It is an annual tradition. Every year after Easter, I grab some materials and meet up with my friend, Rich Gantenbein. He is the pastor at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Sonoma, CA.
I have forgotten how many years we have done this together, but it has become part of the rhythm of my year- and my life.
I don't know if it is just coincidence that the sermon series I am preaching right now is "The Big Picture", but it is appropriate. Sermon planning week is one of the ways I use to step back and try to get the Big Picture for New Hope and the year ahead.The time we spend and the thoughts we share, help us get and keep, perspective.
How do you get the Big Picture in your life? It is one thing to talk about it, but it is another thing to have a way to step back, refocus and get the Big Picture. Over the past 20+ years of sermon planning together, here are some things I have learned:
Change Your Scenery: If you are going to get fresh perspective, it helps to change your environment. Some years we go off where it is quiet and serene. This year, we are borrowing an apartment in bustling San Francisco. What we are looking at or hearing doesn't seem to be the issue- as long as it is something different. There is something about looking out different windows, seeing different sights and hearing different sounds that helps to shake things up and get a fresh take on reality. Where do you go when you need to step back and get the Big Picture?
- It Takes Time: Rich and I will check in with each other on a regular basis. Both phone and email are helpful in staying in touch and discussing issues. But as helpful as those conversations are,they are not enough for getting the Big Picture and planning ahead. For us, we have found it takes about 4-5 days, once a year. What kind of time do you spend in order to get perspective?
- It Takes Work: Perspective doesn't come by itself. Good planning takes work. It requires wrestling, questioning, tweaking and even starting over. It requires intentional effort to focus and it is easy to get distracted. It isn't easy, but it is essential. There is a lot of planning and preparations that go into this week, but it is worth it. Do you have a regular process for examing where you have been and where you are going?
- Bring a Friend: Rich and I have known each other for more than 30 years. There isn't much we don't know about each other- or each others' church! That is a big help for this kind of work. We help each other get things into focus. Some people go off to the mountain top to get a fresh vision. I think that is great- but my vision gets sharper when I bring a friend. Who are the key people in your life who can help you keep perspective and see the Big Picture?
- It's a Gift: For all the work that is involved in a week like this, it is also a joy. It is tiring to do this kind of work, but it is also energizing. I am already excited about the year ahead. Stepping back and taking time to get the big picture is work- but it is also a gift. When can you give yourself the gift of the Big Picture?
What are some learnings you have from your life that you can recommend to those who want to get better at stepping back and getting the Big Picture?