New Rhythms, Healthy Margins and Pie

For so many of us, new rhythms begin in the fall. It is an opportunity to make some decisions about what gets added to the calendar, and maybe also what doesn’t. As our lives fill up with the possibility of events, midweek programs, and the many activities our personal lives include, it can be difficult to discern how to make it all fit (and if it all should).

FaceChristie Penner Worden
Clock15 minute read
Blue Circles

Getting back into the rhythm

What questions do you need to ask yourself, your team, your key volunteers, even your family, to help you figure out what this coming season will look like, and how to make it work? Rather than riding the bullet train to Christmas and crashing into New Year’s Eve while Sundays chase you down week in and week out, what do the coming months look like, and what do you need to stay healthy, grounded, and keeping pace with Jesus?

The two images show a circle (the year) divided into twelve (months). I often think about the months as they appear in the first image, but experience them more like the unevenness of the second. February can feel like it lasts for three months, even though it’s the shortest, while December never seems to have enough days in it. What about the month leading up to VBS, or the weeks before Easter? Try the following exercise to get a good look at what’s happening in your ministry calendar:

Your Activity Pie Chart

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  1. Start with the neat-and-tidy pie where everyone gets an even slice (even at Thanksgiving!). Name each slice by month.

  2. Add all of the events, dates, special occasions that can’t move (Christmas pageant, midweek program x 4, Advent, food drive, you get the idea!).

  3. Notice which months are already full; notice which ones have breathing room.

I like starting this way because it shows me where my margin is already gone. If I divide the pie proportionately, it will give reveal where I have margin, and how to leverage that for the months I don’t. The truth is, each month has nearly the same amount of time to offer you, and so we need to steward it differently in unique seasons. For example, one year I completed this exercise, looking only at the deliverables for our day camp in each month. Do you know, March was the only month I did not have something that had to be completed for a camp that runs only 7 weeks of the summer?!

So I had a choice: move something into March, or guard March and give my brain a break from camp. I chose the latter. Why? Because it’s also Spring Break and any action items were likely to have little uptake value, given the cultural rhythm of vacation, taking a break, and resetting for spring.

Thoughts

After putting the big-ticket items in the pie, notice where you have few or no activities. These are great months for planning and preparation. What can get done in advance, while you have the time? What can you give away, or move, when you don’t? Taking stock of the immovable rhythms of your ministry year helps you plan and prepare for the space that exists. But you might miss these pockets of space if you’re run down, or running from one big thing to the next.

Of all things, do not miss this hint: a slice of pie with little in it does not require you to fill it. If I’m honest, I’d take a piece of pie and give the filling away—the crust is my favorite part (especially my mom’s pastry)! As you steward your time, make room for intentional, delightful Sabbath (see last week’s article about what that could look like), and show up for your family and friends outside of your ministry life. Guard the pieces that don’t yet have filling, and add what tastes best to you:

  • Book a coffee with that friend you haven’t seen in a while when you know you have the space to listen and linger.

  • Take some one-on-one time with teammates to learn and grow and dream.

  • That project that you just haven’t had time to start that matters so much to you? Pencil it in! What do you need to begin? Book a few hours with Jesus to imagine the possibility of simply starting.

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Above all else, be sure that it’s a pie you enjoy. I’m not one for banana cream, but I’d never say no to strawberry rhubarb. Be sure that the ingredients in your recipe are all ones that you have agreed to, and can live with. The extra that creeps in, or the thing you wished you’d said no to may be the difference between a pinch of salt and a teaspoon.

Pray about it. Bake your pie and present it to Jesus as an offering of your time, talent and treasure. Ask him what he likes about it. Ask him what’s missing. And by his grace, ask him what you could remove to make more space for what he’s calling you to in this season, and the next.

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