I read somewhere that effective pastors should spend some huge percentage of their time in planning and visioning (can’t remember exact number, only that it was huge). I feel like I hardly ever plan or vision in the big picture sense, but mostly just triage each new thing as it comes at me. As for worship planning, after 5 years in one call, I feel like I'm just beginning to get a handle on looking ahead a very little. I'm a solo pastor of small but healthy and slowly growing congregation. So my question is, do you agree with the premise? should I be spending more time in planning/visioning? And if you are a planner, can you describe what your planning process looks like -either for worship, or for other programs/projects of the church, or for the overall mission of the organization?
I think planning and visioning should be proportional to the size of your congregation and mission of the community you serve. A larger parish needs a great deal more planning because there are often more people involved --not just staff but volunteers. Smaller congregations often have a life of their own. My first years in ministry were involved in 'triage' too. It also involved what I thought the ministry of the parish 'should' be rather than allowing myself to see the ministry that was already there. But that too was at a different time in the Church.
I think today in a small parish I would focus on what it means to belong, how that belonging forms community and how that community proclaims the love of Christ by loving one another. In smaller parishes and also my own ENFP personality, I would spend a great more time 'intuiting' rather than planning or visioning. My sermons were always about a vision--and the people of the parish need to do the visioning. It is empowering them to 'dream dreams and see visions' that is the work of a pastor. That work is quite informal. It is having coffee with the key leaders and dreaming with them that I found the most helpful. It is the glue of the faith centered community. And empowering them to tell you what's 'wrong' with your vision. Laugh a bunch!
I am always a bit leery of hard and fast dictums from 'experts' or even 'matriarchs'. Some dreaming and even planning has to be done--you can't just shoot from the hip. But allow your own personality and your skills to dictate what you need to be doing. It is the integrity of your faith that speaks so loudly in small parishes. If you are slowly growing in today's church--you are doing something right. And in small parishes it is the faith of the pastor that often speaks the most eloquently to her parishioners.
Five years is about the time that you 'catch up' in a parish and the parish is ready to trust their 'new' pastor. Try some of your ideas on your folk and let them test them. You will only learn by doing.
And Sharon at Tidings of Comfort and Joy offers:
Because my personality type (MBTI = INFP) is about the most un-planning-est personality type there is, it would deplete me to have to spend "huge percentages" of my time planning. So, I encourage you to be true to your own pastoral style and personality as you find your own comfort level with planning.
Here's just about the only structured planning I do: On a fairly regular basis, I plan congregational worship for an entire liturgical season. My "method" -- if it can be called that -- is to create a table in a computer document and put each worship service for the season in its own row down the first column. For each worship service, the first column in that row has the the date & day (Nov. 28/Advent 1) and special events that day (Communion, Baptism, Mother's Day). The second column lists the scriptures we will use that day. The third column has initial thoughts and references and music / hymns (it's a wider column!). It's a highly adaptable model!
I also offer this link to an Alban Institute article that came this week, all about the pastor's role in leading a congregation to make plans: Planning Assumptions. Some of the "assumptions & realities" might be applicable to a pastor's own planning, too.
Thanks for asking this question! I look forward to learning more from the other Matriarch responses and comments.
I love it that both matriarchs reference their personality type (like Muthah+, I am an ENFP) - I agree with them that personality, along with congregational type/size/personality are all factors in how planning and visioning work. Let's hear from the rest of you - how does planning/visioning work for you? How and when do you fit it in? What other advice would you offer? Please join the conversation in our comments section. And, as always, if you have a question you'd like the matriarchs to discuss, please send it to us at askthematriarch[at]gmail[dot]com.