3 Reasons Leaders Need to Plan Ahead

I grew up hearing people say, "The best way to make God laugh is by making a plan." I don't agree with this unless you are planning to build a comedy club. In that case, it's still unlikely. If God can speak to us in the moment, surely He can speak to us ahead of time. 

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”

― Benjamin Franklin

During my first year at Cornerstone Church, the Senior Pastor took out a calendar and said, "let's plan out the year." I had never seen anything like this. I quietly thought to myself, "Can people really do this? Is this allowed? Is this possible?!"  From that point, we went through each month and scheduled an entire year of ministry. This moment happened two years ago, and from that meeting on, we saw the LORD bring thousands of people to salvation, ministries move forward and success go according to plan. It forever marked me, and I've adopted planning ahead into my leadership ever since, and I believe you should too. 

3 Reasons For Planning Ahead

1. Planning creates space for creativity

Great ideas arrive quickly or after a long time of thinking, stewing and wrestling with a challenge or an idea. There are times I can sit down with the intentions of creating the next innovative idea for my ministry and nothing comes to mind. Then, while driving down the road, I'll see a dog walking across the road and somehow that inspires a great idea. At this point, I have to remind myself that my wife doesn't want me texting and driving, so I rehearse the idea in my head until I get home to write it down. When planning ahead, you create more opportunities for ideas to arrive. You aren't as restricted on time and the options for inspiration greatly increase. 

2. Planning allows people to join you

Spur of the moment leaders are often dynamic, charismatic and captivating. You never know what they'll do next. Unfortunately, they don't either. People are relegated to spectating leaders like this because nobody knows how to help. When a leader plans ahead, he or she allows others to join the vision, know the goals and bring individual resources and skills to the table. Have you ever helped someone move out of a house and all the boxes are already packed and neatly labeled. The host tells everyone exactly where the boxes need to go, and moving is fun, fast, and stress free. Contrast that with the host who hasn't planned ahead and is frantically packing boxes while the people who came to help awkwardly watch, not knowing what to do. Planning ahead allows an organization to be bigger than one person.

3. Planning means you are putting thought into the future

In order to plan, leaders have to put a lot of research, thinking, and praying into what the most desirable future is for the organization. Planning is more than filling in dates on a calendar. I understand, Christian leaders in particular, may not want to be presumptuous and want to follow the  "leading of the LORD," but God is a God outside of time. If God can speak to us last minute, why can't He tell us ahead of time? Hebrews 12 says "for the joy set before him [Jesus] endured the cross." Jesus knew the plan God the Father had for Him and carried full confidence in the reasoning behind all of it. He knew the joy of salvation available for all the world. Planning allows us to have confidence in what we are doing for the sake of the future. If God decides to change things last minute, no harm done. Follow Him. 

4 Ways To Get Started

1. Create Time and Space to Slot things on a Calendar

Pick a day to sit down with your team, and agree not leave the room until you've planned the next year out. Actually do it. Boom. Step one completed. 

2. Develop Clear Action Steps

Dreaming up great ideas is a lot of fun, but you need to know exactly what happens next. Draw on the strengths of your logistical person. For me, it's Rachael Kelley. I call her my bridge between vision and execution. As soon as an idea for an event is on the board, she thinks about scheduling the date, finding resources, recruiting volunteers and so forth. She then makes a list of all things that need to be done (action steps) and goes to the next step. 

3. Assign People's Names to Each Action

I'm not a huge fan of more than one person taking responsibility to do something. Too often will one person do all the work or nobody does anything thinking the other person will take care of it. Place a person's name by each task and see efficiency go crazy high. 

4. Choose Deadlines for Each Person's tasks

If you don't choose a deadline, a date for things to get done, nothing will ever get done. Give someone a year to accomplish a task, and it will take a year to accomplish it. Give someone a week, and it will take a week. Prioritize your assignments and have a clear timeframe to hold your people accountable to. 

Planning ahead allows creativity, teamwork, and thought to be part of your organization. Spur of the moment leadership can be easier, but planning ahead is worth the effort. 

Question: Have you ever seen a plan work out? What happened?