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Time Out: Putting first things first by prioritizing your ministry time

Time Out (by Jerry Schmoyer)

Imagine there is a bank that credits your account each morning with $86,400. It carries over no balance from day to day. Every evening deletes whatever part of the balance you failed to use during the day. What would you do? Draw out every cent, of course! Each of us has such a bank. Its name is TIME. Every morning, it credits you with 86,400 seconds. Every night it writes off, as lost, whatever of this you have failed to invest to good purpose. It carries over no balance. It allows no overdraft. Each day it opens a new account for you. Each night it burns the remains of the day. If you fail to use the day’s deposits, the loss is yours. There is no going back. There is no drawing against the “tomorrow.” You must live in the present on today’s deposits. Invest it so as to get from it the utmost in health, happiness, and success! The clock is running. Make the most of today. Today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present!

Time is our most valuable resource, much more so than even money. If we don’t handle it wisely we won’t be able to handle anything else in our lives as we should. There are so many demands on our time today that it is hard to keep everything straight. Despite all our “labor-saving” devices, we are busier than ever.

How many in the ministry wish they had more time? Time for devotions, time for ministry, time for family, time for self? We always need more time. Yet we know God doesn’t give us 25 hours of work in a 24 hour day. We have the same amount of time in a day that Jesus did. So the trick is to find and do the things God wants us to do and nothing more.

Still, it seems everyone needs our time: spouses, children, extended family, friends and of course our ministries. That’s why proper priorities are so important. Here is my personal priority system. You may see it differently, but I think this is Biblical:

1. Self: basic maintenance

If we don’t take care of ourselves we won’t have anything to give to others. That doesn’t mean we spend most of our time on ourselves, but that we do make sure basic maintenance is covered. It’s like taking care of your car. You must put gas in it first or you won’t go anywhere. However you don’t spend all day putting gas in – you do it an then get on to other things. Likewise we must make sure we are filled spiritually at the start of each day (Gal 2:20; 5:22-26).

We must make sure that emotionally we are sound and growing as well (Mark 12:33). If we are controlled by fear, anger, lust, pride or any other negative emotion we won’t be able to relate to others around us as we should.

We also need to take care of ourselves physically (I Kings 19). Healthy bodies come from proper exercise, diet, sleep and relaxation. Our physical health affects all we are and do as well. Thus our first priority is to make sure we are healthy and growing spiritually, emotionally and physically. Jesus had these priorities – that’’s why He would slip away from the crowds, and even His own disciples, to spend time alone in prayer and reflection. He knew He had to take care of His own needs or He wouldn’t be able to meet the needs of others. This doesn’t mean that He indulged Himself or just lived for Himself, but He did know that basic maintenance had to be done first. This is where we often steal time for other things, but the cost soon catches up for us.

2. God

When our basic maintenance is taken care of, then our first priority can be God. Anything before Him is an idol. That means having time for devotions, worship, learning the Bible, spiritual growth, and serving Him in whatever way He wants. This partly overlaps with our basic self-maintenance (above). Remember Mary and Martha? Jesus commended Mary for putting spiritual things before work and daily activity.

3. Spouse

Our third priority, after only our own basic maintenance and then God, is our spouse. They rate before children, job or anything else (I Timothy 3:4-5). Authorities on the subject say it takes 15 hours a week for a husband and wife to really connect. These hours are spent focusing on each other and the relationship, not just time working together in the same house or room. Fifteen hours focusing on each other wasn’t enough before marriage, and we all assumed we’d have more after marriage. What happened?

4. Children

Before outside activities, hobbies or work come our children. No one ever lies on their death bed and says they wished they would have spent more time on their career and less on their family.

5. Work

Work is a definite priority in our life, for God told Adam and Eve they would have to work to make a living on this earth. The woman in Proverbs 31 is an example of the blessing and joy that work brings. It does come before self-serving pleasure, but not before children, mate or God.

6. Self–pleasure, indulgences

There is nothing wrong with wholesome activities that are done just for joy and pleasure. It is legitimate to enjoy the world around us. God made it for our pleasure. We don’t always have to be working. He told us to take one day in seven for rest and refreshment. He also established periodic festivals and rest periods. One year every seven years was to be work free for people, animals and the land. God knows that this is important. A bow won’t work to its best if it is taunt all the time. It needs to be relaxed until needed. The same is true of us. Using our time is similar to using our money. If we waste it we will regret it. Most is to be spent in a worthy way. Some is to be invested for future benefit. We do this with time when we get away, relax, do things that are pleasurable and refreshing to us. That’s an investment in the future because it paces us and assures us there will be resources available in the future.

Reflect

Determine to line your priorities up with God’s priorities. Pray about this. It’s one thing to say it but something entirely different to actually do. Getting our priorities right sounds great, but the price can be high for it means saying “No” to some things that are very hard to say no to: overwork, self, laziness, doing things to impress others, greed, etc. There is a price to be paid but it is well worth the price. Time is our most valuable possession, and it can only be used once – so please use it wisely.

  • Write a list of what God wants you to change in your life so you line up better with His priorities.
  • What does God want you to do MORE of?
  • What does He want you to do LESS of so you have time to do more of what He wants?

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Jerry SchmoyerJerry Schmoyer has been a minister in Pennsylvania for over 25 years and has worked with teenagers for 15 years, ever since I became one myself. He authors the weekly Time Out series here at Life in Student Ministry in hopes to spiritually refresh your soul as you continually pour so much of yourself into students. God bless!


Posted on March 23, 2010

  • angie

    So, I have a question. I have thought about this for awhile, when the conversation of priorities comes up. As a single woman, without children or a spouse, would my next priority after God be work? While work is a definitely priority, I feel like the value of deep relationships and mentoring is overlooked. They are what keep me sane and something I highly value. I would put a few of these very significant relationships before work in ministry, much like someone would put a spouse before work. I feel like this element isn't often recognized for singles.

    Is this out of line?

    • That's a good question, Angie. I'm not really sure how to answer it. My gut reaction is yes, work in ministry comes next, but not in an unhealthy way. It's the focus because that's what God has for you at this stage in life. I totally agree with what you're saying about the value of mentoring, but I guess I think that kinda falls under "self: basic maintenance."

  • Victor

    I don't have a wife and hence no children, where should family (parents and siblings) come into the picture? Would you say serve God first then family?

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