When we started PCC – and for the first 10+ years of our church – we planned our weekend experiences (services) on a VERY short time horizon. There was a loosely formed team of people who would meet weekly (in the back room of the County Seat Restaurant before we had a building) and we’d talk about the previous Sunday – what worked well and what didn’t. And we’d look to the coming Sunday, which was only a few days away. Often, the entire service, from start to finish, would be envisioned and planned in that meeting, and then we’d all go and frantically execute it.
Last minute changes and improvements were the norm. Beth Stoddard and I would frequently call each other on Saturday evening and make substantial changes in the music and elements that were only hours away from happening! It worked because our church was simple. One location. One band. I was the campus pastor. The only campus pastor. And I was the senior pastor, too. Beth was the only band and worship leader on our staff, and she’s uniquely skilled and gifted to be able to pull off anything musical with little or no notice.
What forced us to change was not size, but spread. As we added campuses, we added complexity. There were not just multiple locations, but multiple bands, multiple setup teams, multiple tech teams, multiple guest services teams, multiple kids teams, etc. Simply put, we could no longer regularly pull off last-minute creative ideas. Not that we didn’t try! But doing it created chaos and wreaked havoc among our staff and volunteers. Further, it chipped away at the excellence we always strive to achieve.
So, over time, we have slowly, deliberately, worked to plan farther into the future. That allows us to be excellent and not unfairly tax and stress our people. As our team has matured, God has gifted PCC with people who come to the table with different gifts, different planning skills, and different perspectives.
In July of last year, I decided to ‘go away’ for short periods every few weeks to think and pray and plan in a more effective way. I made selective invitations, and at times invited different folks from around our church to help inject fresh perspectives into the planning.
Earlier this week, we did our 7th retreat since July. There is a solid team of people now, who give up time from their families every 6-8 weeks to join me on these adventures. They include Bryan Pope, Jerimy Ford, Beth Stoddard, Christine Peyton, Paul Myers, Susan Hughes, and Elijah Schiarelli. Angie Frame also frequently joins us.
At the retreat earlier this week, we actually fleshed out the framework for September, October and early November at PCC. Some might ask, “How can the Spirit of God speak when we get that far ahead?” It’s a good question. I used to actually use that question as the excuse for NOT getting ahead. But then I came to understand 2 things: 1) The Spirit can speak in the planning as well as He can in the moment. 2) We ALWAYS allow for God to change what we have on paper. So we build into our system the opportunity and the expectation that sometimes, God will give us more last-minute instructions and we always respond to that. We always say yes when we hear from God. That’s an absolute. Whether we hear His voice early or late is irrelevant.
When we go away, we also have some fun together. That’s the secret sauce for a good team – we work hard and we play hard. We also break bread, pray, sing and worship, laugh a lot, and take plenty of time to reflect on what’s been working…and what’s not.
In addition to these retreats, our preparation for Sundays includes a matrix of weekly meetings for working out transitions, lighting and sound, thinking through offering and closing language and, of course, rehearsals. Sunday’s don’t just ‘happen’ at PCC. They are the finish line of literally months of planning and hundreds of hours of preparation. It is true that some Sundays are more effective than others, but they are all deliberate, thoroughly prayed over, Biblically rooted, and designed for a specific outcome.
And, in case you don’t know, Sunday’s come with amazing regularity!