Time management is an essential skill for everyone, whether you are the CEO of a major corporation or a stay at home parent. The most effective leaders will tell you that being intentional with your time will allow you to be more productive and keep balance in your life. Too many youth ministers unnecessarily wear themselves out and desperately need regular Sabbath in their weeks. This article is all about helping you develop a system to help you manage your time as you seek to balance work, school, and your personal Sabbath time. The system that we will focus on is called the rhythmic week.

Great time managers and the most productive people set boundaries. They determine what they are going to do, when they are going to do it, and they stick to it. A rhythmic week system will help you set boundaries for each area of your life. A rhythmic week will help you pace yourself and accomplish the many tasks ahead without feeling as if you have just entered a marathon without even running a mile.

Creating a Rhythmic Week

Step 1: Determine your tasks

The first step to developing a rhythmic week is to determine your weekly schedule. Your rhythmic week should include everything you need to get done during a REGULAR week, otherwise… it won’t get done. So make a list of everything you must do and WANT to do in a regular week: office hours, staff meetings, youth group, Bible study, church time, down time, study time, hang time with youth, hang with family, and any extracurricular stuff that you have going on.

Step 2: Learn to work in blocks

You will learn to work in blocks of time. Many jobs have time management challenges, but ministry jobs are near the top of jobs that have irregular work flows. We recommend breaking your day into three four-hour blocks of time (morning, afternoon, and evening). Each block of time will be dedicated to a specific task area. We recommend color coding your rhythmic week so that you can better visualize how your time will be used.

First, fill in the blocks that you know don’t change from week to week. For example, what meetings happen on a weekly basis? Block out Sunday morning, youth group time, Bible Study, etc. Mark those blocks green. Block out the day and time you regularly do relational ministry on the school campus, at extracurricular events, or elsewhere.
Second and equally important, when is your personal time/Sabbath going to be? Most youth ministers find it very difficult to take two full days off. However, if you think about your personal time in blocks, then you can better schedule your personal/Sabbath time into your rhythmic week. If you think in 12 four-hour blocks instead of two full days, then hopefully you can have greater balance in your life. We recommend taking one full day of personal time/Sabbath each week. You will be healthier for it. Block out on your rhythmic week your day off, family night, date night, your workout schedule, etc.
Here is a sample rhythmic week for a youth minister:
Download PDF

Step 3: Let everyone know

A rhythmic week is not only helpful for managing your time, it is also a helpful tool in communicating to church staff, parents, youth, and volunteers what your schedule is so they know when you are in and out of the office. Make sure to give your pastor a copy of your rhythmic week and talk with her about how you are using it as a tool to keep balance in your life. If she is in the loop, then she won’t wonder why you aren’t in the office on Wednesday mornings. It is a great way to remind her that you were at the church until 9 p.m. the night before.
Post a copy of your rhythmic week outside your office to show your office hours. It will help parents visually see how you are keeping balance in your life, too.

Step 4: Live by it

The only way a rhythmic week will help you is if you choose to live by it. You must commit to protecting your boundaries and focusing on the tasks, both personal and work related assigned to each block. If you cheat, you only cheat yourself. You just found a way to fit personal/Sabbath time into your schedule. Guard it!
Inevitably, there will be weeks when something throws your rhythmic week off like a lock-in, the Christian Education meeting, or a special event. Learn to live by your blocks. The great thing about rhythmic weeks is that it is not too difficult to move your blocks around. So, if the Christian Education committee meeting takes up your Thursday night personal block, then get that time back from another work block that week. The lock-in took up your whole day of Sabbath? Then get it back by taking another day off.

It is a tool, so it only works if you USE it!

Read more about rhythmic weeks in Mark DeVries’ book Sustainable Youth Ministry.  If you want to take your time and task management to a whole new level, CYMT also highly recommends Getting Things Done.

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