Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Just make it happen....the first time

Ideas tend to drop themselves on me at the weirdest times.  For example, I was painting my fingernails last night when I was struck with today's thought.  (Of course, my nails were wet at the time, so I'm typing it out the next morning.) But, before I dive straight into that, let me set up the scene.

As previously stated, I was painting my nails.  Now, I make no claim to be a good manicurist, mainly for the simple reason that I am too impatient.  I hate waiting for that stupid polish to dry! Thus, I am always slapping on a really thick layer and then denting, smudging, or just generally destroying it.  Just in case you are one of the 3 people on this planet who have never held a paintbrush, here's a tip: several thin layers > one thick layer.  I, unfortunately, very seldom uphold that rule; instead, I tend to try to rush through the steps to reach that so satisfying feeling of completion.  Of course, it doesn't work, though.  I almost always have to fix something because I was in a hurry the first time.  

There! That was my whole point in that tirade! =)  "Haste makes waste."  My shiny, wet fingertips made me think about all the time I have wasted re-doing things in my never-ending attempt to get things done.  Oddly enough, however, in issues not pertaining to crafts or nail polish, I tend to be a front-end planner.  If I'm decorating, I will get all of my ideas organized (at least mentally) and planned through before I start.  If I'm tackling a new task at work, I will go through the steps and see if there is any way of improving or stream-lining the process.  If I'm building something, I will read all the instructions before I start.  This means that I sometimes do things non-traditionally because I've figured out a different method that will be more effective or faster; but I also get it done correctly the first time.

Now, to my "big thought."  I have spent my entire life in church, in ministry:  minister's kid, youth worker, intern, worship leader.  I can't tell you how many times I have heard the phrase "Make it happen."  (This is especially true in youth ministry.)  Now, don't get me wrong; I am completely aware that we have almost always been understaffed and underfunded.  In fact, I don't think there is a single area of any church, most especially in youth ministry, that has a more than sufficient budget and more than enough workers.  However, this concept of "making it happen" does so much more harm than good.

I was involved with a particular ministry for a while several years ago.  It was a very good ministry, accomplished a lot, made an impact. However, there was an over-whelming attitude of "Make it happen."  In fact, the phrase was a running joke we heard it so often.

"Build a 40' wall out of boxes in two days?"
"Make it happen."

"Prepare a meal for 100 people in an hour?"
"Make it happen."

"Put together a meaningful service in 15 minutes?"
"Make it happen."

If I heard it once, I head it a thousand times.  

Now, believe me, after nearly 33 years in a preacher's family and 15+ years in youth ministry, I understand that sometimes you just don't have enough warning or plans have to be changed last-minute.  I am not denying that fact; however, so much of this frantic running around could be saved with a little forethought.  

I was constantly frustrated with the complete lack of planning on the front end, but the most baffling part was that everyone seemed proud of the fact that there was no method.  They loved that they could dive into a project and cobble something together without "wasting" time.  Unfortunately, they also seemed to be blind to the fact that they had to rebuild the project three times before they were done.  Sure, they had to completely scrap their original attempts and spend more money on supplies, but by George, they "made it happen!"  I watched the leadership "delegate" tasks without giving any instructions or guidelines for the desired result.  My fellow-workers would be half-way through a major project before the leader would check the progress, and 9 times out of 10, it wasn't what was desired and had to be torn down and re-started.  

Now, for all of you who have hackles rising at my audacity to criticize something that has seemed so effective for so long, I would like to ask you one simple question:  

Could it have been better?

The videos that were created in less than 2 days; could they have been technically better with more time for filming and editing?

The full-length scripts that weren't written until 2 weeks before the performance; could they have been smoother and more professional with more time for character development and rehearsal?

The worship sets that were planned 30 minutes before service; could they have been more anointed with more time for prayerful consideration?

The illustrations that were "inspired" at the last minute; could they have been more effectively executed with more time for integration?

Could it have been better?

I am very much afraid that, in our quest to make things good, we have utterly given up on great.  We have gotten so used to the idea of last minute panic, that we don't think any more time is necessary.  Because God has graciously used our efforts, we don't feel that we have to try harder.  We think frantic, last minute, busyness is as effective as careful, purposeful design.

Unfortunately, however, it's just laziness.


  1. AHHH! YES!!! I love this post!! It summarizes my exact frustration with our year there! Haha, all the times I'd walk out to the warehouse and they're be a pile of perfectly good lumber that was now useless because instead of taking the slightly extra time to pre-drill holes and make a stronger and sturdier structure.. they just used nail... and split the wood and then started over and still used nails! You should send this link to A!

    1. I'm not trying to point fingers here because this isn't a problem with just one group or person. Unfortunately, it's fairly wide-spread.

  2. Very true. I'm probably the most guilty of this than anyone. I think it's based in pride. A deep underlying knowledge that I don't have to study for the test, prepare a project, or put in the practice time. I know I can just wing it and be ok". You are so right that we miss great because we shoot for good.