Alan Briggs: Practical or Spiritual?

Leading meetings. Combing through emails. Making split-second decisions. Launching new projects. Syncing team schedules. Making lists.

These tasks feel like the unspiritual stuff of ministry, right? It’s what you just have to do so you can move on to the “real” stuff. 

Or so I thought. 

After many years of living in this false dichotomy, I found myself getting swallowed by the practical and what I considered “unspiritual” tasks. Somehow I never got to the good things. I was doing subpar work, and it was wearing me down.

The gap between spiritual work and practical needs feels like a chasm for many ministry leaders. Somewhere between the Excel spreadsheets and the monthly receipt-tracking ritual, we lose perspective. We have to remember that it is all God’s, the work is all spiritual, and we are all stewards. There are souls on the other side of those emails, there is transformation on the other side of those projects, and there are opportunities to bless on the other side of those details.

I love helping ministry leaders uncover this reality: The ministry life is a series of little practical details. That’s where the battle against the daily grind is won. That’s where we prioritize the important things. That’s where we get healthy. That is where we say yes to the things God wired us to do. These little decisions have the ability to keep us refreshed or burn us out. Tools and rhythms help us organize our lives around the important, dare I say deeply spiritual, things.

This is an extremely complex season to live and lead through, but every leader can simplify their life. Here are four areas of focus to help you plan the practical pieces of your days and weeks.

  1. Your Schedule 

Plan your schedule proactively ahead of time each week to incorporate family, rest, hobbies, leadership development, discipleship and preaching prep. The rest can get scheduled around these important things.

  1. Your Decisions

Create a prioritized grid for your decisions so you don’t have to make so many split-second decisions. (Decision fatigue is real.)

  1. Your Communication 

Designate blocks in your day or week for answering emails and texts thoughtfully so you don’t feel captive to your phone or laptop computer. 

  1. Your Yeses and Your Nos

Commit to what you will say yes and no to ahead of time for each season. What you decide to do—and not do—will likely depend on the season of life, ministry and your family.

Don’t believe the lie that the way things are going now is just the way it is always going to be in ministry. You have the ability to make decisions that change your outlook, your ministry and your church. Yes, the burden can be light.

Alan Briggs, an Outreach magazine contributing editor, helps leaders avoid burnout, get healthy and reach more impact. He coaches leaders, consults with teams, curates leadership experiences and creates life-altering content alongside his team at Stay Forth Designs. He also co-hosts Right Side up Leadership Podcast. He has been a pastor, church planting catalyst, author and entrepreneur.

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