I can remember in the past, that long-range planning was a common topic. Organizations went to elaborate lengths to make 1 year, 5 year, and even 10 year and longer plans. Committees and Task Forces were formed and implemented. Something happened along the way to diminish the popularity of long-range planning. The rate of change, began to outpace even the best long-range plans. That’s not to say that long-range planning is completely obsolete in certain sectors of organizations or even specific aspects of organizations. However, ongoing planning particularly in churches, is much more dynamic than it was in past generations.
In our church for example, we plan on a weekly, quarterly, and annual basis. There are some major components like facilities and capital initiatives in which we project further out as much as three years. Typically though, we do not reach beyond one year for regular planning.
Our staff meets and discusses primary areas of focus on an annual basis and gets those on the calendar with input from ministry leaders. Then, we meet ahead of each quarter to plan the quarter to come. We started using The 12 Week Year by Brian Moran soon after it came out. I have found it to be an incredibly helpful framework. The annual and quarterly planning begins with repeat events and ongoing ministry activities and then narrows with more specificity to other events and ministries.
I typically look ahead at the week to come the Friday before. Sunday of course is the first day of the week but in church life it is particularly so. I start with the Sunday upcoming and then work my way through the week beyond that. I have always been a fairly organized person by nature, but putting things down on paper and in my digital calendar is of great benefit. It helps me to think in blocks of time and be proactive rather than reactive. In ministry a “regular schedule” is elusive because it is people intensive but if a leader is not careful they can be driven by a lot of outside agendas and not effectively accomplish the core tasks that must be done.
I have found planning to be valuable in several ways. Planning helps me guide my schedule according to core principles rather than what has been referred to as “the tyranny of the urgent.” It lessens my stress level because I am able to work through responsibilities methodically. Finally, it aids in progress and if you track what you are doing you will easily be able to see what you are accomplishing.
Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying, “By failing to plan, you are preparing to fail.”