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I have always been a list guy. If I can get it down on paper then I may actually get it done. The downside to such lists is that you may develop such a lengthy list that even Methuselah couldn’t live long enough to get it done.

This brings me to my point: pastors need to make a “not to-do” list as much as a “to-do” list. In planning to execute the necessary tasks of the day we must also plan to not do certain things that either detract from the central tasks or are simply not as important as these core responsibilities.

At its simplest form pastors are to give themselves to the ministry of the word and to prayer (Acts 6.4). There will always be more for us to do but there will never be less. It is helpful for pastors, particularly younger pastors, to remember that the leaders in the early church did not say, “We will give ourselves to the ministry of Facebook and Twitter.” There are many other distractions out there, and pastors need to make sure we are primarily giving ourselves to what we are called to do. (note: I see value in social media as a servant in ministry but it also has the potential to become our master.)

This gets me back to the list. In all of my years of making such a list I have never once blocked out an hour or two for “time wasting.” We just don’t think like this. Instead, we are hopped up on the intensity and optimism of a day and we want to be productive. Somehow between the first cup of coffee and the whistle at the end of the day we have wandered into the marshy soil of distraction. A good to-do list will help populate the not to-do list.

As ministers of the word we simply need to be sure that we are in fact giving ourselves to the big priorities of the word and prayer. Other things work out from and through these but never without them. This is vitally important to remember each day if we want to produce a lifetime of faithfulness.

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8 thoughts on “The Pastor’s “To-Do” and “Not To-Do” List”

  1. So why am I here reading, or commenting on this? Hmmm.

    But, while I’m here being distracted, let me say that it’s a good point, especially the line about what the early church prioritized in its leaders: and it wasn’t Facebook and Twitter.

    1. Erik says:

      I too felt it a bit ironic to blog on the subject.

  2. Liam Shannon says:

    Thanks for sharing this post. Could you list some examples of what you have on your “not-to-do” list?
    Thanks again,

    1. Erik says:

      Well, the to-do list crowds out other things. For some people it is different than others. For me I have to distill down to what I am supposed to be doing. What is essential? Then order my day and schedule along those lines. This must involve saying no to other things. I suppose it is different for police officers than IT guys. You know what I mean?

  3. Ben Schroder says:

    Good post, Erik.
    Hey, my older brother who lives in Germany works at a company called 6Wunderkinder and he has helped develop their apps Wunderlist and Wunderkit, they both help organize and keep lists, you should check them out!

    1. Erik says:

      will check it out. thanks Ben.

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Erik Raymond

Erik Raymond is senior pastor of Emmaus Bible Church in Omaha, Ne. He and his wife Christie have six children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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