‘A failure to plan…’

Published 12:11 pm Saturday, October 28, 2017

“…is planning to fail.” Or so the saying goes. As a practiced procrastinator, I have spent many years trying to prove this saying false. The result has been discovering the boundaries of procrastination. I have figured out how much time I need to accomplish something and when I need to start before a deadline. I have discovered the amount of time I need to get something done and just what level of planning I need to do ahead of time if I am going to be successful in my last-minute preparations. The situations in which I have run out of time or failed to accomplish what I was working on can almost all be grouped into a single category: I failed to plan to have the resources available to accomplish what I was working on.

It turns out that you can have all the time you need to plan, but if you have not planned to have the resources necessary, you will be stuck. More times than I care to remember in my life, I have been preparing for something — as a pastor, it is often a worship service or other church event — and I have realized I was missing a key resource I needed to put the event together. I had needed to plan further ahead of time to ensure I had the necessary resources. My good intentions in the moment didn’t matter one bit. I could not accomplish what I wanted because I had not taken the time, ahead of time, to set up life in such a way that I had the resources I needed.

Sometimes, my failures have been invisible to the world around me: things like a sermon example which I had to change because I was missing a key component. Other times my failures have been more obvious like the “lunch event” without the lunch. Still other times, I have had to accept something I really want to happen was going to fall short because I had not planned the financial resources to make it happen.

Missing finances for things that are important to us is almost always rooted in a lack of planning rather than a lack of finances. We might say we want to support the effort to bring fresh water to the people of Puerto Rico, help our church to continue making a difference in the community or combat the opioid epidemic that is ravishing our communities, but those words are meaningless if we don’t care enough to plan our finances to make sure we have the resources to do what we say is important.

I have talked with many families who are able to plan their finances when it comes to saving enough money for a trip to Disney, but say “I’m sorry, we don’t have the resources” when it comes to feeding the hungry.

The reality is for most people, if something is important to us, we can get the resources we need if we plan. We plan for the Disney trip because it is important to us. We could plan to give to make a difference in our local school if it was important enough that we plan for it. There are three basic steps we can all take in order to ensure we have the resources to do what matters to us.

First, make a budget. Depending on your needs this can be more or less complicated, but a budget helps you to spend the amount of money you want on a specific category. Budgets allow you to say what is most important so you can plan the resources for what matters most: new shoes, the trip to Disney, a new car or giving to help refugees in Bangladesh.

Once you have set a budget, the second step is to live simply. Living simply is about making choices to spend money on needs over wants, and to set aside what you might otherwise spend in order to save it for things that are more important to you. If you trade a daily cup of coffee at Starbucks for one at home, you can put aside hundreds of dollars over the course of a year for something that matters more to you.

Finally, you need to plan the resources for what is important to you. If you want to purchase Christmas presents for kids who would otherwise go without, you need to expect that $200 expense (or however much you want to spend) so when Christmas arrives you don’t find yourself saying, “I would like to, but I already spent that money at Starbucks… .”

This column isn’t designed to tell you where to use your resources — that is up to you. I do want you to know that if you plan, you can be generous in ways you might think are impossible now. If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail at generosity. However, if you want to make a difference in our world, make a plan, stick to it,and celebrate how you can use your resources for things that really matter!

“Generous people plan to do what is generous, and they stand firm in their generosity.”

– Isaiah 32:8

Trunk-or-Treat at Courtland UMC: Come by Courtland United Methodist Church on Halloween from 5:30 to 7 p.m. for candy, hot dogs, Halloween games and more. You are welcome to stop by as you trick-or-treat through Courtland or stay for the whole night. We can’t wait to see you and hope you have a happy Halloween!

ANDREW BOOK is the pastor of Courtland United Methodist Church. He can be contacted at 653-2240 or andrew@courtlandumcva.org.