10th May 2018
The importance of planning has been on my mind this week, as I have my annual appraisal next Tuesday. This is carried out by two of our elders and trustees, and I will be presenting my Higher Level Objectives Paper, a document which reports on the last church year and sets out our key objectives for the next, including a detailed financial budget. As part of the appraisal process, I will also be presenting a copy of my 2018 to 2019 diary.
Forward planning is something I do quite instinctively, but my experience of managing others has shown me this does not come naturally to most of us. If you are aware of the Myers Briggs personality test, you will know this can be a particular challenge for those who have a ‘P’ (Perceiving) preference in their decision-making processes. People with this preference (such as my wife!) like to have as much information as possible before making a decision, leaving them free to be flexible and responsive. Or as I like to put it, not wanting to commit in case a better option comes along! Joking apart, these are good qualities, but they can make planning and committing your diary in advance a problem! You won’t be surprised to learn that I have a ‘J’ (Judging) preference in my Myers Briggs – I like to make decisions quickly and have things settled in advance. Deb is always encouraging me to enjoy the moment and not spend so much time thinking about the future!
When we have busy lives with multiple responsibilities, I believe detailed planning is essential. It is important to pause from time to time, to step back and take a moment to look ahead. This morning I was asked if I could speak at a seminar next January. I immediately got my diary out and was delighted to be able to accept, knowing that I have already pencilled in my other commitments.
Here are some of the key principles I take into consideration when planning ahead:
1. Days off and holidays are first to go in.
2. Date nights with Deb are next.
3. Local church responsibilities go in after this.
4. Any ministry outside King’s fits in around what is already in the diary.
I give priority to family and home church responsibilities over any outside or trans-local ministry. Once these have been met, I then have the freedom to serve churches beyond King’s, following boundaries agreed with both Deb and the elders and trustees.
Hopefully, the two people I meet with for my appraisal next week will be happy with the diary I show them. But I know that submitting it to them, discussing it and taking their advice, will be a very helpful process. Whatever our personality preferences, whether we like to be very ordered or more flexible, I believe good planning helps us meet our responsibilities and avoid overcommitting.
Posted by Steve Tibbert
8th March 2018
Last Friday marked the end of a season for me and Deb: our youngest son Sam had his final GCSE and so wore his school uniform for the last time ever! It felt like a milestone moment. For this family, Friday meant that after 20 years there will be no more uniform to wash or school shirts to iron – our three boys really are growing up and a significant season of our lives is drawing to a close.
Life never remains the same, especially if you have children. As the years pass, you move through different seasons, and each will bring its own opportunities and challenges. A number of years ago, I came across the writing of Gordon MacDonald, and I have found his observations on this subject extremely helpful. In his book A Resilient Life, he suggests that each decade of our lives raises different underlying questions and that ‘...knowing them helps us to deal with people sensitively, and gives us a better understanding of how to build a larger view of our own lives.’ The questions we ask ourselves in our 20s will vary greatly to those we ask in our 40s or 50s. Here is a sample of some of the key questions MacDonald suggests are raised as we move through the decades:
20s – What kind of a man or woman am I becoming? What will I do with my life?
30s – How do I prioritise the demands being made on my life?
40s – What can I do to make a greater contribution to my generation?
50s – Why is time moving so fast? How do I deal with my failures and successes?
60s – When do I stop doing the things that have always defined me? Do I have enough time to do all the things I’ve dreamed about in the past?
70s and 80s – Is there anything I can still contribute? Am I ready to face death?
Do any of these resonate with you? His book is well worth a read if you haven’t come across it before. It has helped me understand myself and others better. Knowing what season I am in, what lies ahead and the questions I am likely to be asking, enables me to anticipate and prepare for the opportunities and challenges that are coming, and to embrace each season I live through.
So what season are you in at the moment? It is worth some reflection.
This blog was first posted on June 23rd 2016.
Posted by Steve Tibbert
22nd February 2018
Do you ever feel under pressure?
