Church planting requires a level of flexibility that many are uncomfortable with. Things happen. On Sunday morning, the elementary school that you use for worship services has decided to do some construction, or you find out that your only drummer on the worship team blew his knee out playing badminton. You have to roll with the punches and be able to handle about a thousand crises at the same time.
However, the flipside of that is you have to have a plan. Many who naturally love reactionary environments are not very good planners. This was me when I was in school. I would put off writing a paper until the very last minute, and then I would cram and write as much as I could. I didn’t proofread what I wrote. I just turned it in to get it done. In church planting and probably ministry in general, it’s very easy to get sucked into fighting the urgency monster. The urgency monster is the thing that you feel like you need to tackle immediately. It’s the report that needs to be turned in a week ago. The family who had an issue with another family that needs to be worked out. It’s the sermon that needs to be finished or started for Sunday, and it’s already Saturday.
Whatever it is, you get the picture, but here are several truths about the urgency monster.
1. Others will determine the importance of your schedule even if you don’t.
The thing about the urgency monster is that it determines what your schedule is. Therefore, when others have “important” things, they become your urgent things that you must accomplish. If you have already planned out your week, you determine your schedule and the things that are most important. You need to make sure that your sermon is not an afterthought for Sunday. Good planning will make sure that you tackle it ahead of time.
2. Good planning is good stewardship.
In the New Testament, the theme of stewardship is talked about again and again. This is more than just what do we do with the money. This is about taking everything we’ve been given and using it the best for the kingdom of God. Everything is a resource. This is why we take care of our bodies in good fitness. It’s why we try to make sound financial decisions. It also means we should be good stewards of our time, but if we are letting the urgency monster take over, we are not being good stewards of time.
3. Planning requires planning.
In order to be a better planner, you have to plan to plan. Instead of taking the first part of your week to put out fires, take the first part of your week and set it aside for planning out your week. Meet with any staff you have. Plan out your service for the next Sunday. Have actionable steps and a roadmap so you know what’s going on throughout the week. Plan your calendar for upcoming events. In order to plan well, you have to prepare for planning. It doesn’t just happen.
4. The urgent thing is mostly the unimportant thing.
Many times, the urgent thing that comes up is often not the most important thing you should be doing. Sometimes, people will come to you with perceived crises that are not really crises. They will feel like their world is falling apart because of their level of worry, but it really isn’t as big of a deal as they are making it out to be.
Many of the important things are easy to neglect because they aren’t urgent. They don’t have a timestamp waiting to expire. It’s the new person who visits your church that you should make time to go sit down with over coffee. It’s planning out your sermon calendar six months ahead of time. It’s making time to help mentor a new follower of Jesus. It’s investing in a leader. All of these things are very important, but they might not seem important because they’re not urgent. Urgency looks like busyness, but busyness doesn’t always mean productiveness. Basically, you can spend all your time doing urgent things and not actually achieve anything of value or any desired results.
5. Urgency leaves you waiting for disaster.
The pastor who spends all his time only working on urgent things becomes a first responder waiting to respond to the crises at hand. However, pastors are shepherds which means they are leading and guiding to still waters. They’re not always fighting off wolves. We have to be more than reactive. We need to be proactive. Instead of waiting until a volunteer calls in sick, plan a sub list for volunteers to call when they can’t make it. Put systems in place to fight against what might happen or could happen.
6. Handling the important things first puts more brainpower to bigger decisions.
No matter how hard you try, urgent things will always come up. And, sometimes, urgent things are also important things. But, to fight against the lack of time, do the most important things on your task list first. That means, don’t wait around until the last minute. In the last minute, urgent things will come up, so take care of the important-but-not-urgent things first.
When you spend most of our time putting out fires, it’s hard to put on your creative long-term planning hat. You’re spent mentally, and it becomes incredibly tough to make big decisions on important tasks.
7. A lack of planning is not “relying on the Spirit.”
Sometimes, you’ll hear the pastor before he gets up to preach that he had something to say, but God told him to say something differently at midnight or that Sunday. I don’t mean to take away from what the Holy Spirit is saying or not saying, but many of the pastors who say this also are not very good at planning. Could it be that “relying on the Spirit” is really an excuse for laziness?
When Nehemiah plans to build the wall, it requires pulling together lots of men, plans, and approval of the Persian king.
If the Holy Spirit truly does impress upon you a change in plans last minute, make sure it really is the Holy Spirit and not wishful thinking. It’s very easy to act upon our own feelings and desires and stamp them with the “Holy Spirit’s leading.”