When asked about how he managed his many competing priorities, Dwight D. Eisenhower (34th President of the USA) replied by saying: “What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important”. The aim of this post is to help us to apply that statement.
Firstly, in our personal lives…
…it is important to see our close friends, but our deadlines at work crowd in on us urgently . It is important to phone our parents, but our text messages often demand our urgent attention. It is important that we affirm our kids, but it is urgent that we get them to school on time (avoiding the dreaded ‘late marks’!). Our Spouses are important, too, but our houses often require more urgent attention (we think). Most of us to tend to focus more on ‘the urgent’.
Secondly, in the life of our congregations…
…filling in slots on the rotas is urgent, but leaders spending time together in prayer is important. Learning how to play the songs for the next meeting is urgent, but making new disciples outside of our meetings is important. Making sure that emerging leaders know how to take the collection properly is urgent, but investing deeply and personally in them is important. What more could we achieve if we focused more on ‘the important’?
There is a well-know time management parable, in which a teacher places containers with sand, pebbles and rocks on his desk. He asks his students is they will all fit into an empty glass jar. They are dubious. He first tries by putting in the sand, then the pebbles, then the rocks. Except not all of the rocks fit into the jar, as it is already too full of sand and pebbles. However, when he reverses the order (i.e. rocks first, then pebbles, then sand) they all fit into the jar!
The meaning of the parable is simple, but profound: what we do first, matters. If we attend to urgent things first (i.e. ‘sand’ and ‘pebbles’), our time and energy will be consumed by them, and we may not have enough time or energy to attend to more important things (i.e. ‘rocks’). However, if we attend to important things first, not only are they more likely to actually get done, but the less important (‘urgent’) things may also get done, as well.
Is this a principle we need to attend to?
Are we determined to achieve our goals of making 30 new disciples over 5-6 years, of raising up new leaders from among that group of 30, and of sending them out to make more new disciples and start another new congregation, amongst a different group of people? Or, will we become distracted by more ‘urgent’ things, which help us feel important, in the short-term, but fail to help us achieve what is important, in the long term?
Do we care about the results of our labours?
We have a great opportunity, across the Diocese, to do something important. We also have a responsibility, to give it our very best shot, as: “from everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (Luke 12.48). The more we prioritise the ‘important’ things (i.e. making new disciples and developing leaders), the more likely we are to achieve them.
If we draw two columns on a piece of paper (labelling one of them as ‘urgent’ and the other as ‘important’), we can then write down the most ‘urgent’ and the most ‘important’ things at the top of each column, and the least ‘urgent’ and least ‘important’ things at the bottom of each column. This gives us a list of priorities, with which we can: 1. DO what’s most important, 2. PLAN what’s less important, 3. DELEGATE what’s most urgent and 4. NEGLECT everything else.
This should help us all to ‘get a grip’.
This blog contains the fifth principle taught to all new congregation leaders in the Joshua Centre’s Leadership Development Program (within the theme: ‘Lead A Mission’).