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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Transitions: Planning to Preparing

Written by: on March 12, 2015

Not long ago I was going through one of the piles in my office (yes, I sort by piles not by files – yes, I generally know what is in each pile) and came across a message that I had started about 12 years ago. It is based on just a few short verses in the book of 2 Samuel, v. 17-25. David had just been crowned as king over Israel and the Philistines were coming against him. He’s already at this point an accomplished fighter and an accomplished leader. He’s gained the trust of his people, in particular his army. Whatever he wanted to do, they likely would follow him, particularly against this nemesis. Despite all of these credentials and ripeness of the situation, David chooses to inquire of the Lord. It seems like a no-brainer and yet there is a humility to this action that runs almost counter intuitive. From that inquiry comes assurance and focus. From the assurance and focus comes determined action. On its own this story is good, but the follow up story makes it even better.

inquiry-based-learning

A second time the Philistines come against Israel. Now David and his army have all the credentials and experience they had previously plus they can add, “we just beat the snot out of them” to their resume. It would again seem like a no-brainer – just go get after the Philistines. However, again David inquires of the Lord – he doesn’t make assumptions based on his experience or knowledge. And this time the Lord comes back with a different approach, one that reveals the need for readiness and action together with discernment and timing.

In consideration of Caroline Ramsey’s writings on the “Scholarship of Practice”, I am compelled to agree with her conclusions that “a scholarship of practice recognizes the constitutive importance of ongoing relations within management practice.” (p.17) This is true not only from an ancient biblical perspective but also from a contemporary ministry perspective. “The improvisational and mindful skills” which Ramsey also mentions are necessary terms that speak to the discernment and sense of timing. In her work on Provocative Theory, her stories of Mike and Kieran accentuate the importance of inquiry in the decision-making role of a leader, “For it is in the cycle of inquiry, as reflection follows action before projecting into further action that evaluation of the quality of previous evidence can be made.”(p.24)

If David had gone ‘by the book’ on these advances against the enemies; few people would have questioned him. It would have been easy to say, “this is the way we fight, this has been our plan, this is what our plan will be, now let’s execute the plan.” Instead David models a different way of leadership – rather than focus on the executing the plan; he demonstrates the importance of preparing for action without necessarily defining the action until it has been made clear by the Lord.

  • What would those inquiring conversations between God and David have been like?
  • What would the conversations between David and his armies been like, between battles and while they waited?

That movement from planning to preparing seems to be one that includes the impact and influence of relations, including the Lord and those among whom we serve. Here are some brief thoughts on this transition:

    • Planning usually is done with an end in mind (“if I do this and this, then this will be the result”)
    • Preparation will incorporate many of the same actions of planning, except the need to consistently be submitting ourselves to the Lord’s direction.
    • Planning can get us into routines, where as the Lord often changes the strategy despite having us prepare the same way. He is preparing us for His purpose, not our own.
    • Although the differences between planning and preparing are often unseen, planning focuses on outcomes, preparing focuses on characteristics and motives.
    • Preparing is a humble recognition that the Lord is directing my life, therefore I am open to where he takes me, what he wants me to do, who he wants me connect with, when he wants me to do it.
    • Planning communicates that the leader or management already possesses the necessary information and knows what the result swill be; preparing allows room for listening and incorporating input from those involved in the process. Preparing has the potential to unite people, build enthusiasm and develop a sense of ownership across an organization.
    • Feel free to add some of your own thoughts on transitioning from planning to preparing …

I have been reminded in different ways over the last few days and weeks that the cultural landscape in which our ministry functions is undergoing rapid and continuous change and/or fragmentation. Therefore the importance of letting go of isolated preconceived plans to allow for a relational process through which wisdom and timing can be continually discerned will be all the more vital to making an Gospel centered difference in our communities.

I haven’t finished writing the message on 2 Samuel, but instead of have shared it on two or three occasions, in its incomplete state and have instead asked for input from those who have listened to help add value to the ideas of what the preparing, waiting, inquiring, discernment and action would have been like for the armies of Israel, as well as thinking of circumstances in our own lives where we could benefit from that kind of approach.

Ideas are always welcome…

About the Author

mm

Deve Persad

11 responses to “Transitions: Planning to Preparing”

  1. mm rhbaker275 says:

    Deve,
    Great post, as usual you are right on target for me. This Sunday I lead two sessions on the book, “Church in the Middle” by Rolland Daniels. We have been talking about the spectrum of the traditional and missional church. On a scale of 1 – 10, most of the parishioners placed us at 2-3 on the traditional side. We had many interesting comments turned in:exp. “Worship music traditional hymns and piano – no band or modern CDs. Service same style weekly. Same routines over and over. No opportunity for growth or change into new leadership opportunities.” Wow! Pastor, are we listening?

