to learn from others—it’s a lot easier than having to reinvent the wheel constantly.
- They plan their time. Either before they go to bed, or first thing in the morning, they plan out what they are going to do each day. They don’t waste time wondering what they should do—they plan their work and work their plan. It’s been estimated that every minute spent in planning saves ten in execution
- They are clear on their priorities. They know what things are most important and make sure those things get the proper attention. They aren’t afraid to say “no” to good ideas in order to make sure the best things are focused on. They give appropriate attention to their spouses and families; they take breaks and vacations; they stay on top of their finances.
- They develop habits. Our habits, for better or worse, are some of the most powerful things in our lives. The more activities you can turn into habits, the better. Once something is a habit, whether it is exercise, devotions or flossing, it takes less emotional energy to do it, and that emotional energy is then available to invest in other high-demand activities.
- They work hard. At a pastor’s conference a number of years ago, the speaker shared that he only worked 40 hours per week. You could have heard a pin drop. Seeing the disbelief on many of the faces, he said, “The key thing is, I work those 40 hours.” We are often our own bosses; the ministry is actually a great place to hide poor work habits. But highly effective pastors work hard when they work.