“I can’t keep up now,” the pastor said, “so I certainly can’t add anything else to my schedule. I feel like I’m all alone in this ministry trying to keep all the plates spinning. How do I meet all the needs in my church?” We don’t! There is no way that the pastor can meet all the needs in any church, and the more we try, the less we accomplish. We confuse our priorities, elevating the less critical but urgent needs over the more essential but eternal goals. The reality is that trying to do it all says more about us than about the ministry.
Our own needs often drive our choices. Our motives get skewed. Eternal priorities are lost. I know. I’ve been there. The issue of ministry busyness cuts much deeper into our souls than we often want to admit. We think that the problem is their needs when the reality is that we scurry around like ants on an anthill to meet our needs. Ministry becomes our mistress, and we lose sight of God’s priorities in our busyness. 


Pastors can become people pleasers. I have struggled with this temptation throughout my ministry. We serve to please other people. The temptation is so seductively subtle that we often do not recognize it until we succumb to it. People pleasing is a recipe for outward success in ministry because catering to people’s needs produces results. However, inwardly, we end up running and running to keep up with the needs. It is a deficit motivation. We need to be liked, so we work to please people.
Here are some diagnostic questions we can ask ourselves. Can I separate me from the roles I play? Do I play the chameleon with people? Do I try to find out what people want before I make my decisions? Can I say “No” to people?  Do I lead people to think that I agree with them even when I don’t? Do I tend to give only partial information when I think people won’t like the full picture?


The idolatry of busyness is real. Just listen to the conversation at most pastors meetings. We are all quick to talk about our schedules and how busy we are in ministry. Busyness becomes an idol we worship because it makes us feel important. Everyone talks about what a great pastor they have because he will turn heaven and hell to meet their needs and solve their problems. People become dependent on the pastor, which leads to more phone calls and more appointments because only the pastor can solve the problem. It becomes a vicious cycle which feeds our need to be needed. 
Here are some diagnostic questions we can ask ourselves. Can I separate who I am from what I do? Has the pastorate become my identity? If I were to leave the pastorate to do something else, would I feel unfulfilled and lost? Can I be open, admit mistakes, and ask forgiveness? Do I play games, use church politics, power plays, and manipulation? Can I share responsibility and credit with others, or do I have to have my finger in everything? Must others consult me in all church decisions?


We think that success in ministry proves we are capable pastors. The church is growing. Numbers are going up. Programs are working well. It is a performance mentality. The numbers validate our success. We measure success by external markers. After all, pastoral conferences ask the large church pastors to be the plenary speakers because they are successful. Our need to be successful like those pastors leads us to compare ministries. The comparisons frustrate us if we are not as successful, or they make us feel self-sufficient if we are doing better than others.
We can ask ourselves more diagnostic questions. Can I tell when I am no longer serving God but running an organization? Am I marketing myself as the image of the church? Do I run over people who block my goals? What would change in the church if I became disabled? Precisely what is happening in the church that God alone could do?


We can start to address the prioritizing issue by blocking our week into 21 blocks of time, morning, afternoon, and evening. Identify the essential activities and plug them into the blocks. These are the priorities we must complete. For example, sermon prep should fill the blocks first. It is usually better to do it early in the week so that we can adjust our schedule later for emergencies. Disciple-making, worship, and leadership development should be high priorities (Mt. 28:17-20). Plug in your plan for family time. I tried to avoid scheduling more than five blocks in a row without scheduling family time. Make sure to schedule a few blocks regularly for personal growth and visioning through prayer. As the saying goes, if you don’t make your schedule, your schedule will make you! We can become like Professor Hinkle in the children’s Christmas classic, Frosty the Snowman, saying “Busy! Busy! Busy!” as he rushes off at a frenetic pace to do important things.


Paul reminds us that the job of a servant is to be found faithful (1 Cor. 4:2). He makes it clear that he does not answer to the church nor any human organization. Paul does not even examine himself! We do not serve to meet their needs or our needs but Christ’s orders. Our boss is Jesus (1 Cor. 4:4-5). How we manage our time is measured by Him and Him alone. He is the only person we must please in ministry. I have a favorite mug that reminds me of my priorities. The saying on the mug reads:
“Lord, I have nothing to do today but to please you!”