The Sprint vs. The Marathon: Pacing yourself through the seasons of ministry

Everyone may be feeling a little out of control at this time, it’s hard not to, the holidays are crazy, it’s cold outside and it’s flu season.  It’s easy to get knocked off your routine, to have your schedule get out of whack because you are feeling rundown or pulled.  If there ever was a time where pacing was important it would be now.  But when it comes to pacing you need to know what you are running.  In a sprint, the distance is shorter so it should be easier to maintain a fast paced schedule.  In a marathon, you’ll need to scale back a bit and take into consideration how you are going to maintain a consistent pace for the long haul.
I know I’m using running terms, but in fact I’m talking about ministry, because pacing is just as important in ministry as it is in running.  During times like these it’s important to remember that maintaining a pace is going to help us through the busy and restful seasons.  This is how it’s done:

  • For the Sprint (aka busy season): Your schedule is more like a check list.  Create a list 1-5 (or 10 depending on how busy it is) of small to big tasks that you need to accomplish.  Focus on the list and the list alone.  The reason you start with something small is because you want to build on the momentum of wins…a small task is easy to accomplish.  With running something small is focusing on one foot in front of the other, in ministry something small might be returning a phone call.  Make that list and bust through it.
  • For the Marathon (aka slow season):  Create a path for the bigger projects such as budgeting, retreats, camps, etc. I feel like there are a lot of us who wait until two weeks before an event to really start planning it, in this scenario it’s like blowing all your steam at the beginning of the race, you are going to burn out with a whole year ahead of you.  I think the reason we fall in that trap is because it’s not always fun to work on something a year away, but it’s important to do, it’s going to allow you to think things out, take the time to look at different vendors, do cost analysis, etc.

The Sprint vs. The Marathon: 
With a marathon you want to create more margin, because in the sprint your going to use it.  With the marathon you want to be a health nut, because the sprint is going to use it. With the sprint you want to keep your desk cleared, you want to take care of things right away so that there is no build up in your inbox or voice mail.  In the marathon you want to day dream, in the sprint it’s about being practical, focused and staying to a hard agenda.
Ministry is much like a race, you just need to know what kind you are in, so that you know how to approach it.  Every couple of weeks take a moment to decide, “Am I in a Sprint or Marathon?”
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