A typical week for a small-church pastor

A typical week for this small-church pastor, when everything goes according to plan:

Every day: Wake around 6:30am – 7am, sleep around 10:30pm. Kids are usually all in bed between 8pm-9pm. 

Sunday:  Grab something to eat while barely getting 3 kids out the the door by 8:15am. Services at  9am & 11am. Lunch on the go. Early afternoon take Communion to sick/homebound as needed. 5pm alternating between catechesis (ongoing instruction in the faith) and small-group. Home around 7pm.

Monday: Get kids out the door by 7:45am, hang out with them during school breakfast. Head back home for prayer time at 9am. Head to gym around 10am. Pastoral/networking meetings for lunch, preliminary sermon prep at the church office in the afternoon. Take one kid to martial arts at 5pm. Home around 7pm. Chores/email/reading/Clash Royale, etc 8pm-9:30pm.

Tuesday: Drop kids at school around 8:30am, back at home for prayer at 9am. Go for a run after that, and stay home the rest of the day work on sermon uninterrupted. Hang out with kids while Amber runs worship rehearsal at church from 5pm-7pm. Spend time hanging out with Amber around 8:00pm – 9:30pm.

Wednesday: Drop my youngest at daycare around 8am. Head to church for some prayer time in sanctuary before bread delivery ministry 9:30am-10:30am. 11am meeting with my admin. Finish any admin stuff I haven’t done so far: bulletin, newsletter, scheduling volunteers, emails, etc. Pick up daughter from day care at 1pm, head to get the other two from early release at school. Home around 3pm, hang with kids till Amber gets home close to 4:30pm. Back to the church at 5pm for a meal with our homeless friends. Back home around 7:30pm for bedtime. 8pm-9:30pm chores/email/reading/Clash Royale, etc.

Thursday: Drop kids at school at 8:30am, head to church. Prayer time, followed by my weekly review at 10:00 am to make sure nothing is falling through the cracks. 12:15pm Holy Eucharist service. 1:30pm – 2:30pm pastoral/networking meetings, admin tasks, etc. Home by 3:15pm to meet Amber and pick up kids from school together. From there head to yoga (gym childcare ftw) 4:30-5:30. Home around 6pm, dinner/family time till 8pm. Then chores/email/reading/Clash Royale, etc until 9:30pm.

Friday: I try to make Fridays my Sabbath. I take the kids to school, then usually head to gym. Have some prayer time. Once a month I see my spiritual director on this day. Watch my youngest daughter 3pm – 7pm while Amber picks up the others and heads to their activities (martial arts and ballet). Around 8pm hang out with Amber.

Saturday: Family activities including getting together with friends all day. After kids go to bed sermon review.

 

Skye Jethani’s IMMEASURABLE is a book I’d like to give every person just starting out in ministry

I’m very grateful to be part of the launch team for Skye Jethani’s brand new book Immeasurable: Reflections on the Soul of Ministry in the Age of Church, Inc. As part of the launch team, I got this book for free in exchange for a fair review. I signed up on a whim; but I’m really glad I did.

Immeasurable is a book I’d like to give every person just starting out in ministry. It is a much-needed antidote to the consumer-driven, success-by-the-numbers approach of a lot (if not most) of what passes as “Church leadership training” these days.

Skye does a great job of distilling and applying some of the best ideas of the “giants” he thanks at the beginning of the book—guys like Eugene Peterson, Dallas Willard, Brennan Manning, and Henri Nouwin.

If young pastors and new leaders start here, they’ll be on a virtual launch pad to much of the best literature out there on the essence of pastoral ministry, and they’ll be exposed to ideas and stories and will likely challenge them deeply.

Skye casts a deeply inspiring vision of pastoral ministry that encouraged me think about “church growth” as something much deeper than attendance numbers or even theological education. Instead, Skye urges pastors and leaders to consider growth in terms of communion with Christ and empowerment of the laity to deeply pursue their own spiritual growth.

