Larry Osborne says the defining mark of a leader is often flexibility. I agree. But in order to flex from the normal routine, there needs to be a normal routine. One of the biggest challenges I faced as a church planter was establishing a work rhythm.
For years I had been on staff at the Summit Church in RDU. As the church grew my responsibilities grew. I loved the pace and the pressure. Working for an established church meant there were expectations, evaluations, and a general structure to the working day. My productivity could be measured. But when we landed in Greensboro, much of that went out the window!
In short, I didn’t handle it well. Where I used to run 100mph at all times, now I felt like things were painfully slow. As it turns out, having no established structure stressed me out far greater than the fast pace and pressures of a growing church. As a planter, I felt like I was always working but never working at the same time. For every task I accomplished I felt like there should be three more to do, but I didn’t know what they were! For months before we moved, I felt like there was a mountain to conquer every single day. But suddenly in my day to day, there were no more mountains, just endless hours.
So to any guy leaving a thriving church to plant a new one, here are two pieces of advice. First: just because you thrive now in a structured environment doesn’t mean you will be able to replicate that structure on your own. Working inside of a structure isn’t the same thing as creating the structure. Creating structure is something we have to learn.
Second, break your day into thirds. This was some helpful advice I received from a wiser planter that helped me find my rhythm. One third should be devoted solely to study. I think this is very important even in the early days when there may not be a sermon to prepare. What I have realized is that when we are always learning we are always sharing. Another third ought to be totally given to relationships. For me this is the middle part of the day so that I can schedule lunches and late coffee meetings. Finally, the last third is for grunt work. Devoting a specific amount of time each day to knocking out simple tasks helps relieve the feeling that there is always more to do.