    We are talking about making the transition; changing the culture. Daniels gives five “Transition Tips for Leaders.”
    1. Be singular in your focus.
    2. Stay long enough to complete the journey.
    3. Develop and work the plan.
    4. Celebrate along the way.
    5. Develop a Congregational Covenant.
    Each week we participate in the challenge to “Navigate the Journey.” It has been exciting and this week should be more of the same … this is a part of my field research project for this term.

    Thanks for your illuminating and helpful post.

    • mm Deve Persad says:

      Ron, love the update on what’s happening with your church family. Providing the opportunity for input is certainly key. Leadership that demonstrates a willingness and availability to receive input builds strength among the people. The next step is also important – what to do with the input in order to demonstrate that you have effectively considered it no matter which direction you determine you need to proceed. Keep listening and keep me posted!

  2. Liz Linssen says:

    Hi Deve,
    Wow, this post really resonates with my ministry experience! I really love where you wrote, “Instead David models a different way of leadership – rather than focus on the executing the plan; he demonstrates the importance of preparing for action without necessarily defining the action until it has been made clear by the Lord.”
    I do often try to seek God for His will and direction with ministry things, but I do confess, there have been times when I haven’t waited. And when I haven’t waited to receive clear instruction, it has been a very costly mistake indeed.
    Thank you for a great reminder to humbly wait on God for His leadership!

    • mm Deve Persad says:

      Liz, we’ve all been there and unfortunately we’ll probably be there again. However, may we learn the lessons about how immeasurable and invaluable it is to wait upon the Lord, allowing His Spirit to go before us and then be ready for action.

  3. Deve,

    You say, “Preparing is a humble recognition that the Lord is directing my life, therefore I am open to where he takes me, what he wants me to do, who he wants me to connect with, when he wants me to do it.” This really hit me. The difference between planning and preparing is subtle, yet important, especially when it comes to our spiritual lives. If we are prepared then we can trust that whatever happens, the Lord can use that.

    I see this happening in my teaching. When my heart is prepared and I am in tune with what has been happening in my life is when the good lessons happen. This happened last week in my Faith, Living, and Learning class. As I was in touch with what the Lord was teaching me (and this happened through Andrew Marin’s book), I was more prepared to share with my students what was in my heart and it proved to be the best class of the year thus far.

    Thanks for your thoughts this week. It gave me a lot to think about.

    • mm Deve Persad says:

      Professor, love that you saw this truth come to life in your class this week! Always exciting to recognize, in the moment, that we are going into territory that the Lord has made available rather than what we have designed. Keep it up and share the stories.

  4. mm Julie Dodge says:

    Thank you again for a thoughtful post, Deve.

    I first start with the David story. I think about how many times – even in ministry – we/I press forward with our plans, thinking, “I got this.” And indeed, God has given us gifts and talents and experiences that suggest we are able to move forward on our own. But how much better, how much richer, when we seek our Source! But when I submit myself to God, I am more able to hear His voice and follow His leading. And should I obey, the outcome tends to be even better.

    I also love the shift from planning to preparing. You are correct in that when we plan, we set our course, often anticipating that it will go as planned. But rarely in life or work or ministry do things seem to go as planned. Instead, when we prepare, we allow for the many possibilities. We allow for in-the-moment adaptations and learning. I am reminded of a scene from the last Harry Potter book and movie, when Hermione says that they need a plan. Harry responds with something like, “Hermione, when have our plans ever gone as planned?” I think you have struck the right chord, Deve. We prepare, and allow the Master to direct us.

    • mm Deve Persad says:

      Thanks Julie, Harry Potter analogies are very popular in our house. My son will be so pleased!…the question of obeying the voice/direction of God is so key…I wish our own will wasn’t so hard to fight against.

  5. Richard Volzke says:

    Deve,
    I appreciate your questions and like the way you incorporated biblical examples. Your reminder about the conversations between God and David caused me to think about our relationship with God. Do we still have the same “access” to God as David did? I believe on some level we have greater access to Him, because of Christ. Unlike people in the OT times, we are not just followers of God, but heirs with Christ. Thinking about Carolyn’s article and strategies for becoming a better learner, I can think of no better model to follow than Christ.
    Richard

    • mm Deve Persad says:

      Richard you are so right. The example that Jesus gives us is one of complete dependence upon the Father. Many times over we read of him stating that “I do what my Father tells me” or some paraphrase of that. We would do well to follow His example of humble dependence.

  6. Hey Deve, another wonderful post interacting with the material. You say
    “the importance of letting go of isolated preconceived plans to allow for a relational process through which wisdom and timing can be continually discerned will be all the more vital to making a Gospel centered difference in our communities.” I have always sided with the understanding of a relational process versus a preconceived or previously implied structure of building community life. Have you been able to implement such relational guidelines to your interactions at your church? If so, what were some of the things that you implemented that would be willing to go more in the direction of relationships and then in the direction of processes?

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