April 14, 2010

The Hidden Values of Preparation

Written By Cary Schmidt

Have you ever conducted an event that was ill-prepared? Have you ever been disorganized or caught off guard in some ministry environment? There’s nothing worse than being thrown off balance by a lack of preparation.

I could fill the pages of a book with tough lessons learned through a lack of preparation. Even after years of learning the hard way, I still get bit by this at times.

There’s a side of preparation we don’t usually think of—benefits that are not readily apparent. Whether you are leading a church service, a youth activity, or a Sunday School class—your preparation produces something in the group you lead. These are what I would call the “hidden values” of preparation.

Everybody values the event or environment more—when somebody arrives at your environment and finds things ready, their respect and value for what is happening skyrockets. If you want people to value the Bible lesson, then have the room perfectly prepared. If you want someone to respect teen camp, then have the buses filled with gas and ready to go. If you want someone to value the church service, have the outline well-prepared and the music well-rehearsed. Flying by “a wing and a prayer” is always obvious—and it causes people to naturally lower their value of that specific environment.

Everybody has higher expectations—because good preparation raises everybody’s value, it also raises expectations. When people arrive at a well-prepared ministry environment, they naturally expect more, anticipate more, and raise their level of awareness. And when it comes to teaching or preaching, that’s a GREAT thing!

Everybody responds at a higher level—people behave differently in a well-prepared environment than in a poorly prepared one. Put a group in a well-prepared environment and they will more naturally come to order, respond to leadership, listen with the heart, and interact well. Take the same group and place them in a poorly prepared environment and you will have a tough time getting the group to focus and respond. You may even have a tough time bringing the group to order at all.

Everybody benefits from added value—the bottom line, a well-prepared event or environment delivers more. Because of preparation, you put more time into the study, more thought into the decor, more effort into the creative dynamics. Because of early preparation, you had more time to make the whole event or service a better experience. As a result, people walk away with much more!

This works with children at home—children tend to feel more agitated in a home that is disorderly, but they behave better in a well-kept home.

This works with teens—young people intuitively sense if something is well-prepared, so they listen better, expect more, and have higher respect for what’s happening.

This works at work—team members are more productive and better co-laborers when they have decent work environments and the right equipment.

This works at church—an entire congregation is more receptive to teaching and preaching when the rest of the service, including the bulletins and pre-service set up, is well-prepared and in order before they arrive.

This past week I had one of those “well duh!” moments. For years our youth conference has had open seating with the doors opening an hour before service, at which time there’s a mad rush for seats. Some months ago we began wrestling with what to do and decided to reserve seating for every group. It took a lot of logistical work to make it happen, but every conference delegate was assigned a seat at registration. I was shocked by the results.

People arrived at a reasonable time, rather than an hour early. They arrived in a relaxed state of mind, went to their seats, and were able to enjoy the prelims without frenzy or frustration. As a result, the entire congregation was calm, responsive, and orderly throughout the entire week! It was like someone had literally zapped the stress and tension from the room. The excitement was still there, minus the negative experience of scrounging for seats. This one decision of preparation impacted the entire conference!

When you go to the extra effort of preparation, everybody wins!

For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: (Titus 1:5)