Stressed

PLAN OR DIE

Life is busy. Ministry life is even busier. Something I figured out in the first six months of being in pastoral ministry was that I was going to have to plan my week well, or die. And as my ministry load has steadily and dramatically increased over the years I’m more convinced than ever that having a “plan or die” mentality is essential to survival and effectiveness in the ministry. I’m so convinced of this that I not only plan out my schedule to the minute as much as possible every few months, but I also require all pastoral trainees at the church I lead to do the same in cooperation with their family when they start the training process. I figure it is better to learn early to plan by instruction than to figure it out through burnout and floundering ministry endeavors.

Below is a copy of one of my old daily schedules:

 

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
6-7AM: Morning Routine

 

7-8AM: Sermon Prep

 

8:30-2PM: Church

 

2:30- Evening: Family Time

8-9AM:

Morning Routine

 

9AM-Evening:

Family Day/Daddy Date

 

 

6-7AM: Morning Routine

 

7-7:30:

Exercise

 

7:30-8:15AM: Sermon Prep

 

8:15-6PM: Solitude

 

 

 

 

 

6-7AM: Morning Routine

 

7-7:30AM: Worship/Prayer

 

7:30-8AM: Exercise

 

8:15- 10:15: Sermon Prep/Writing

 

10:15-11:45: Admin/Systems

 

12-1PM: Lunch

 

1-6PM: Leader Follow-up

6-7AM: Morning Routine

 

7-7:30AM: Worship/Prayer

 

7:30-8AM: Exercise

 

8:15- 10:15: Sermon Prep/Writing

 

10:15-11:45: Admin/Systems

 

12-1PM: Lunch

 

1-4PM: Counseling Apps

 

4-6PM: Leadership Meeting/Fellowship

 

 

6-7AM: Morning Routine

 

7-7:30AM: Worship/Prayer

 

7:30-8AM: Exercise

 

8:15- 10:15: Sermon Prep/Writing

 

10:15-11:45: Admin/Systems

 

12-1PM: Lunch

 

1-6PM: Counseling Apps

 

7-8AM:

Morning Routine

 

8-10:

Family Time

 

10-12:

House Chores

 

12-1: Lunch

 

1-Evening:

Family Time

 

 

 

Some will look at that schedule and think I’m too loose with planning. Others will think I’m too extreme.

Here are a few benefits I’ve experienced from learning to plan my schedule this way:

 1. Stuff gets done

If I just try to swing at things “when I get around to it” I frequently find that I never really get around to it. I have to plan for the needed stuff to happen, or it won’t happen. But conversely, if most everything has a spot on the schedule, it gets done.

 2. I have more free time

That’s right, MORE free time. The counterintuitive thing I’ve learned about intensely detailed planning is that having a solid plan actually frees you instead of restricting you. The reason for this is that if I work on everything when I’m supposed to, for as long as I’m supposed to, I end up getting things done much quicker and more efficiently than I would if I did those same things when I felt I had a spare moment. For example, I have 7 hours and 45 minutes scheduled for sermon preparation time because that is an extremely important part of my job. But the reality is that it usually only takes me 2 to 4 hours to completely prepare for a sermon. So as I work diligently on my sermon during schedule times I end up getting it done, and the remaining sermon prep slots become free time to do other things. That is how detailed planning gives me more time instead of restricting me.

 3. My family is informed

The last benefit I’ll mention (though there are many more) is that planning this way blesses my family because it makes it easy for us to be on the same page day-to-day. Generally, my wife knows exactly what I’m doing and when I’m doing it if she wants. And my family knows that when dad’s working, he’s working. But they trust me with the busy times because they know I’m making scheduled times in which we invest in our family which are just for us a priority as well.

The truth is that our need/desire to plan comes from our being made in the image of God. Our God is an ordered God of planning. Jesus came to earth when “the fullness of time had come.”[1] God is not the author of confusion and chaos, but peace, rhythm, and harmony.[2] No wonder life is draining and unproductive when we approach it chaotically, without plan or intentionality. If you feel like you’re suffocating under the weight of responsibilities and lack of direction in what to do, that alarm in your mind might be the Holy Spirit exhorting you to plan or die.


[1] Gal. 4:4 NKJV

[2] 1 Cor. 14:33

12 replies
  1. Gunnar Hanson
    Gunnar Hanson says:

    Kellen,

    I saw your post earlier and thought I should chime in. I can’t believe no one else has commented! I give a hardy AMEN to this post! I am totally with you…in fact, I think my response is worthy of its own post! Stay tuned!

