Few areas of ministry cause as much (unnecessarily) guilt and frustration as the personal accessibility of a pastor or minister. Granted, Christian ministry is people-focused and people-intensive, but does this give church members the right to declare "open season" on the time and availability of staff members?

Should the shepherd be the constant (captive) companion of the sheep? When does accessibility become "excessibility"? Before wading into these deep-water issues, let's clarify a few things about what accessibility does and does not mean.


Complete each statement below by circling either response A or B:


My time belongs to:
A. Others
B. Me.


I know I've used my time effectively when:
A. I have been efficient.
B. I've accomplished my goal or purpose.


I'm most productive when:
A. I'm alone.
B. I'm on a carefully planned schedule.


I'd be more productive if:
A. I had more time.
B. I had fewer interruptions.


The more accessible I am:
A. The harder it is to be productive.
B. The less efficient I am.

Did you get them all right? Actually, none of the above answers are "right." They reflect common misconceptions about time and hence our accessibility to others. Consider each question from a different perspective:

Two keystone principles of pastoral accessibility emerge: God is always accessible to you; and you must strive to always to accessible to God.


God never runs out of time, patience, or energy, but people sure do. God is always accessible to you, but you can't always be accessible to others. This simply means you're going to have to manage your pastoral accessibility, and that begins with establishing priorities for those whom you are going to serve. But what sort of priorities?

A simple but effective technique for formulating service priorities is to draw a target with four rings. Each ring represents a different priority level for serving others, hence different levels of being accessible to others. But this target works just the opposite of what you're used to: the rings decrease in importance as you move to the center.

The target's outer rings are the most accessible (less covered by other rings), analogous to the people who should have greatest accessibility to you (those God is trying to reach through you). Each successive inner ring is relatively less accessible, analogous to the people who don't need as much accessibility to you.

Shepherds must spend more time with some sheep than others, depending upon their unique, individual needs. All the sheep in the flock are cared for, but not in the same way. Here are four categories (target rings) of priorities (in descending order) for serving others:

Strive to be most accessible to those who are most accessible to serving others. Since servanthood is the goal of Christian ministry, it must be the determining factor of pastoral accessibility.


How often have you fallen into the trap of over-investing your precious time and energy into people-intensive activities that have little fruit-bearing potential? Too many pastors equate accessibility with highly personalized one-on-one contact and thus inefficiently squander a lot of time and energy meeting with people on mostly routine matters.

In seeking to optimally manage your accessibility to others, never lose sight of the fact that people are the purpose of all ministry. It's much better to be over-accessible than under-accessible when it comes to people. Only God can attain 100 percent efficient time management, and he has all the time in the world for each of us!





Seven Deadly Sins of Accessibility Management

  • Being equally accessible to everyone, regardless of their needs.
  • Failing to communicate office hours to let others know when you are most accessible.
  • Using your office as the sole place to meet with others. (Other settings may make more efficient use of your time, especially for routine exchanges.)
  • Using your computer or typewriter for correspondence when a quick handwritten note will suffice
  • Making all responses in person. (Sometimes feedback can be delegated or handled in an impersonal, but appropriate, manner.)
  • Failing to "pass the buck" to other staff or leaders on matters under their ministry jurisdiction.
  • Feeling guilty about telling others no.


Degrees of Accessibility

Most Accessible

Least Accessible

  • One-on-one scheduled meeting.
  • Scheduled meeting with more than one person.
  • "Open door" office hours (availability to people on a first-come, first-serve basis during set hours).
  • Responding to incoming phone calls when you're in the office.
  • Returning calls to others.
  • Spontaneous "hallway conversations" with others.
  • Delegating assistants to communicate with others whenever feasible.
  • Responding to written messages from others.
  • Reading written messages from others.
  • One-way communication with a large group of people (pulpit announcements, etc.).