What’s going to happen? It’s a question on the minds of many in relation to the ever-mutating virus, politics, church life, you name it. Despite the uncertainty, leaders still have to make decisions and move forward. So—what do you do when you are the leader of a church or other group? Spending months on five-year strategic planning—or even planning for three years—is not the best use of time right now for many churches. After the last two and a half years of uncertainty, who even knows what will be true a year from now?
Here’s what I’ve been doing, and what I recommend to others: focus on the next 90 days. It’s manageable. And while unexpected things may happen within the 90 days—witness the first quarter of 2020!—it’s still a period of time you can get your mind around more easily.
Susan Beaumont in “How to Lead When You Don’t Know Where You Are Going” (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019, p. 126), quotes author and church consultant Gil Rendle: “...people need a proximate purpose: the next appropriate piece of work, the next necessary difference that a person or people believe God seeks in their lives or in their community.” Beaumont adds, “Clarity of focus about our next few steps is more important than a fuzzy picture of an unrecognizable destination.”
This is what I’ve found valuable: to consider not “What am I going to do about the future of the church/our church/my life?” but “What is the next appropriate piece of work?” As my mother used to say, “Just do the next thing.” That was helpful when I was 15 and overwhelmed by homework, and it’s still helpful.
In one of my 90-day planning sessions for clergy, one pastor described the process as redirecting his attention from the cosmic level to the ground level. The cosmic level has value, but the ground level is where things happen, where decisions are made, and action is taken.
Fall is a great time to experiment with this. Take a moment to step back and ask, “What is my purpose through the end of the year?” The answer may be “reconnect with God day to day in my work.” Or, “partner with our leaders to handle the big budget crisis.” Or, “connect with people in this new place.”
Then ask, “What are some ways I can live that out through these next couple of months?” Experiment with just one or two things you can do to live out that purpose. Less is more. For example, if you want to reconnect with God day to day in your work, you could simply pray through your calendar when you review it, and pause for a minute of prayer at lunchtime.
You will also have to make room for routine tasks, some of which will be related to your purpose and some of which aren’t. Even if your purpose is, “Reconnect with God day to day in my work,” you will still have to wash some dishes.
2023 will come, and with it some expected and unexpected gifts and challenges. In the meantime, I suggest just focusing on these 3 months.
Here are five questions to consider:
- What is your purpose for the next 90 days? It doesn’t have to be perfect, and you can change it if it’s not working.
- What will you do to live out that purpose? Make a list of some ideas, then choose just one or two ways.
- How will you do it, specifically? Make a super-simple plan.
- Who will help you? We all need partners and support people.
- When will you do it (especially, when will you start)? Put it on the calendar.
And may you have a blessed 90 days ahead.
Rev. Margaret Marcuson helps ministers do their work without wearing out or burning out, through ministry coaching, presentations, and online resources.
Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash