A lot of pastor work is project work: plan a retreat, prepare weekly worship, orchestrate a capital campaign, craft a safe child policy, and so on (A lot of pastor work, mostly the care part of the vocation, is decidedly un-project like, too). Projects are made up of tasks.

You can Get Things Done by keeping a master list of your projects in your Bullet Journal, where you also record notes and track task progress toward their achievement. This has been my system for about five years now.

But a vocation is more than a project list. It is a calling, a mission of pursuing Great Ends like, for Presbyterians, exhibiting the Kingdom of Heaven to the world and proclaiming the gospel. Every project on our list ought to align with a great end of our mission.

In between great ends and projects, though, there is something else: buckets. A great end like “eliminating homelessness” does not lead automatically to a project like “organize a bake sale fundraiser.” The project fits in a bucket of work that contributes to achieving the mission. In the case of this example, it’s a fundraising bucket. Eliminating homelessness requires the raising of money, and a bake sale is just one project in that bucket.

Great ends are job-specific, probably the first sentence of your job description. Here’s mine: “planning, coordinating and implementing ministry programs that focus on the spiritual care and faith exploration for youth in grades 6-12.” There’s a bunch of buckets in there, from recruiting and developing volunteer leaders to leading mission trips and retreats. There are projects swirling around each bucket: plan this year’s spring Confirmation retreat; write bulletin and website literature describing opportunities to volunteer with youth.

We need to get clear on our buckets. If we’re not paying attention, the buckets we’re most comfortable working from will be empty, while the ones we’re less confident with will be spilling over with neglected work.

Which bucket are you pulling from today?

2 thoughts on “Buckets

  1. Helpful post because I find the distinction between buckets and projects helpful. I find in my weekly review that there have always been the two – some projects that have a terminus and others, what you call buckets, that don’t have a terminus because they are just part of my job. Preaching is a bucket; a sermon is a project. Might need to adjust my review to introduce “buckets”. Thanks.

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