EPISODE #61 – PLANNING DURING A PANDEMIC
Thanksgiving is right around the corner and the guys talk about their favorite “dish” but then get down to business and talk about how to plan during a pandemic. Check it out and, don’t forget to enter the Replant Bootcamp Ball Cap giveaway.
Some things to consider as you think about planning:
- What type of planner are you?
- You can overplan and also underplan-try to find that flexible middle
- COVID19 has pretty much wiped out our long range plans
- Don’t be defeated by all the restrictions-get creative and think outside of the box in terms of planning
- Consider short cycle planning: 3-6-9 months at a time
- The goal is not to get back to normal-start over and ask; “What is the best possible way for us to make disciples who make disciples who impact our community for the Gospel?”
- Adjust to the moment and the culture you find yourself in right now
- Do what you can do regardless of size, keep it simple
Check out this Lead On Podcast by Dr. Jeff Iorge: Diagnostic Questions for Future Planning
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JimBo Stewart: [00:00:00] All right here. We are back at it again, coming close to Thanksgiving week. And this morning when I woke up Bob, it was a balmy 55 degrees outside. But right now I think it’s 72.
Bob Bickford: [00:00:13] That’s awesome. It was like 46 here. Felt 40, it’s been pretty cool in the mornings, but it’s, I’m not complaining cause the sun is shining right now. And st. Louis gets really great, but Hey, I want to ask you, what is your favorite Thanksgiving dish,
Thanksgiving dish that you’re rolling into the table?
Not that any of us are going to be with any groups for Thanksgiving this year, but you roll up to the house. You roll up to the table, you walk inside and you see this as on the table and you go, that’s my dish right there. What is it for you?
JimBo Stewart: [00:00:42] I’m all about some of. Homemade macaroni and cheese. not the craft stuff, not Velveeta. I like Velveeta shells and cheese. Matter of fact, I would go so far as to say there is probably not been often. I’ve met a form of macaroni and cheese. I didn’t like. but that real homemade stuff, that’s like half butter, half just cheddar cheese.
And just it’s it’s like in a, the caramelized kind of caked cheese on top that’s where, I, it gets me going.
Bob Bickford: [00:01:15] I were, I was hoping you would, we’re going to say the cheese that’s baked on the top. Cause that is the. That is the best part of the homemade Mac and cheese. I, myself am a mashed potatoes and gravy kind of guy. So you get me, got the Turkey. You gotta have that. I have the dressing, but I want some mashed potatoes and I want some gravy.
And, and that’s what I’m looking forward to on Thanksgiving.
JimBo Stewart: [00:01:37] Turkey gravy.
Bob Bickford: [00:01:38] Yeah, Turkey. Gravy. Yeah. Just not out of the jar or the can or anything like that, but homemade gravy. So my wife does not, she’s not a gravy person and I think she, I think gravy makes her angry. She doesn’t like it for some
JimBo Stewart: [00:01:51] Your wife’s a very healthy person.
Bob Bickford: [00:01:53] she is she’s pine cones and leaves and drinks, tea, that
JimBo Stewart: [00:01:59] gravy, gravy is like the opposite of everything. healthy.
Bob Bickford: [00:02:02] Okay. But man, I was raised on gravy, bro. I was like, that was part of my, my growing up experience in the South is like gravy and man, I’ve not had gravy on a regular basis since I was a kid.
JimBo Stewart: [00:02:16] I’m sure you can go to a Cracker barrel and get your fix.
Bob Bickford: [00:02:20] No. yeah, but I even, that’s a little bit too. that’s a little too food service gravy for me. there’s a local place. I like to go and get a fried chicken and mashed potatoes and gravy and green beans. And that makes me feel like I’m at home in the South.
JimBo Stewart: [00:02:34] I love it. I love it, Bob. Today, we’re going to talk about, long range planning, short cycle planning. And how do you, what do you do in the midst of COVID? And as we were talking about. This being our topic today, I thought for a minute, about this moment back when I was starting out in youth ministry and I, Barbara, are you a, are you naturally a planner?
do you plan ahead a lot on like naturally, or is that a discipline that you have developed over the years?
Bob Bickford: [00:03:05] I think it’s a discipline that I’ve grown into. I like you started out in student ministry and I just would say this, just go on record. Every pastor who has been a student pastor is a better pastor because he was a student pastor. I just want to. I just want to state that on the record, right?
