Work “On It,” Not In It

I was in a PaCE group meeting recently and someone shared they were thankful for their summer schedule which was less busy. Amen! I pray for rest and breathing room for all of our pastors and leaders this summer.

I also know that once another year of ministry starts in the fall all of our schedules will explode. Our to-do lists are full of so much more than worship preparation and pastoral care. With the fall come Bible studies, pancake breakfasts, mission trip informational sessions, small groups, youth activities, church meetings and more.

Working in all the busyness during the school year makes the summer the ideal time to work “on it,” as Andy Stanley outlines in “7 Practices of Effective Ministry.” Working on it means looking at the big picture. Working on it means stepping back to look at the whole forest, instead of being lost in the middle of all the trees. Working on it means being proactive to plan for and shape the next year of ministry, rather than reacting to each crisis, change and unexpected event.

Here are three ways to work on our worship ministries this summer, instead of being caught up in them:

  1. Clarify questions about the big picture. What are we planning for the coming year? How do our programs work together? Do they make sense? Who else can help? What don’t we need to do anymore? What are the amazing opportunities this year? If you have active volunteer leaders or staff, invite them into the conversation. Take a retreat, or get together for a cook-out, or buy them lunch. Dream together about everything God could do through your church in the year to come.
  2. Plan sermon series in advance. High functioning teams plan a majority of sermon series for the following year in the summer. That isn’t always possible, but the summer is a great time to make a plan for what you’ll be preaching for the fall. As we work further ahead, we can engage music directors, visual artists, and other creative members of the congregation to prepare special elements for the fall kick-off, Thanksgiving, or advent. Write outlines for each series that include dates, a title, scripture verses and important themes.
  3. Set a schedule for the worship committee/arts committee. A great worship arts meeting schedule includes both dates and agenda items. Have clear creative outcomes for each meeting. Know how far in advance you need to brainstorm so that your team is able to prepare everything. Make time to talk about the logistics of implementing your plans. Get detailed, for example:  in the September meeting brainstorm the November stewardship series and Thanksgiving service. In October brainstorm advent series and consider outreach by inviting friends and sending postcards.

In churches, we work for the busy seasons. But I want to encourage you to work on the big picture this summer. Whether you take a short personal retreat, have extra lunch sessions with the church staff and key volunteers, or just put “work on it time” into your calendar, don’t miss this opportunity to do some big-picture thinking. Then celebrate what’s coming at your “Fall Kick-Off!”