The Underpants Gnomes

If you can listen/look past the offensive language and more-than-questionable subject matters, South Park is a potentially great source of teachable-moment clips when looking to illustrate something for a younger-than-me-and-my-mother crowd.

Most of us in ministry are operating so much in the “tyranny of the urgent”… that we never get to spend any time thinking through the strategy steps of the “how.” We know where we are now and where we want to go. We just don’t really have a strategic plan for how were actually going to get there.

Jeff Clinger, a pastor friend of mine who is doing GREAT things in local church ministry in Topeka, KS., is a strategic thinker with an eclectic taste in TV entertainment. I was at his church a few months ago doing a children’s ministry assessment and he said, “Our church is like the Underpants Gnomes. We got steps #1 and #3 figured out. But step #2? Not so much.”

You see, the Underpants Gnomes came in the middle of the night to steal the underwear of the people of the village. That’s step one, “Steal Underpants.” They also knew they wanted to make a profit; step three was, “Make Profit.” Their conundrum was they didn’t know how to get from step one to step three. There was no strategy or step two and that created a problem in their system. (To see a safe 35-second clip, go here.)

Most of us in ministry are operating so much in the “tyranny of the urgent”―those day-to-day pressures that are waiting like last night’s sink full of dirty dishes―that we never get to spend any time thinking through the strategy steps of the “how.” We know where we are now and where we want to go. We just don’t really have a strategic plan for how were actually going to get there. In other words: we’re missing step two.

Mark DeVries, President of Ministry Architects, has a phrase he calls, “balcony time.” His premise is that if we would carve out 4 hours each week to “think about what we need to think about” in moving our ministries forward, we would actually spin our wheels a whole lot less, experiencing way more forward movement. “Sitting on the balcony” means we’re not in our office or at home where too many disruptions can occur. Instead, we’re somewhere we can think about our volunteers and their needs. We can finally spend time designing an intentional plan for incorporating more parents into our program. A regular practice of balcony time gives us the chance to think through that list of 3 year goals still sitting in the desk drawer. It’s not the time for us to answer emails or make phone calls. No, it’s a structured thought process where each week, layers are added to plans and strategies until they are complete and ready to roll out.

Here are a few tips:

  • Start a note file on your phone for Balcony Time thoughts. Then as things pop into your mind during the week, you can record those thoughts and get back to them in a practical way.
  • Drive time isn’t the best balcony time because really – you should pay attention. But ideas often come to me when I’m traveling to/from the airport, so I send myself an email using my car voice system.
  • Create an Excel spreadsheet that will help you record your balcony time thoughts and next steps. Then when you’re in the office next, you can go back to check what it said you were going to do.

Maybe I should write the guys from South Park and ask if there’s a Balcony Time episode. That would be funny! (Maybe.)

 


Caro picStephanie Caro has been involved in ministry to children, youth, and adults in the local church since…a long time. Her humorous, straightforward style keeps her busy presenting and coaching at conferences, training events, camps, mission trips, retreats, churches, etc. She is Senior Consultant for Ministry Architects, which allows her to help churches assess, vision, and formulate their ministry game plan.

Her books, Thriving Youth Ministry in Smaller Churches and 99 Thoughts for the Smaller Church Youth Worker, were published by Group/Simply Youth Ministry. Her next book, “Ten Solutions (to 10 Common Mistakes in Churches) comes out in 2016. Stephanie is a contributing author to several ministry resources like YouthWorker Journal in addition to her regular column “Smaller Church Youth Ministry” in Group Magazine. Check out Stephanie’s blog, part of the #1 read youth ministry blog network, youthministry.com from Simply Youth Ministry/Group Publishing. She also blogs for youthspecialties.com, Princeton Theological Seminary, and others. Stephanie and her husband, Steve, live in Houston, TX. Their 7 children are all grown!

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