Because you’re managing a tough population of you’re working with kids. You’re working with parents, you’re working with a pastor and you’re trying to keep the senior adults from firing So it, can, you just, you got a lot of stuff going on as a youth pastor, all that to say Jimbo.
I think that I learned to plan a little bit more effectively after several years of experience in ministry with some folks who were good planners. And right now I would consider myself more of a, a medium, planner in the sense of, I want to give attention to the future. And I want us to think about it carefully and critically, but I don’t have everything like detailed out.
that’s probably me.
JimBo Stewart: [00:04:01] Yeah, I am very naturally not a planner, but it has taken me years to. Develop a great appreciation. For planning. So I would say I’ve come to the point that I value what planning can do for what I’m trying to accomplish so much that I do prefer to have some form of a plan going into things, but I’m also very comfortable.
Kind of just winging it. when necessary. I remember early in youth ministry, our church that I was at was a revitalization and it had grown to a point that it really needed an associate pastor executive pastor type. And which is definitely not me. And so they brought in another guy who I’m still good friends with love the guy to death, but our personalities collided.
When he got there and I will never forget him coming to me and saying, Hey, I need a budget and a calendar plan for the next six months of youth ministry. And when that hit my ears, Bob, I remember thinking I could sooner do a triple summer somersault. Across the stage on Sunday morning than I could ever plan anything for the next six months of my life.
And then on top of that, a budget to go with it.
Bob Bickford: [00:05:29] Yeah. Yeah. So just to clarify, somersaulting across the stage was not a part of that church. You guys weren’t that kind of church where
JimBo Stewart: [00:05:35] no.
Bob Bickford: [00:05:36] Okay. I’m just checking.
JimBo Stewart: [00:05:37] I just do that. There is a much higher likelihood that I could accomplish that then actually planned something out six months in advance.
Bob Bickford: [00:05:45] Sure. And I just want to, can I just call this out too? most, really good youth. Pastors are not great planners. they’re just dynamic and catalytic and visionary and relational, and they’re fun to be around and all that sort of thing. that personality and that skillset typically doesn’t lead towards long range planning.
So one, I think when we’re talking about You may have a personality that like, you love to plan, like you wake up and I don’t know if you remember, there were these little books that were called Daytimers. Did you ever heard of a daytime?
JimBo Stewart: [00:06:15] Yeah, I’ve seen one. I think, the Smithsonian.
Bob Bickford: [00:06:18] Yeah. Yeah. So when I got, when I first became a youth pastor in my first professional role full-time job as youth, pastor, the pastor bought me a day timer.
And for Three or four months, he forced me to use that day timer. And every week when we met, I had to basically give account about how I was using my time and what I was doing. And he required it in a way that was formed formative for me and was good. And it wasn’t from a place of crisis.
It was a place of formation. I think he just saw down the road. It’s okay, this guy has never really. Done ministries never really planned. And he stepping into, at that time was a medium sized church, a church about 500 and, and it was going to be imperative that I learned to do it. So yeah, man, that was my starting planning.
And then I think from that point on I’ve, just tried to, and I guess I would say this, I think you can over plan and you can under plan. And if you can be right in the middle and find a sweet spot, that’s probably a good place to live.
JimBo Stewart: [00:07:26] Yeah, there has to be some level of flexibility, as you plan and especially right now. And so let me ask you about talking about flexibility. I have gotten to the point in ministry that I do now, like to plan one year in advance. I like to plan the calendar. I like to plan the sermon preparation. what texts will get preached, for a full year.
And now I never liked planning the budget for any amount of time, but, that becomes necessary. but I do, I enjoy now the planning and thinking out through how’s this going to look for the next year and I may drop some tips. So some things I’ve done skills I’ve learned over the years and tools.
I’ve. Gathered that helped me with that as I start to plan out a year in advance, but, and this is normally the time I would be doing that. But man, with COVID, it’s really hard to plan real far in advance right now.
Bob Bickford: [00:08:24] Yeah, absolutely. most of the guys that we’re talking to and connecting with, and probably a lot of our listeners who are in suburban areas. Metro areas that are not in the South, are now facing new restrictions in regarding attendance in groups and outreach events and all those sorts of things.