According to Skye, Christian ministry must never be fully equated with mission, as vital as that is, but rather must retain real relationship with God as the ultimate end. This is so easily lost today when—as he reminds us—so many good things (like people in the pews and a passion for God’s mission in the world) become ultimate things.

This book is nothing less than a guide on how to avoid the ever-present temptations of idolatry for ministers. Above all, Immeasurable reminds us that ministry can never be about control; like all of life, it must be about communion.

A note on format of the book: it’s divided into 24 chapter that can each be read in about 20 minutes or less. Each chapter is more-or-less a self-contained essay on a different topic, ranging from the role of ambition in ministry, to preaching, to simplicity, to building influence and beyond. Each chapter has a few questions for reflection at the end. This format lends itself to serious reading and thought, and would be great to go through slowly with leadership teams. I could also see this being used for training programs for new leaders, with the questions being jump-off points for discussion with mentors.

Highly recommended.

→ Get it on Amazon

5 powerful ways to leverage Trello for church

Trello, the digital Kanban and project management software, is all the rage for personal productivity and collaborative project management. Its simple and intuitive interface combined with clever features and powerful integrations with other services have rightly caused it to ascend to the upper echelon of similar tools. The more I use Trello for church, the more excited I get about the possibilities.

If you’ve never checked out Trello, now’s the time. Before you go on with these tips, you might want to read my brief primer.

Here’s how you can leverage the power the Trello for church:

1) Collaborative task management. I’ve set up a simple shared board  between me (the rector of my church) and my administrative assistant with the following lists:

  • Todo
  • Doing
  • Done
  • Resources

All of those are pretty self-explanatory. I add stuff to the Todo list and my assistant moves it to the appropriate list. I clear out the done list after reviewing every week or so.

The Resources list has links to some of the other systems we use and attachments for quick reference.

2) Leadership onboarding. I am in the process of working through exactly what this should look like for us, but you can easily put together a Trello board with essential information for new leaders. Possible lists could be:

  • Team/Staff – with a card/photo for each person on staff
  • HR Docs
  • Policies
  • Church docs – constitution, bylaws, etc.

3) Internal calendar planning/brainstorming. Make a board for the year and list for each month. Add events as cards and drag them around as needed during your brainstorming sessions.

4) Worship set planning. Worship leaders can make a Trello board with a list for each Sunday and card for each song. Drag and drop makes it easy move stuff around as needed in the set, and you can also attach chord sheets, etc to the cards for band members or other leaders.

5) Sermon series planning. Create a board for your series with lists for each week/sermon/talk, and add cards for things like:

  • Preacher
  • Main passage
  • Theme
  • Title
  • Song ideas
  • Graphics

You’ll have everything in one place and can easily share and collaborate with your team as needed. Here’s a pic of a sermon series I planned out with Trello:

Trello for church: sermon series planning

The flexibility and power of using Trello for church means that you’re only limited by your own creativity when it comes to streamlining your church’s processes and communication.

The best part about using Trello for church?

You can do everything I’ve outlined above absolutely free. Upgrading will get you a some extra perks when it comes to backgrounds and integrations, but it’s not at all necessary to get started with this amazing tool for ministry.

Did I mention their mobile apps are free and awesome, too? You’ll have all this stuff at your fingertips when on the go.

I hope this post has been helpful in giving you some ideas on how to use Trello to level up your planning, organization, and collaboration in your own church context.

The Timbuk2 Rogue Laptop Backpack. My everyday carry.

I like backpacks. It’s a weakness. I can often obsess over finding the perfect pack, and I own way more than I really need. Moreover, I gravitate toward the expensive ones.

A little over a year ago I gave away two other daily carry type backpacks. Short on cash, but needing a way to haul gear around town during the day and around the country on short trips, I reluctantly started looking for something cheap. I saw the Timbuk2 Rogue Laptop Backpack on sale for $35 [edit: correction: $29], so I thought, why not take a chance…it’ll just hold me over until I get a better pack. Then I stashed it away and switched to small messenger bag (too small for my laptop). When I started having to carry around my laptop, I sold my messenger and I got the Rogue out of the closet.

