December 01, 2008

Thoughts on Planning a New Year

Written By Cary Schmidt

Taking a Good Look at 2009 Before It Begins

Over ten years ago, Pastor Chappell began having our leadership team at Lancaster Baptist Church prepare “ministry planners” for each new year. Our planner meeting is this week and our ministry leaders have spent a good amount of time in recent days preparing their planners. I think all of us would agree, this has become far more than an assignment. It has become an absolute essential for having a balanced life, effective ministry, and a far more productive year.

When we present the planners this week, they each will most likely be 50-100 pages—packed with vision, goals, projects, dates, and details. Working on this planner is one of my favorite projects of the year for several reasons:

Planning Ahead Ignites Fresh Vision and Passion. There’s something very exciting about asking God to enlarge your vision for your next twelve months of life. Asking the Holy Spirit to give you His heart and then writing down that vision really causes you to anticipate the future!

Planning Ahead Takes A Lot of Pressure Off. One of the keys for survival in a busy world is getting as many details out of your head as possible. The more time and energy (emotional and mental) that you spend “remembering things” the less time you can actually spend focused on what is most important in the moment. Creating an annual plan gets most of it out of your head and into a system—and that’s very energizing!

Planning Ahead Makes You More Productive and Effective. I would guess that the simple exercise of creating a plan helps us accomplish probably twice as much in a given year. Having a road-map makes the journey clear and the work more manageable and executable. Because you’ve thought through the details, you’re really able to give your best focus and energy to todays projects.

Planning Ahead Makes Family and Ministry Work Together in Balance and Harmony. A big part of my planner is my section on family. Creating the planner forces me to sit down with Dana and talk through every month of the year. In that appointment/date we look at every month in light of major events, school events, etc. With a Senior graduating this year, we looked even more closely at every month. In this exercise, the Lord allowed us to plan balance for our family as well as passion for ministry. We spent several hours on this and both came away a little emotional, but also very excited about all the opportunities ahead as we plan to serve the Lord and enjoy our family in the new year.

Planning Ahead Helps You Prepare for Busyness. Everybody has busy seasons of life, but too often those busy seasons catch us by surprise. They shouldn’t. Sometimes we’re too busy because we failed to plan. Other times, we’re busy by design—by God’s will. Having the whole year in view helps you see when the busy seasons will be and helps you plan for them before they arrive.

Planning Ahead Makes Room for the Unexpected. God is sovereign and just as sure as the sunrise, my life and ministry will be filled with things I could never have predicted. Crisis, urgent needs, and emergencies cannot be planned. But planning ahead actually makes you able to be more immediately responsive to the needs of the moment without losing your bearings on the big picture. Planning well actually enables you to step away from your plan to meet unexpected needs.

Maybe these thoughts will compel you to take some time, perhaps with your spouse, to sit down and plan your new year according to God’s will. Look at all of your roles and responsibilities and ask the Lord the help you put them on your calendar in appropriate proportions. Pastor Chappell said tonight, “What gets scheduled gets done.” That’s very true. If it’s not on your calendar, then it’s just not important to you—no matter how “warm and fuzzy” you feel about it.

We have about four weeks before another new year dawns. Now is a great time to lay out all twelve months before the Lord and make a plan that honors Him.

Psalms 90:12 says, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”