Ten Tips to Becoming a More Productive Pastor

The work of pastoral ministry is a joy, but it’s also demanding. Every pastor is on call 24/7. Expectations of members are high and sometimes unreasonable.

Pastors are thus expected to “run the race” constantly. But how can a pastor keep the pace in this marathon of ministry without burning out? How can a pastor remain productive with such demands? Allow me to offer ten tips to becoming a more productive pastor.

  1. Be spiritually disciplined. Pastor, you cannot lead God’s people spiritually if you are spiritually depleted. Find a time to pray and to read God’s Word every day. Don’t let it become an afterthought. Pick a time of day and stick with it. For some of you, it’s first thing in the morning. For me, it’s the quiet of late evening.
  2. Pray for the day ahead. There is obvious overlap between the first two, but I want to remind pastors to pray about three specific things before you begin the day. First, pray for God’s wisdom for all the conversations and situations you will be facing. Second, pray for His grace. You will hear from critics and high maintenance people. It’s not always easy to be gracious to some. Third, pray for opportunities to show and share the love of Christ during the day. I am always amazed how He answers that prayer in my life.
  3. Be physically disciplined. As you set aside a time of the day for spiritual discipline, also set aside a time of day for physical discipline. You may think you don’t have time to do both. You can’t afford to neglect either. I love the advantages of technology. My iPad, headphones, and treadmill are daily companions.
  4. Make appointments for sermon preparation. How long does it take you to prepare a sermon? Take that time plus one hour and put it on your calendar each week. Don’t try to do sermon preparation in the margins of your life; it’s too important to minimize. You may not always get to keep those appointments, but you have a better chance if they are on your calendar.
  5. Determine one to three priorities you will accomplish for the day. If possible, don’t take on any other tasks until those items are completed.
  6. Get sufficient sleep. Hard workers often like to brag about how much they work and how little sleep they get. If their lack of sleep is a reality, they are becoming less productive and more unhealthy. Sleep is not a luxury; it is a gift of rest and recovery given directly from God.
  7. Make appointments on your calendar for strategic vision. Perhaps once a month, set aside a day to get away by yourself, pray, seek God’s face, and dream about the future of the church. Take notes that day, either electronically or on paper.
  8. Laugh and have fun. Sometimes I have a bad attitude about my work and ministry and say I have to do something. My attitude should be that, by the grace of God, I get to do His work. We who are in vocational ministry often need to lighten up and laugh more. Not all ministry could be described as “fun,” but much of it is if we have the right attitude.
  9. Have a right attitude. Speaking of attitudes, productive pastors rejoice more. They learn greater gratitude. They see setbacks as temporary and opportunities as never ending. They see themselves as co-laborers with God Himself.
  10. Work hard; rest intentionally. There are a few pastors who need to improve their work ethics. Are you truly laboring for God? But there are more pastors who need to rest and relax more. You are not omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent.

Thanks for letting me share these ten tips with you.

What would you add to my list?


  1. Reginald Gabel says

    Yes, yes, yes. We all need to follow these, no matter how long we have been in the ministry.

  2. says

    These tips are precisely the things that I find help me stay focused and healthy in ministry.

    Self care, in my opinion is one of the most overlooked portion of my minister friends lives.

    For Anyone having trouble facilitating these tips I would recommend the book static Jedi by Eric Samuel Timms.

  3. says

    Read . . . for fun, and to expand you soul and vision: poetry, fiction, non-fiction, etc. Also, read what your community members, especially your children and youth, are reading so you know what they love and are learning.

  4. says

    What a great reminder that even we, need to step back and LIVE life instead of just struggling to get through because we are so exhausted. The only thing I would add here is something I struggle with daily: SHOW JOY! I’m not sure why I was wired this way (and I confess an admit that God is NOT done working on me), but sometimes we need to show joy to people so they will see that happiness is a choice, and it is possible. I call it my “Peter Pan Moment” (remember when he remembered his happy thought so he could fly?) … sometimes we need to show others that joy is possible and even in the tough times we can change our attitude and our focus. God bless you, Thom.

    (Oh, BTW since I’ve got you … lol …. our church is half-way through “Connected” right now and one of our men is leading it for us. Wow … convicting as an all get out for all who’ve been a part …. THANK YOU!)

  5. says

    Great post Dr. Rainer! First thank you for the encouragement. There are a couple of these that I have to really work at to get them done. Esp. 3- being physically disciplined and 6- getting sufficient sleep. Being a duel role pastor, it is sometimes very difficult to get in a work out and get in bed at a reasonable time. But I am working on those areas of my life. Once again, Thanks for the encouragement!

  6. Jeff Glenn says

    Thanks for this list. I will keep it as a constant reminder, although as a bivocational pastor I might have to “fine tune” it a little.

