Un-Ding Your Workflow

If you’re moving from a church staff position to a church planting role, you’re going to jump for joy at the freedom that you now have. Freedom to set your own schedule. Freedom to work at home. Freedom to work at the coffee shop without having to justify it to a senior or executive pastor. Freedom to work in your underwear if you want. At home, of course.


But your newfound freedom ought also to terrify you. Once you don’t have a manager to whom you are directly accountable on a daily basis, who will ensure that you’re working well?


The barrage of administrative work that a church plant entails almost immediately overwhelmed me. The pastoral burden was surprisingly weighty, and the preaching load was heavy as anticipated. But of the prophetic-priestly-kingly competencies, I felt least competent in the kingly, administrative requirements of planting.

Sometimes it feels as though, if I am going to move the mission of our church forward, I’ll need to essentially stop responding to crises, stop checking my email, leave my phone at home, and delegate almost every task imaginable to someone else.

I live-blogged for Steve Childers’ church planter training conference a couple years ago. He introduced us to the distinction between the compass and the clock. Most people are ruled by the clock. These people suffer under the tyranny of the urgent. Truly successful people are guided by the compass. These people prioritize non-urgent, very important projects and goals. Childers must have been reading Stephen Covey’s book First Things First. It is a must-read for the newly-liberated church planter.



Most of the time, my “to-do” list consists of this:

  • 50% Urgent / Important items (Quadrant 1)
  • 10% Not Urgent / Important items (Quadrant 2)
  • 40% Urgent / Not Important items (Quadrant 3)

“Read Stephen Covey” wasn’t even on the list, though it belonged in Q2. “Write a chapter for my church planting book” and “write a chapter for The Cordial Churchman book” weren’t on the list either. They also belonged in Q2. “Plan the next preaching series” wasn’t on my list either. Another Q2 item. Since I’m—you know—spiritual, prayer items were on the list, and those are also Q2.

What’s the point? It’s no wonder that I feel like my life, and my church’s mission, are not moving forward each day and each week. 5 o’clock comes, the weekend comes, and I think: “Really?” In order to get beyond “Really?”, I am going to have to lean hard toward matters that are NOT URGENT, and yet still immensely important.


This morning I turned off all the “dings” on my iPhone except for text messages. No more notifications every time Tim Keller tweets. No more alert every time someone likes my Instagram photo. No more “HEY YOU!” every time someone emails me. I also decided that I will only check and reply to email at 11:00am and 4:00pm, for less than an hour at both times. Anything else can wait. Finally, I’ve resolved to identify just one Q2 item—something that’s NOT urgent, but definitely important, for each day. Then I’m going to plug my ears to every other “ding” and work on it until it’s either done or until there is measurable progress toward completion.

I heard from a reader yesterday that the “office mode” of church planting was driving him crazy. I’m with him. Answering emails all day is not what church planting is about. Lean away from the ambiguously “important”, urgent things in your workflow and lean into the things that matter, or you’re going to start to wonder if you’re really supposed to be planting a church.

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One thought on “Un-Ding Your Workflow

  1. Pingback: Rest is Renewal, Not Retreat | Gardens Don't Launch

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