As 2018 began, I wrote a paper for the elders and senior leadership team of King’s called 100 Days and Vision 2030. It was an attempt to manage expectations and agree priorities as I plan for my sabbatical which starts at the end of May this year. The second part of the paper was about showing that we have years ahead of us to get to all we want to achieve together.
My experience of sabbaticals (my last one was eight years ago) has been extremely positive – at an emotional level they have been life changing. I have seen pastors go through burnout far too often, putting pressure on their families and leaving churches uncertain as to what the future holds. I am extremely grateful to the elders and trustees of King’s for the opportunity to stand back and recharge – physically, emotionally and spiritually.
However, one of the downsides of an approaching sabbatical is that people suddenly realise you are not going to be around for a while! They start bringing forward requests and suggestions, aware that if they don’t catch me soon, they will have to wait until my return in September. And I am having to identify those essential tasks, things which would normally wait until June or July, which require my attention before my sabbatical begins. One seemingly small item builds upon another, and before you know it, you can begin to feel overwhelmed.
So what can you do when you feel under pressure? Here are a few things which I find helpful when the demands are great but time is short:
1. Keep praying. It is tempting to cut prayer times short when we are very busy, but this can quickly lead to too much reliance on ourselves and not enough on God. It is hard to keep going if we are not being fuelled spiritually.
2. Do not compromise on boundaries. We may think that by working on days off, or cramming in just one more evening meeting, the pressure will ease. This is seldom the case and can increase the chances of burnout before we even arrive at the start of a break.
3. Prioritise your work. I have two lists at the moment, one of things I must get to before my sabbatical begins, and another of things that can wait until after I get back.
4. Manage expectations. It is important to communicate with team members what needs to take priority and what can be left for now.
5. Continually re-evaluate your priorities. These may need adjusting as circumstances change and new information comes in. I make adjustments all the time.
We all go through busy periods and times of pressure. If we are to keep going and not experience burnout, we need to find ways of managing these seasons, even if it means making some tough decisions.
Posted by Steve Tibbert
1st February 2018
Whatever happened to January? It seems to have flown by! This year, with a summer sabbatical fast approaching, my diary is being squeezed as I try to fit in all that needs to be completed in the next four months. A few days ago, a young pastor contacted me about meeting up to talk through some leadership challenges he’s facing. Whilst I was keen to make time for him, I was only able to offer him a date once I return from sabbatical in the autumn.
Before going into pastoral ministry, I was involved in selling computer systems in the printing industry. This was back in the days of page makeup, when the early Apple Macs were just coming onto the market – it was that long ago! My company paid well, gave me a nice car and generous commission on any sales made, but the role also came with an annual sales target of £750k – a lot of money back in the eighties! It was up to me to make it happen. I had to decide whether to visit existing clients or concentrate on looking for new business. I had to work out whether a long journey in the car to visit a potential client was worth making. There was no daily structure provided, no weekly or monthly rhythms – I had to learn to be self-motivated, planning and organising how I spent my days to achieve the goals I had been set.
I have observed over the years that many pastors struggle with the number and variety of tasks that come with the role. Sometimes, it is a real challenge to assess what should be a priority and what could wait – it can feel as if everything is screaming for our attention. When this is the case, I find it helpful to list each task and then categorise each one as A, B or C, according to its degree of importance. I find this prevents me from feeling overwhelmed and spending time on the wrong things – it helps me identify the priorities among the many demands. This is also an exercise I go through from time-to-time with any members of staff who report to me – it helps them to know which of the many items on their to-do list I view as being most important.
With my sabbatical now less than four months away, I am trusting that the lessons I learned in my sales days will help me prioritise wisely, focus on the right things and make optimum use of the time remaining. Hopefully, I will then reach the end of May finish line knowing that everything is in place for me to be away for the summer.
Posted by Steve Tibbert
Steve Tibbert leads King’s Church London, with sites in Catford, Downham, Lee and Beckenham. Over the past fifteen years the church has seen continued growth, both in size and diversity. Steve is also involved in Newfrontiers and regularly coaches other lead elders. His book, Good to Grow, was published in July 2011. He is married to Deb, and they have three sons.