  7. says

    Good list. The only addition that occurs to me would be “Do one thing today to grow your church.” The most strongly felt demands on pastors tend to be internally focused on the people who are already there, keeping the institution going and preparing for the coming Sunday. Asking this, or some similar question, would help us focus outwardly and could lead us to do some things that might generate growth.

  8. says

    Stay in touch with God’s mission and your role in it. Keep your eye fixed on this “big picture”; it will give you permission to say “no” to the small stuff that doesn’t need your hand.

  9. Paul Curry says

    I know this might sound out of place on a list of productivity, but schedule time for family. I am my peak of productivity when this sacred time has be met. There is no greater blessing than this time spent everyday with them. The call of ministry is so great these days that if we don’t devote time for family it will be filled up with other demanding tasks of ministry. Don’t ever sacrifice family time on the altar of ministry.

    • Ken says

      Schedule time for your family regardless of whether it makes you more productive. It’s better to let your ministry suffer for the sake of your family than the other way around.

  10. David Henderson says

    Just read last night that to grow a church that is under 400 in attendNce you should not spend more than one or two hours a week in sermon prep. The author said the rest should be spent in connecting with the unchurched. Comments?

    • Fred Kerr says

      Don’t know where you got that idea, but I would disagree. I am retired after 40 years pastoring a small church. I spent lots of time contacting people — both members and prospects. But if I did not spend time in the Word and sermon preparation, I failed on Sunday morning.
      Sermons take time and work! An hour or two will not get it. Occasionally you will have emergencies and study time will be limited. God has a way of coming through in a special way at such a time. but as a rule, don’t cheat on study time!

    • Ken says

      I’m with Fred. It doesn’t do any good to get people in church if you have nothing worthwhile to say to them. An hour or two of sermon prep is not nearly enough. People may come to your church for a while, but if they sense the pastor doesn’t take his ministry seriously enough to devote sufficient time for sermon preparation, they will lose interest pretty quickly.

  11. Donny Rector says

    These can be great advice for anyone, not just pastors! These would make any of us more productive, and happier, workers. Thanks for sharing!

  12. says

    Thanks. I really needed to be reminded of those truth. Dr. Rainer, you are definitely a friend to pastors. I am thankful for your ministry to us.

  13. Travis says

    I think the list is a great reminder to remember the things that are truly important and schedule those things so that the urgent things that arise do not crowd out the important things. It took me a long time to learn that lesson!
    One item I would add to your list is the importance of family time. As a dad of three teens and as a husband, it’s easy for me to allow my family to suffer at the expense of my ministry. I schedule family time into my weekly schedule to help avoid this. I take days off and annual family vacations too.

  14. Tim Dye says

    Thom! I need this today. They say that Monday is the day that many pastors reach for the resignation letter. This is what I needed. And to know His right hand is holding us up. :) Thanks Bro.

    PS my wife sent this to via link. She loves me that way. Thank you God for a great wife.

  15. says

    Great list. The one I struggle with most is the keeping physically fit. I know I need it, but just struggle so much finding time and desire.

  16. says

    Thanks for sharing your insights with fellow warriors! The only thing I would add is the practice of building rich, confidential, accountable, transparent, and FUN friendships with other men. Whether around common hobbies, interests, or backgrounds, I have reaped great rewards by intentionally cultivating “iron sharpening iron” friendships. It has helped me greatly in personal maturity, as well as learning to share as a person, not just as a pastor. Thanks for listening, and God bless your ministry in His name!

  17. Danny says

    Thank you for the encouragement and reminders. As I have read through the comments, there is one thing I see not addressed that has become vitally important for me. We as Pastors need to be disciplined in our diet along with the exercise. I run across many pastors out of shape who are eating too much and it affects all parts of their ministry. Thanks again for the encouragement!

    • Darrick H. says

      Three years ago, I was in Phoenix for Convention. I was walking down the street between sessions. I overheard someone ask another for directions on how to get to the convention center. The person answered, “Just follow all the fat white guys.” I will never forget that. I can’t do anything about being white. But I can do something about being fat. Poor diet affects everything – I’m learning this more and more all the time.

  18. says

    Dr. Rainer your list is right on target! I find it extremely helpful and right on time! Per your request, I would add taking vacations, daycations, & staycations with family to your list. Due to the fact, our families share us with so many, time away together is great way to reconnect and rejuvenate!

  19. says

    My Executive Pastor and I are ditching our staff meeting and going to the movies today. Shhhhhh. Don’t tell anyone. This falls under #8 above! :)

  20. Rev. Raymond Carvil says

    I am the pastor of The Living Word Baptist Church located at 2045 Ali Baba Avenue, Opa Locka, FL 33054 with 100 members on paper with an average of 50 individuals attend each Sunday and after pastoring for just 11 years, I really appreciate this website. Thanks

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