COVID-19 has had an enormous impact on the finances, operations, and sacramental life of churches throughout the world. But one disruption that has not been widely discussed is the disruption to our sense of time. Early on, all we could do was react to ever-changing guidelines and the uncertainty has only continued. Almost all of the horizons we use to guide our parish planning have disappeared with no return in sight. If not for the calendar turning to 2021, many of us might not have known it was no longer March 2020.
The loss of our sense of time has distracted us from our goals and diminished our ability to lead through this crisis. To move forward, we will have to shift from reactivity to leadership. And that begins with planning which allows us to imagine a better future and design a solid plan to get people moving towards that outcome. Planning ahead also creates a stronger staff culture, with everyone following the same plan. Most of all, planning ahead creates momentum and gets everyone moving in the same direction.
The loss of our sense of time has distracted us from our goals and diminished our ability to lead through this crisis. To move forward, we will have to shift from reactivity to leadership.Tweet
At our parish, big picture planning takes place at an annual leadership team ‘off-site’ which will be happening in March. This two-day retreat is when we decide on goals, themes, and strategies for the year (with input previously gathered from the entire team). When we return, this strategic direction is cascaded down to the rest of our staff.
The detailed monthly and weekly planning focuses on our “message series” (our weekend homilies organized around themes from the Lectionary, over the course of several weeks). All our ministry teams from liturgical to kids & students, to small groups, also follow the series calendar in their planning. Series themes are adapted to fit each demographic but, at the end of the day, the whole parish is moving in one direction. We call it “one church, one message.”
The key to making the message series format work is in its forethought and planning. High-level planning occurs during a twice-yearly creative brainstorming to create the series themes and calendar for the next six-months. Then, roughly two months in advance of the beginning of each series, we revisit the chosen topic and do a deeper dive into what we want our parish to get from the series. Finally, we review each message on a weekly basis to fine-tune any last-minute details.
These are merely details of our process, that may or may not be useful to you. The important part is that you are moving beyond reactivity and thoughtfully leading your parish through and beyond COVID.