A Case for Why Pastors Should Wake Up (Super) Early

Your wake up time shapes your day and success.

When do you get out of bed? Do you attack the day or sleep until the last minute? This leaves you playing catch up the rest of the day.

Pastors have important jobs. If we believe what we claim in our theology, then we should rise each day with an urgency to our labors for the kingdom. There are people waking up early to get after things that are important, but we believe nothing surpasses the worth of preaching the gospel and leading in the local church.

Early Risers

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, wakes up at 3:45am. The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) is at the gym by 4am. PepsiCO CEO, Indra Nooyi, is up at 4am. The former Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, is awake and starting his day by 4:30am. Ellevest CEO and co-founder, Sallie Krawcheck, starts her day at 4am. Former General Stanley McChrystal begins his daily routine with a wake-up call of 4am.

This is a short list of successful people, in many diverse fields, who get out of bed early to start their day. While I respect the work the people mentioned above are doing, their work does not compare to the work pastors and ministry leaders are doing each day. Eternities are on the line. Are we convinced our work has less value than these people? Where is our motivation and urgency to attack the day?

Get Up

Pastors should get up early – super early. Why? We have so many things on the task list each day to stay spiritually vibrant, physically healthy, and push forward the missions of our churches. If you are late to drag out of bed, as a pastor, it leaves you with three choices for spending time with the Lord: do it during work hours, do it on family hours, or don’t do it. None of these are great options. But those are options when we stay in the bed. Getting up sets into motion a productive day.

Proverbs 6:10-11 says, “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.” What poverty? Spiritual poverty. Financial poverty. Relational poverty. Leadership poverty. Failing to get out of bed and get the day going is a losing choice that domino-effects into more wrong choices that brings poverty to your doorstep to whip you worse than Tyson did Peter McNeeley.

My Routine

I set my alarm for 4:30am, but I am up before it goes off between 3:45am – 4:30am. I know I have until 6am before waking up the kids and helping my wife get them ready for school. So what do I do between 4am – 6am? I use an acronym to guide my actions: P.R.O.W.L.

P – Pray. I make my coffee and pray. Prayer is vital for our spiritual health.

R – Read. I read the assigned passages for the day on my Bible reading plan. I read a theology book and leadership book. Ten to fifteen minutes on each one is enough, then I go to the next one. I make progress each day.

O – Organize. I take a few minutes to organize my schedule and tasks for that day and week. I am a firm believer that the daily actions you engage in determines your success. The trap most pastors fall into is we don’t prioritize the most important things for us to be doing and we fail to organize our schedules around those priorities. I take this block of time to organize my day for greatest impact.

W – Workout. I go for a run and then do 30 minutes of weight training. Choose your own routine. Go for a walk. Do pushups. Just do something. It will help you make good food choices throughout the rest of the day. Nobody craves donuts after working out.

L – Lead. The end of my workout begins my day. Now time to lead. It is time to be the leader my family needs me to be. It is time to be the leader my church needs me to be. Before 6am, I spent time in prayer, reading, organized myself, and worked out. Now I can get after it.

Ditch the Excuses

Your inner-lawyer is going through the reasons you can’t adopt a routine like this. But the truth is: you can. Ditch the excuses. It starts with getting out of the bed. Yes, the bed feels good and cozy when the alarm sounds. You will find 100 self-justifying reasons to sleep longer. Tell your feelings to be quiet. It won’t take but a few minutes and those feelings will fade. Win the battle, and it prepares you to attack the day.

What we do matters. I cannot overstate it. May we live like it has eternal importance. May we get out of bed and get on the PROWL.

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