Planning as Spiritual Practice

An Interview with Barbara Solsaa, creator of the Clergy Life Planner.
Woman using a laptop and writing in a planner.

Faith+Lead is grateful for this interview with Barbara Solsaa, the founder of Clergy Life Coaching, and creator of the Clergy Life Planner.

What led you to create your own line of clergy-specific planning resources?

Serving, supporting, and equipping leaders in ministry is my passion. I noticed most of my clients at Clergy Life Coaching had some form of time management frustrations. This motivated me to look online for a planner resource I could recommend. I found a planner that kept track of souls saved (not aimed at my clientele), and another that kept track of their daily devotion insights (too much pressure). So, I set out to create something myself considering what I heard were the greatest stumbling blocks of my clients. 

I created a prototype, had a dozen rostered leaders use it to let me know what worked, what didn’t, and what else they wanted in it. One change I made, due to feedback, was to move the Vacation Planning page from the back section to the front section of the planner. I know so many ministry leaders who don’t take all their vacation, and it really leads to burn out. I recommend that they plan a getaway or break on a quarterly basis so there is something to look forward to—adding balance to their lives on a quarterly basis. I am delighted that so many ministry leaders find the Clergy Life Planner helpful.

How do you view the connection between spiritual practices and intentional planning? Could the act of planning be considered a spiritual practice?

There definitely is a link between our spiritual life and the art of intentional planning. God has blessed us all with 24 hours, and we have a responsibility to steward those hours. We can make the most of that time when we engage in some form of planning and task batching. A simple example of task batching is to sit down and plan out a month or an entire season of hymns for worship as opposed to taking time every week to pull out the hymnal, look at the scriptures, and choose the hymns for next Sunday. Task batching actually gets a lot more done in a shorter period of time by focusing on that task. 

When we have a plan and work that plan, we are less likely to react to the many distractions in our day. If we set aside a specific chunk of time to work on confirmation, sermon prep or choosing music, when someone asks to meet with us, we can plan that meeting around those chunks of time. At the ClergyLifeCoaching.com website, we even have some free resources to help you plan music and worship for your congregation.

When you don’t plan, you are also much more likely to just do a task yourself rather than find someone else to do it, thus depriving them of their opportunity to serve the church. This is particularly true with visitations and phone calls or delegating work that is supposed to be done by a task force or committee. 

The pandemic has exacerbated this as more tasks, especially around media and tech, were placed on the plate of the pastor. Then when churches opened back up tasks continued to be added back to that plate without any being taken away. The emotional exhaustion of the pandemic makes it more difficult to take the time to recruit people, especially when there often is a smaller pool of volunteers to choose from, so many leaders just do it themselves.

Coaching during this time has often focused on giving leaders the space to see the big picture of their ministry and to help them to choose intentionally what is going to be removed from the plate and handed to others or just taken off the plate altogether.

Being good stewards of our time leads to also being good stewards of our bodies which is also a spiritual practice that must not be ignored.

The pandemic has made planning difficult for some. How do we make plans when the future is uncertain?

Many of my clients have discovered the gifts of this liminal space that we are in. Most congregations have plunged headlong into some form of online worship. What a gift to be able to reach so many regardless of distance, health concerns, or for those who find entering a church building to be intimidating. Praise God! 

As fewer people are returning to in-person worship and resources are not what they used to be, both time and talents, we have an opportunity to streamline where we are putting our energy in ministry by asking the really important questions:  

  • What is God calling us to do and be at this moment in time? 
  • What is our mission in this community? 
  • What ministries align with that mission? 
  • What ministries are no longer viable, relevant, or sustainable at this time and space? 

What a gift to have that conversation looking at our current reality as it really is and not as we would want it to be or how it was 20+ years ago. What opportunities are there to join with other ministry sites in your area, including ecumenical, to shine a brighter light for Christ in your neighborhood?

Might this be a time to truly listen to God, to one another ,and to our neighbors—to hear and see where God is at work around us and what God is calling us to do and to be at this time?!

Coaching is about providing a safe space and asking the right questions to facilitate a client to tap into their inner wisdom, setting a direction that they want to go, that they hear God calling them to. In the same way, we need to take a moment in our congregations to step back, ask the right questions, and to hear what God is calling us to.

We need to look at this time as a gift, as a holy reset in the spirit of being “adventurously expectant” as it says in Romans 8, The Message version:  

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?”

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Jen Hackbarth

Jen Hackbarth

Jennifer Hackbarth is the lead pastor of Christ the King Lutheran Church in White Bear Lake, Minnesota. She blogs at: https://jenniferhackbarth.com/

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