So all those plans that you had perhaps, three or four months previous have now all been wiped off the board. And particularly one of the things that we’re seeing, not only in our church, but also I think across North America is guys really, aren’t able to plan a lot of things because most of our plans are dependent upon people. And if our people are not coming to church, like they were before COVID hit and our leaders are. Dialing in and, watching the services online or we’re all meeting. All our leadership meetings are online. We just don’t have the horses in the stable to pull off the plans perhaps that we made.
And the other thing too, Jimbo’s, and this is different for our context. I know you are in Florida, which is the wild West. Like you guys barely have any law and certainly no order there in Florida. but here, man, it’s there’s nobody doing anything, right? Like people are driving in their cars and that sort of thing.
but people are legitimately concerned and afraid because of the COVID cases that are spiking in the st. Louis Metro. So Barbara and I were out yesterday. this yesterday was the last day we could go out and sit down at a restaurant for the next four weeks. And so part of it was like, let’s go out.
Let’s go to a restaurant, let’s go somewhere. Let’s tip the server. Let’s, this is our last hurrah. We can do curbside and all that kind of stuff, which is great. But let’s go sit down in a restaurant. So we decided we were going to go to a place called the California pizza kitchen. You ever heard of that place?
JimBo Stewart: [00:10:11] I have. Yeah, I’ve seen, Frozen boxes and Walmart and the.
Bob Bickford: [00:10:15] they actually make. Real pizzas and real food, at the restaurant, it’s not Applebee’s where you microwave everything or Chili’s or something like that. But so they actually make real food there. But anyway, we roll in there and it’s at the Galleria mall, which is in a higher end area in st.
Louis. And it’s usually pretty full whenever we’ve been there before, bro, it was like a ghost town. Like the overhead music was so stinking loud that we walked in because there’s no noise and no people, it was like, Frightening how loud, and you had somebody going welcome to the Galleria and were just like, Whoa, what is that?
And then it looked like the flips that happened or the rapture, and like hardly anybody was in there. It was amazing. All that to say, most of us have had plans for Christmas that we’re simply just not going to be able to pull out, pull off because we don’t have the people and. If we did, the people might not come.
Now I will say this, anything that you can do, that’s a drive up and drive through nature. You’re probably going to win in our Metro area, but if you’re counting on in-person stuff, you’re probably not going to see a win in the same regard. so I think long range planning right now during the cycle of COVID, in this pandemic.
Probably needs to be short cycled for, two or three months at a time, maybe six months, maybe nine months at the longest. That’s what we’re looking at doing.
JimBo Stewart: [00:11:48] Yeah, I think there is a benefit to still very loosely trying to plan a year in advance, but I will. I would not plan a whole lot of stuff and everything that I. W everything you do put on the calendar, I think has to obviously be held with a loose grip and has to have contingency plans of, if we are still deep in the midst of COVID regulations, what does that look like?
If we don’t have the people, the volunteers to do it, what does that look like? Because I don’t know, Bob, I really, I found myself a little bit reeling first when COVID first hit early this year. And. I’m a thinker, I’m a brainstormer. And, I don’t like stopping at obstacles. I will hit an obstacle as many times.
I have to figure out how to get around it. And I just try to persevere and push and I don’t want to stop, but I really found myself at a loss when COVID hit. Cause every idea I had involved breaking COVID regulations. and I really struggled to figure out like, how to do something without, getting people to close or having people interact.
And, my favorite that I, I gave, Wesley, from one 80 digital, who goes to our church and as an elder at our church, I got a really hard time because our first Sunday back. In person, he had created a graphic for our social media, back together. And the image stock image he used was like a bunch of people like their hands on top of each other, like teamwork.
And I was like, that’s literally the worst stock image you could possibly put on this thing. Like we have to tell everybody, no, don’t touch each other. You can’t do that. And it, it can be a really. Overwhelming idea to try to figure out. So what are some ways Bob, that we could think through two to three months at a time with realistic expectations and push through to what needs to happen?
Bob Bickford: [00:13:50] yeah. Listened to a great podcast by Jeff orange, this on Monday. And we’ll link it in the show notes because I think he does a fantastic job. And I remember, I think it’s four or four questions are number. I think three of them, just right at the top of my head. But one of the things he said is, they’re asking, I think it’s important for us to ask, what did we stop doing that we never need to do again?
And so there’s a lot of things that, that we do in the church life and church world that are just busy work and we don’t need to do again. So just, put those things are bad and really don’t pick them up. and, you just need to think through, have there been some things that we haven’t been able to do, like you said, because of the regulations and because of, The type of ministry and the means and the mode of ministry.
