Lack of Planning on Your Part…

“Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part”

If you have ever worked in an office you have probably heard that phrase or seen it on a sign. Basically, just because someone else didn’t do their part, why should that mean you have to worry or rush? As long as you cover your… self, it’s the other party’s fault they didn’t get their job done.

While that would be a horrible climate in any office, it is totally unacceptable in ministry.

In ministry, that should better read:

“Lack of planning on your part means I will do my best to help you.”

Most people who work in ministry are people oriented, not detail oriented. They are big idea people, not detail people. They are creative types, not detail types.

I often come into the office to see a pan of brownies, or bouquet of cookies (Yes, they make them in bouquets, I don’t know why). They have been left as a thank you for my ministry area going above and beyond to help another ministry that forgot something, or waited very late. While I like the bagels you bring, I would rather have the time.

Sometimes the crisis was innocently caused. The person who needs the work simply doesn’t understand how long it will take. A couple of years ago I was working on a church wide communication piece. There was a lot of talk about what it should be, and those who were asking for it did not have the details together. Knowing the timeline for printing and duplication of the media I figured out the drop-dead-line. Then we made it happen. The final result was the the piece was delivered and inserted in the bulletin on time.

None of the people asking for that piece were purposefully dragging their feet. They simply did not know how long it would take to print thousands of folders and duplicated thousands of CDs. In their mind it was simply a matter of deciding before the weekend. But we needed a week to complete the duplication process. Once we laid out the time line, they got on board and worked toward the goal.

Other times, well, it seems like the party doing the asking should have known better. Maybe they want to stream video from a room that has never had a camera before, and they ask 30-minutes before the class starts. Or they need a bulletin insert for the weekend and ask for it on Thursday. At those times I have to resist the urge to tell them that if the request wasn’t important to them it isn’t important to me.

In ministry I have to step back and look at the end goal. If things are too late, I should be a “detour“. If not I should do what I can to support their ministry.

I was once in a very long group meeting with worship and tech team members. One of the worship leaders was trying to give the media people the freedom to push back on his requested changes for the service. At the end, he looked at me and asked, “So if I come to you with some kind of crazy change for the service, what are you going to do?”

I replied, “I will do my dead-level best to get it done.”

Now, some of you other media ministers are probably sitting there thinking I blew it. Here was permission to tell a music guy his last minute changes will not happen, and he should have planned better. I totally understand that sentiment. I have some times dreamed of doing that. Dreamed of telling them that the Holy Spirit can work Monday through Friday just as he can work 5 minute before a service starts. But that is not what I serve for.

I lead support ministries, pure and simple. While we do some things that could be considered primary ministry, most of what we do is helping other ministry areas accomplish what God has set before them.

Who am I to tell a worship leader that his last minute idea isn’t really from God, and is really caused by a lack of preparation? I cannot see his heart. I have to trust that what is being asked of my team is being prompted by God. After it is over, I can have a conversation about how the timing and nature of changes can affect the ability of volunteers to perform with excellence. We can discuss the risks of asking too much of a volunteer staff, and creating unnecessary stress among volunteers. But I will tolerate any stress necessary to accommodate the promptings of the Holy Spirit in a worship leader. If that leader feels strong enough about the change to ask for it, I will do my dead level best to make it happen.

What it really comes down to is education. The people who need the support of my ministry areas, for the most part, have no idea what the people on my team do. They do not understand it. For them, media and communications is some sort of black box where requests go in and results come out. It is my job to help them understand, to some degree, what it takes to accomplish their requests. We put down guidelines, have conversations, and try to help ministries know how get the absolute best from my areas. It’s our job to teach them what it takes, so that when the last minute request comes, we know that they know what they are asking. We have to trust that they wouldn’t be asking if it was not really important.

We will set about getting it done or offering alternatives if it cannot be done. Then, later, we will go back and find out why it was late.

Maybe that sign should read:

“Lack of planning on your part means I will do my best to help you, and when it’s over talk about how we never have to be in this position again.”

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2 thoughts on “Lack of Planning on Your Part…

  1. Cynthia Howe

    Great insight Scott. You would be so proud of us at BBC. We are doing MUCH better with the planning, therefore having less changes at the last minute. You were a part of that getting started in the right direction. Really appreciate your heart for ministry.

  2. Pingback: Leading From the Back of the Room « Scott Link Blog

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