    Stay Steady (1 Cor. 15:58),
    Gunnar

    Reply
  2. Darren Colwell
    Darren Colwell says:

    As one of your pastoral trainees I can attest to the wisdom of planning. Now that it’s been six or more months since Kayla and I set a plan I can also attest to the need to revisit it more often than that. It can be hard to set the plan and it takes discipline to maintain it but the freedom and blessing that flow from that are much needed, even for someone just getting his feet wet in pastoral ministry. Thanks for the timely and wise word my friend.

    Reply
    • Kellen Criswell
      Kellen Criswell says:

      Thanks, Darren. I’m glad it has been helpful. I’ve seen the benefits in your family. Your an encouragement.

      Reply
  3. Tim Brown
    Tim Brown says:

    Hi, Kellen – I would have responded sooner, but my crossonnection response time is from 6:30 – 6:40 pm :). I am of the opinion that your schedule is quite extreme – but whatever works, and as you say, stuff gets done. My schedule is, I show up at the office at stuff gets done. Are you a Type A personality? I am a Type C- personality!

    Reply
    • Kellen Criswell
      Kellen Criswell says:

      I’m picking up on your sarcasm. 😉 I’d say a a few things in response:

      First, even though I’m intentionally regimented, I still allow for flexibility and the leading of the Holy Spirit. I believe in the proverb too: “Blessed are the flexible for they shall not break.” The above kind of schedule is where I start. If the Spirit brings up a clear need to divert from the path, I do. If He doesn’t, I stay the course. But I realize the above article doesn’t convey that insight about my routine. The key is that I plan first and go flexible second. I don’t plan in a reactionary sense.

      Second, I am not Type A, which is exactly why I need more structure. As a musician and creative type of person my tendency is to be more go with the flow, and far less organized. Thus, I need more guidelines to remind me to stay on task.

      Third, I am driven by the amount of irons in my fire. If I were only pastoring Refuge I’d have a less rigorous amount of scheduling. But I’m involved in such a vast amount of ministry outlets that more scheduling is required to get all of my responsibilities done. God is gracious and makes everything work out without killing myself, my family, or the ministries with which I’m involved. But a large practical reason for those results is starting with a detailed schedule, and seeking to bend to the daily leading of the Holy Spirit from there.

      Thanks again! I’ll have to look up what Type C actually means. :)

      Reply
        • Miles DeBenedictis
          Miles DeBenedictis says:

          I’m a type “Z” personality, with a little mix of “O”

          Just for reference…
          Type A – Competitive, driven, stressed, workaholic.
          Type B – Relaxed, patient, friendly.
          Type C – Reticent, unassertive, nice to a fault.
          Type D – Anxious, insecure, gloomy, depressed.
          Type E – High-achieving, perfectionist, everything to everybody.
          Type F – Prone to forwarding e-mail messages.
          Type H – Hostile, hateful.
          Type I – Egocentric.
          Type J – Orderly, neat.
          Type M – Melodramatic.
          Type O – Prone to making spelling mistakes.
          Type P – Persistent.
          Type R – Responsive.
          Type S – Doesn’t get enough sleep.
          Type T – Thrill-seeking.
          Type V – Plain, simple (vanilla).
          Type W – Wacko.
          Type X – Dominnering, tyrannical.
          Type Z – Extremely laid back (the “opposite” of a type A).

          Reply
  4. Tim Brown
    Tim Brown says:

    Kellen, you write: The key is that I plan first and go flexible second

    I like that! I am of the firm belief that any plan will work if you work the plan. I have no idea what a C- personality is except that it is anti-Type A. I just made it up. Or maybe it really exists.

    Reply
    • Kellen Criswell
      Kellen Criswell says:

      I looked it up. Type C is the worst of Types A and B. They seem to have an extreme inability to show emotion, and even discourage doing so. They can often be overwhelmed with fear and uncertainty to the point of such things crippling them from meaningful action. At least that’s what the always accurate Wikipedia tells me. If true, none of those things describe what I know of you based on our limited interaction. :)

      Reply
  5. Miles DeBenedictis
    Miles DeBenedictis says:

    I make it a point every Sunday evening to make a general map of my weekly calendar, but to be quite honest, aside from the standard immovables on my calendar (morning run, time for reading/message prep, staff/pastor’s meetings), I am fairly amazed at how little of what I plan to get done actually gets done during my week. I’ve come to realize that my ideal of what I’d like to see done is rarely a reality. That’s not to say that I don’t get a lot done, but for a number of years I’ve felt as though my life is a bit of a juggling act. Furthermore I’m amazed by how much of ministry at a senior pastor level is meetings. In addition, being that I am highly relational in how I minister, much of my “ideal plan” gets shifted when impromptu meetings/interactions happen. Fact is, I’m unable to exercise rigidity in my schedule and find myself regularly experiencing forced flexibility. My new philosophy is what I call chaotic efficiency 😉

    Reply

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