And so there are several churches that are many churches will be able to say, yeah, there’s several things that we can’t do that we used to do. so I think that’s one, the other one, is what did we start doing that we shouldn’t continue or improve. And, as we’re thinking about that, in here, this has been a transition for me, and I want to be cautious in saying this I’d love to have your feedback.
our getting our services online. We’re an effort for us to provide an experience for the people who normally would gather for worship with us in person, but for concerns of COVID would stay home. And so we decided our goal is to get our, to get a reliable stream up online and to get as good a quality as if this person was sitting over on this side of our church, where a camera is.
And if they were watching the service from this place to duplicate that as best as possible, right. Not to have cool transitions and good graphics and all those sorts of things. But as COVID is persisted and is our crowd has stayed home. I’ve decided we’ve got to think through how do we go to the next level on our streaming of our service.
Again, we’re not trying to, we’re not going to install lights and fog machines and all that kind of stuff. But I think there’s some things we need to do to step up our game a little bit. Because here’s the deal. everybody’s online. And, before your service, depending on if you’re, West coast, you could watch everybody in North America who’s online before you, if you’re in mountain, it’s almost the same thing before I’m in central.
I can watch everybody that’s on Eastern or has a church start that’s earlier than my. Sure start. And let me tell you, I see some really good online services and I see some really not good online services and ours is in the middle. And, and so that’s a question we’re asking, what did we start that we need to improve?
And so in the cycle planning, this is, we’re short cycling, looking at our budget right now, going, okay. We just lost an admin. do we really need an admin or do we need to. Hire a part-time tech person or do we need to pay the guy that’s doing our tech right now as a volunteer and who, who’s looking for part-time work.
Do we need to shift our admin salary to him to give him a little more bandwidth and also. Provide a little more benefit for those who are watching at home. So that those are two questions that we’re asking Jimbo. I think that are helping us to think through the future. and then I’ll hold off on another one, but I’d love to get your thought on that.
JimBo Stewart: [00:17:04] I think COVID has provided us an opportunity to rethink everything. absolutely everything I’ve told our staff, as we started trying to figure out how to come back. I said, please don’t make the mistake of just trying. To get back to how things were before the Lord is not surprised by this. He has a plan for the church in this.
And so this is an opportunity to step back. And I asked each of our kind of staff leaders, and I say, I use that word staff very loosely. that’s mostly volunteer people, but people that lead in certain areas, I asked them just go back to the blank sheet. and your area of responsibility and influence, what is the best possible way for you right now in that ministry area?
Right now, in the midst of everything that’s going on to make disciples that make disciples, that impact our community for the gospel. How do we do that? And I don’t want you to burden yourself, trying to reproduce things that we can’t right now reproduce. And we may never need to reproduce the exactly the same way, just think through what is the best way.
And so I think it’s good to think through that. And. Maybe, I don’t know that production level has to be the key. Like you’re saying you don’t have to have lights and unbelievable transitions and things like that, but just like you consider the comfort and palatability of everything that you do at this point and how your sanctuary is designed, what your guest services is like.
Is the air conditioner or heater on appropriately to the right temperature. These are all things that we try to think through just so that those things don’t become obstacles. And I think in that same way, you’re on a great track of thinking. Not. How do we have great production so that we can have great production, but how do we just make the best and engage people as much as we can with what we’ve got.
And I think some of that can even be as easy as you’re already videoing it now. So take those video files. And what if you made little snippets of some of the best points, right? And then that becomes easier digestible on social media, where people are going to be a lot more open right now to sit and watch something like that.
Then maybe they were before. And so as we’re short range, short cycle planning, long range planning right now, you really have. Probably one of the best opportunities you’ll ever have in ministry to start from a blank sheet and just go back to the drawing board and just think, but think, what are we trying to accomplish? And let’s make sure everything we’re doing because we’re going to be so limited in what we can actually do. We’re going to be limited financially in what we can do. We’re going to be limited personnel people volunteer wise. What we can do. We’re going to be limited people wise in what we can do because of how many people can gather or how close they can be.
We’re going to be limited in how many people were actually going to come to something versus we’re going to have to figure out how to get to them. And within those limitations, we can either sit here and grumble and complain, or we can figure out. What to do with what we’ve got. I’ve been preaching through Philippians and I’ve just, it’s hit me, man.
