the shape of leadership

Busyness and Boredom

How to faithfully steward every season

John Davidson on September 30, 2020


During the last few months, ministers have dealt with a range of demands. Some have had to work longer hours than ever because of the pandemic. Others have struggled because fewer activities and no in-person services created a void — meaning that, for the first time, many ministers felt they had little to do.

I’ve heard from many pastors that March through May were very busy as they were in crisis mode, but work has been much slower since June. Too slow.

Most books, articles and podcasts that discuss time management focus on productivity. That’s good because all of us can be more productive, and figuring out how to manage our time is an important part of our maturity and professional life.

But there’s another side to time management — an ethical side. That’s because there are certain things you should and shouldn’t do with your time. You could make the case that time is our most valuable resource. You can make more money, but you can’t make more time.

Some say you can’t even really manage time; you can only steward it. And the Bible is clear that stewardship of time is a spiritual issue. Here’s just one example from Paul:

Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15-16).

Paul wasn’t giving us a manual on personal productivity. He was communicating that how we steward our time is a spiritual activity, and it matters for eternity. Eternity is time without end — or, maybe more accurately, a realm in which time doesn’t exist. Someday we won’t structure our lives around time, but for now, it’s all we know.

It helps here to understand the difference between a clock and a timer. A clock tells us what time it is. It’s a snapshot of the present. A timer tells us how much time we have left. A timer is a snapshot of the future.

As believers, we know our lives aren’t governed by a clock but a timer. We don’t know how much time is left, but we know it’s counting down. And every minute that passes, we’re one minute closer to Christ’s return. That alone should be incentive for us to make the best use of our time.

The Bible is clear that stewardship of time is a spiritual issue.

Some seasons are just busy and there’s no way around it. In demanding seasons, try these things so you can manage your busyness rather than allowing your busyness to manage you: Stay healthy by getting regular exercise, rest when you can, share the load, take time for your family, and keep a sabbath. (Sabbath isn’t optional when you’re busy. It’s even more necessary during such times.)

But what should we do when we’re not as busy? Just as managing busyness requires wisdom, you also have to manage margin wisely.

The last few months have exposed the ways we’ve looked to our busy schedules for validation. When we’re not as busy, it’s easy to feel bored, unproductive, useless and unfulfilled. Instead of surrendering to negative emotions, here are some ways to faithfully steward margin in this season:

Rest. Take a deep breath and embrace the slowness. Rest is part of the natural rhythm God created for us. Take your sabbath, go on a vacation, or just take a few extra days off to be with those you love.

Catch up. Do anything you didn’t have time for when you were busy. At the beginning of a crisis, everything unessential moves to the back burner. Now is a good time to pull those tasks off the back burner and complete them.

Work ahead. Prepare for anything that’s coming up. Strategize the remainder of 2020, plan an event, outline an agenda for an upcoming meeting, or fill in your preaching calendar for the next few months.

Think. Brainstorm ideas related to your ministry. Think about future events, processes, programs, and how you can better fulfill your mission personally and as a church. Generate ideas for serving your community. Thinking sometimes seems unproductive, but time spent thinking is not time wasted. It’s an investment in the future.

Read. Pick up a book that relates to your ministry. It could be on ministry, theology, discipleship or leadership. Take notes, and share them with your staff or volunteers. Reading on the job isn’t wasting time. It’s taking action to make yourself a better leader.

Reach out. Take a few minutes to send a text, make a call, or write a note. We rarely have as much time as we’d like to care for people personally, so use this time to care. A few words of encouragement could be just the boost someone needs.

Busyness and margin both test our ability to steward this God-given resource of time. So whether you’re busy or bored, make the decision today to use your time in a way that will help you grow, care for others, and fulfill your mission.

This article originally appeared in the September/October 2020 edition of Influence magazine.
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