I was on my way to Encinitas beach a while ago (Southern California near San Diego). I had planned on bringing my “sponge” (surfer lingo for a boogie board) with me so that I could catch a few waves prior to a meeting I needed to attend. I hadn’t been surfing in quite some time so I was “stoked” about having some moments to relive the glory of my youth. When I got up for my drive to the surf session, I couldn’t contain myself with excitement. Then it hit me…I wasn’t properly prepared. In my enthusiasm to get out of town, I hadn’t spent the amount of time that was needed to make the day happen. Yes, I had my board and I had a car to get to the beach…what I didn’t have was the rest of the stuff I would need to make the day what I had hoped it would be. I forgot to bring my wetsuit and I grabbed the wrong swim fins. So, in a matter of moments, my excitement turned into frustration.
Most of us who take Kingdom work seriously are planners. Jesus followers tend to be driven by passion, inspiration and enthusiasm to do the will and mission of God. That is the way that the Holy Spirit works. But if you are like me, my enthusiasm often drives me to be more impulsive than strategic in accomplishing what I believe needs to be accomplished. It’s the only way to combat that oft times irresponsible spontaneity. Consequently, planning needs to be a part of the DNA of who we are. We need to have a detailed enough plan to be able to launch and live Kingdom priorities in a fruitful manner. Even so, before you plan, plan on planning. In other words, before you plan, before you sit down with a blank sheet of paper praying for creativity and the envisioning “muse” to lead you, don’t end up at the “beach filled with frustration.”
Here are a few suggestions:
1 – Before you plan, make sure you set aside ample time. Your ally in planning is time. You need time to be your friend. You need a lot of it. You need it be time when you are at your best. You need time without distractions. You need time where you actually struggle a bit with boredom. When I’ve been tempted to get bored or distracted during my planning times, I find that I am just at the cusp of a good idea or perspective. If you are not pacing a room, or tempted to call it quits, or looking for an excuse to do something else, you probably have not set aside enough time to plan.
2 – Before you plan, prepare for your time. I have discovered that almost all of my times of planning and strategizing rose or fell based upon my preparation. In other words, ask yourself the question, “What will be the focus of my plan?” Is this a plan for YOU? Your church? Your ministry? Your schedule? Your family? Is this plan going involve anything specific in YOU, your church, ministry, schedule, or family? Do you need any documents, computer files, minutes from meetings, notes or journal entries you’ve made where you may have scratched out a few ideas that you need access to as you plan? What books or articles you’ve read recently would you want to refer to as you put together a plan? I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve sat down to do some planning and strategizing and have gotten frustrated because I didn’t bring something that I needed for that session. It might sound redundant but it is helpful to remember that you need to plan for your planning.
3 – Before you plan, ask yourself, “Who are the people in my life that this plan will affect? Do they need to be part of this planning process?” This is a factor that you need to take seriously. All of Kingdom planning is “community” planning. In other words, just as our lives in Jesus are a relational journey so is the formulation of a strategy. We don’t plan in isolation. You may think you do but every plan or strategy that you devise has relational implications. And, as we are apt to do, don’t let your enthusiasm for a plan divorce you from the obvious need for relational feedback and accountability. The worst plans I’ve implemented are the plans where my “killer” idea was launched in a relational vacuum.
4 – Before you plan, get a Coach. I’ve been intrigued over the years with the idea of having a personal “board of directors,” that being, a select group of people who were invested in me, the vision and mission that I adhere to for my life. I’m still striving toward that goal. But in the meantime, what I’ve discovered of late is the INVALUABLE asset of having a COACH as a vital part of my life. In actuality, my COACH has been my personal “board” over the past months giving me piercing feedback, wise counsel, priceless perspective and appropriate life challenge to make the changes, plans and strategies that I need to make. At FIVE-TWO we are “big” on the value of coaching. If you don’t have one, get one. Planning and strategizing that is not consistent with who you are, your mission for your life and an “incarnation” of your deepest dreams and aspirations will bound to be flat and ineffective over time.
5 – Before you plan, ask yourself, “Is this plan going to include some change? In me? In my organization?” Any plan that instigates change needs to have clarity on what dynamics you will be facing when any change is actualized. I’ve been “obsessed” with studying the dynamics of change and the fluidity of organic systems. Churches are living organisms impacted by change. From fear to anticipation, from disillusionment to renewal, change dynamics will affect your plan. If you need a good read to build your knowledge of what you face in change, read ANYTHING by John Kotter and/or the Heath book, Switch OR the Starfish and the Spider. Know these dynamics well and your plan will be served well. 6 – Before you plan, read the book, Five (Zadra, Dan. Five. Seattle: Compendium. 2009. ISBN 978-1-932319-44-6). Reminding me again that you can teach “old dogs new tricks,” a friend of mine bought this book for me and serendipitously placed in my hands. I’ve been working my way through it for over a week. I find it to be a book that asks the right questions that will provide a helpful framework for your planning. One question that is very helpful is this, “Is your planning consistent with your long-range plan?” Short term plans are good but NOT good if contextually out of synch. Good planners are contextual planners…they know how today will fit in with the flow of history and the visions of the future.
Again, don’t embark on your planning journey without a plan for your journey! Simple…obvious but profound!