A year later, it’s still my daily driver.

What makes the Timbuk2 Rogue Laptop Backpack so great?

1) Design. Sometimes, simpler is better. This is one of those times.

The Rogue is top-loading pack with one main compartment and 3 additional pockets.

The large main compartment is big enough to pack everything you need for the day with enough room to throw in some library books or a small sack of groceries later; it’s about 25 liters. The top flap is thoughtfully designed to keep water out via sides that tuck under (kind of hard to explain…) and fastens with a combination of velcro and sturdy buckles. This style of opening allows for the bag to expand and contract a bit as needed (like a true rolltop, but less so) and provides a handy and stow a light jacket under the straps.

Interior zipper pocket and admin section

Inside the main compartment you’ll find a lightly padded laptop sleeve, a small zippered pocket toward the top along with an admin section for your writing utensils, business cards, etc.

On the exterior of the pack there’s a nice small zippered pocket for quick access to cables, a small tablet or paperback. On one side there’s mesh water bottle holder that can hold most anything up to a liter in volume.

The shoulder straps have the perfect amount of padding: enough to keep you comfortable with loads under 20lbs or so (hopefully you’re not carrying much more than that on the daily) but not so much as to be bulky. There’s fairly useless bottle-opener attached one shoulder strap. I’ve only used it once, but I suppose it could come in handy in a pinch.

A simple webbing grab-handled is sewn to the top above the shoulder straps. Additional understated webbing on the front and side of the pack provide a place to lash on extra cargo, wet shoes, or whatever as needed.

2) Construction. This is my second Timbuk2 bag, and just like my other one it seems flawlessly constructed. There’s not a stitch out of place and all the materials seem high-quality and durable. I’ve had the pack over a year and carried it daily for almost 10 months. It still looks almost new.

3) Price. These are often on sale at Amazon, Newegg, etc for $75 and under. Like me, you could get even get lucky and find one under $50 if you’re not too picky about the color. I think this is probably one of the best values in backpacks out there, to be honest.

4) Other general awesomeness. Because of the way this pack is made, it looks great either full or empty. It collapses down nicely when not packed to the brim, so you won’t feel too weird when you’ve just your laptop and jacket. Even when packed full (and this pack can hold a lot!) it maintains a slim profile.

Speaking of looks, I like that it retains pretty much all the function of most tacticool packs, while still maintaining a more sophisticated style. No, it’s not boardroom ready, but neither does it look like you’re heading out to hike the Grand Canyon. There’s nice velcro strip you can put patches on, if you like. I put an Arizona state flag patch on mine.

It’s also a highly water-resistant pack. Top and front are basically waterproof material. The sides might let a little in if soaked, but if you find yourself caught in the rain your stuff should be fine for while you find shelter.

Possible drawbacks

Despite not being super TSA friendly, this pack does fit well under airline seats.

1) The velcro opening is a bit noisy. not at all an issue for me, but I could see how it could be annoying for some people. You could get silencers, if you wanted, and just use the buckles to close the pack.

2) It’s narrow pack. Some wider binders might not fit super well. I have one that I carry all the time and it has to go in diagonally. Standard letter size notebooks and file folders are fine.

3) The laptop sleeve is integrated into main compartment. When traveling, you’ll have to open the main section to get your laptop out when going through security.  If you’ve packed it pretty full, it can be tough to get wiggle your laptop back in. For this reason only it’s not my preferred travel pack if I’ve got a laptop, but it’s not horrible or anything.

The Timbuk2 Rogue Laptop Backpack

This pack isn’t quite big enough for trips longer than a couple nights, and it’s not the most TSA friendly design. All that said…After nearly a year carrying this bag every day, I’ve no immediate plans to replace it. If this one got lost I might even get another in a different color. It’s just a great all-around daily pack.

Being forced to work with a less expensive pack has helped me realize that more expensive doesn’t always equal better. More than that, sometimes the best pack is the pack you already have. And even more than that, my life hasn’t change significantly since “downgrading” to less expensive daily carry bag. All good lessons for a gear junkie like me.