Be Focused and Intentional: Habit #3 of Highly Effective Lay Ministers

Spoiler alert – you cannot be all things to all people. Like anything in life, you have to pick and choose. It is better to do 5 things really well than to do 50 half-hearted. Many times, less is indeed more. Quality over quantity. You get the picture !

It is not only the number of things that matters, but the types as well. Stephen Covey made a great point when he said, “Things that matter the most should never come at the expense of things that matter the least”. This goes back to your vision. You should periodically ask yourself the hard question – “Is what you are doing merely busywork or is that hard work moving you towards your mission?”

As you know, we love tradition in the Catholic Church. The shadow side to this affection can be the clinging on to programs or activities that are no longer bearing fruit. Sometimes we have to be the one to pull the plug. Remaining on life support may not be the best option. It might be best to free up that time and energy for other endeavors. Again, keep coming back to your vision. Do not lose sight of your end goal.

Being focused is not only beneficial for your ministry, but for your own personal work habits yourself. Over the years, I have employed 3 simple practices to help me be intentional.

Many years ago, there was a book entitled ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ whereby the author would go to visit an old friend that was dying. Like most people, this guy was very busy and probably could have accomplished many tasks had he simply skipped his visit. However, he found this time of reminiscing to be quite sacred – something that fed his soul and reminded him about the ultimate meaning of life.

I adapted this to my own situation and now immerse myself in TWG – Tuesdays With God. On Tuesday afternoons, I put my TWG sign out on my office door. My staff knows not to interrupt me unless it is important. I sit on the sofa in my office (away from the computer, phone and files). I crack open the Bible and my long-range vision plan. From there, I simply spend time with the Lord praying and reflecting upon His call for me and my ministry. This is my climb to the top of the mountain moment – a chance to center myself and seek God’s direction for this mission. Our heavenly Father exhorts us in Psalm 46:11 to “Be Still and know that I am God”. My TWG time is just that.

There are weeks where I am tempted to skip this holy moment (and I do) in favor of “getting things done”. However, it is only to my detriment. You and I need to be in intimacy with Christ if we are to be His vessels. Be sure to set aside time to dream with Jesus.

Being in a large diocese like Dallas, I am invited to a lot of meetings and workshops. Come join this committee or that ministry. It is hard to say no as it is all-good, but we must be selective. Be strategic about the use of your time for your own ministry as well as the healthy balance that you must maintain personally.

The last tidbit is in regards to communication management. I have had a bad habit of continually checking emails, voicemails and texts throughout the day. It is a bit like operational ADD. I jump around in haphazard fashion and pretty soon, half my day is gone and I have accomplished very little. I have been busy, but not real productive or fruitful. A simple rule of thumb for me now is to only check these things 3 times a day (when I first get to the office in the morning, at lunch and before I leave for the day). This discipline then frees me up to dive into projects and to stay on task. I find this to be far more productive and fulfilling.

With all of this, remember to hone in on the things that matter the most. We only have so much time in the day and the Lord wants us to produce 100 fold for the Kingdom! The last thing I would mention is to remember that it is more about presence than programs. Ministry is ultimately about people. It can be easy to forget amidst all of the logistics of organizing an event. Always cherish time with your people (teens and adults) for they do indeed matter most!

Bruce Baumann is the Director of Faith Formation at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Plano, TX. He received his Master’s Degree in Pastoral Studies from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN and has been involved in professional youth ministry for 20+ years.   Bruce is a certified catechetical instructor in the Dallas Diocese and a Life Coach for the Living Your Strengths movement.  He is passionate about training ministry leaders and has had the joy of presenting workshops and retreats at conferences and parishes around the country.