What would the apostle Paul do in 2020? he wouldn’t sit and grumble and complain. I know that, cause he talks about he’s sitting there, Handcuffed to a Roman Praetorian guard. And so he’s sharing the gospel with Roman criterion, Korean guards, and he’s look, what’s happening to me is being used to advance the gospel.
And so how do we figure out what’s happening to us? How can it be used to advance the gospel? And I think part of that is recognizing the moment we’re in and adjusting accordingly by going back to the drawing board and just thinking through. What is the most important things for us to accomplish? If we could only accomplish a couple of things really well, what would those things be?
Bob Bickford: [00:21:15] the key is the, this, I think is another question that, that Jeff orange ask is, what’s happening in the culture right now and the culture thinking through the culture in your church and the culture in your community. and in our country. in thinking about through the culture of our church, a lot of our families are just exhausted and worn out and they are, they’re just, they’re tired and they’re stressed.
What, one of our moms with two children under the age of three is now in her fourth quarantine cycle. She’s not been, he’s not been tested positive with COVID, but she’s been exposed. And so she’s had to quarantine and her husband was telling me, he’s she’s been in quarantine half of the time, that off, since all this has been going on.
So we’ve been doing this eight months while she’s been in quarantine for four of those months. Really all total, the, another way to find out the culture is just to ask your people. I w I was talking to one of our, Church attenders. And he is a vice principal at a high school. And I said, how’s it going?
And he said, it’s really very stressful. I said, my full-time job now is contact tracing. And, and he said, so that’s all I do. And most of our staff are out and they’re not out because they’re sick, but they’re out because they’ve been exposed. And so everybody’s just stressed and exhausted. And I said, how are you doing?
And he goes, I’m just exhausted all the time. and very tired. Another one of our members works for a medical company and working on the vaccine. And, and he’s on zoom, like from eight till five. All day, every day. And he’s on the online meetings and he’s meeting with not only just his team, but clients and all those sorts of things.
So here’s what I’m thinking Jimbo. cause we’re our, most of our families are staying away. We’ve got small group, we just got really small crowd. We had, COVID exposure in our Sunday school class. And so that took out of our, all of our old adults out. and so it’s been like me, Barb and the tech guys and a handful of other folks at the church.
And when I interact with my people, they’re really legitimate reasons why they’re not there. Okay. and so one of the things that I’m having to ask is what’s happening in the lives of my people and the culture of our community and our people. And as much as I want to really press fast forward with a campaign to get everybody online and small groups and.
do all those things. I think it’s just going to, it would be a complete miss cause that’s just those stories that I’ve told you. how does that sound to a mom? Who’s. Ben shut up with her kids for four months or, a vice principal who is exhausted at the end of the day, or a guy who’s online, all day, every day, all the time.
and so I think one of the things that I have to resist is the temptation to throw the car in gear and really put some, put a heavy burden on my folks right now. and just want to confess. That’s really hard for me as a pastor because I’m really, I we’ve got to gather and we need to encourage one another and we need to be face-to-face with each other, but we can’t right now.
And then my people are stressed. And so they hear my call for us to live in community together. And the best we can do is do it online. They hear that differently. They hear that through, they hear that through the lens of stress and fatigue and frustration. And I have to acknowledge that. And that’s not going to be forever, but that’s going to be for right now.
I’m not saying we don’t challenge and we don’t try to get them together, but we it’s just different, man. It’s really different right now.
JimBo Stewart: [00:24:44] I think it’s such a challenging time. And the key thing is, and we hammer this all the time on here. What really matters is making disciples. And so just figuring out how to do that. And as a pastor, knowing how to celebrate stories of God moving and not statistics, you can not grade yourself and your leadership on statistics right now.
You just can’t, we don’t know how to measure what’s happening right now at all. It’s normally hard to really truly measure what God is doing in a church anyway. But right now, it’s really complicated and hard to measure it. And so I would say to our listeners, man, don’t try to measure it, but try to find those moments where God has used you and used your church in somebody’s life.
And that can be as simple as encouraging somebody right now. That’s a believer that’s struggling and helping lift them up. That can be as simple as. Getting together with two guys. I’ve got two guys right now that I meet with on Saturdays and we’re going through Robbie galleries growing up book. We do it from a social distance and we’re doing discipleship and sometimes that stuff and the only highlight of my week.
And I think we have to make sure that we are focused on those types of things and celebrate those things.