An Ordinary Pastor’s Quarterly Planning
This week I will spend the better part of a morning reviewing major personal and ministry goals from the past three months and evaluating what I should focus on over the upcoming three months. I make these plans in theological pencil, recognizing that God riules over every detail in both the short and long term ““ I am desperate to avoid presumption (James 13-17). At the same time, I want to be wise and intentional about the life and ministry God has entrusted to me as a stewardship. So what will I do this Thursday morning in evaluation and planning.
Pray. This is more than an obligatory beginning step; it is a cry to an almighty God from a desperate heart that is deeply affected by His merciful grace, seeking wisdom and leadership from the one who is all-knowing. I dare not plan without a spirit of dependency, and dependency is deepened when I humble my heart in prayer.
Review my long-range goals. I base these on the providential roles I have (husband, father, pastor, etc), as well as key verses that describe God’s desires for me inch of these roles. Some of my roles have been broken down into additional categories (i.e., pastor: teacher, shepherd, staff supervisor, etc.). I often find myself revising these long-term goals, seeking greater clarity insight of providential circumstances, better understanding gained through the study of Scripture, the passing of time and gaining specific experience. My aim is to to be practical in how I apply God’s word in each of the roles God has blessed me.
Review my annual goals. Each year I have tried to think through what I can discern as being the most significant way I could make practical progress in my long-range goals within the span of the next year. I may make some adjustments here also. Again, I am aware that I am unaware of what may happen over the next year and how my life and circumstances can be rerouted within a moment”™s notice. But, I still have a sense in my heart that it is more faithful before God to be intentional (as far as it is up to me) with my efforts than to merely be reactive with how I spend my days.
Review the past quarter’s goals and progress. Every three months I look at my annual goals and ask what appears to be most important and achievable within the next three months. My aim here is to simply be purposeful in evaluating whether I am on the right track and how I am using my time. Each quarter”™s goals provide me with a specific focus that actually helps to drive what I tend to focus on each week and each day. I actually review these quarterly goals on a weekly basis and determine what I will do in a given week to accomplish them. This Thursday I will evaluate how things have progressed over the past few months. I write down my evaluations, what went well, where the key weaknesses are, and what adjustments need to be made. I try to be brutally honest with myself here.
Brainstorm goals for the upcoming quarter. I will most likely list as many as I can think of. However, I will narrow down, re-write, and settle on about four to six major goals over all. In my experience, more than this is rarely achievable. I would rather be focused on a few major issues and accomplish them well than spread thin over many objectives, accomplishing only a little in each.
Evaluate my weekly schedule. I have a general plan of how I will spend the majority of my time each week. For example, I generally set aside all day Wednesday for concentrated study in preparation for Sunday; Saturday mornings I try to focus on writing the sermon for Sunday. Monday mornings are given to time with the staff. Tuesdays and Thursdays are focused on ministry tasks, discipleship meetings, and serving the needs of the flock. Friday is my day off, etc. I will evaluate whether my current approach is the most effective way to organize my week.
Review these goals with others. I have chosen a number of people with whom I will share these quarterly goals. I want their input as to whether I am aiming to accomplish too much or perhaps too little. Do these goals seem the right place to pour my energies, or should I reconsider some issues and why. I need the accountability and appreciate the honest evaluation.
Plug the goals into my task management software. I use OmniFocus for managing my weekly planning and daily tasks. It is an electronic application of David Allen”™s principles in his book Getting Things Done. So, when I sit down at my desk each day, I have a confidence on where I need to start and what I should focus upon each day.
Pray. I may plan my way, but I am very aware that God directs my every step. I submit my plans to His beautiful sovereignty. He may choose to rewrite everything in the blink of an eye. I may find out one month in that I have planned the wrong things to focus upon. So I do prayerfully and humbly submit everything to God”™s ultimate direction. I am His slave and am ready to move as He directs.
So pray for me this Thursday morning as I pray and think about how to best serve God, my family, my church family, my neighbors, our community, and our culture at large. I want to be fruitful for His glory.
Michael Hyatt”™s article on Quarterly Planning stimulated my thinking on this subject and I have adapted some of his thoughts to my life and circumstances.