Are you ready for September? I know, some of the organized types started planning for fall this last January. But if the pastors I speak to are representative, you’re not completely ready yet. When I was a pastor, I don’t think I was EVER completely prepared for September when it came. I always put off the hardest stuff (like stewardship!) until the last minute.
However, I’m a convert to planning and prioritizing. My friend, Sage Cohen, puts it this way in her wonderful new book on writing, Fierce on the Page:
“When you don’t know what’s most important, you can’t prioritize how to spend your time, you don’t know when you’ve met your goals, and you can literally end up working through the night—usually on the wrong project…Whatever is loudest or most uncomfortable or most important to someone else gets your attention first, and thus you remain in a cycle of doing instead of planning.”
Instead of staying in that cycle, take a little time and step back. Think about the time between now and Advent and map it out. Here are my favorite three steps to get the ball rolling.
- Look back. Review the last three months. Make a list of what you accomplished, and celebrate it. “Accomplished” here includes resting, watching the Olympics, camping, or whatever gave you joy this summer. And it includes work-related tasks you completed and any projects you did around the house. It’s important to take the time to claim the progress you’ve made. It will give you momentum for fall. (True confessions: I’ve been doing this myself this year, but in this quarterly planning cycle I forgot. I had to go back and do it. I got a burst of energy when I saw everything I did this summer, including taking three full weeks off the grid!)
- Look ahead. I just did this for myself, using my own Breathing Room: Create a 3-Month Ministry Plan. I wrote a purpose for the next three months, looked at the commitments I already have, and one or two additional projects I want to take on. THEN, I made my plan. Looking at the whole quarter helped me get a sense of what is realistic to add to my current schedule. It gave me a greater sense of control.
- Use your plan every week. I know how often church strategic plans end up in a file, untouched and inefficient. Personal plans can suffer the same fate. At the beginning of the week, get out your plan and take a look. Make a decision about how you can move your projects forward a little. You won’t carry out the plan 100%. That’s OK. You’ll get much farther with less effort than you would have without a plan.
Question for reflection: What do you want for the next 90 days?
Here’s to your next 3 months!
P.S. Need a bit more guidance for your next quarter? Check out my Breathing Room: Create a 3-Month Ministry Plan in 5 Sessions, and get my help to make this season your best yet.