The Forward Planner

Darren Shelburne January 19, 2021

My wife and I came on Young life staff in 1994. We were recruited by Young Life military to start a new chapter in the middle of the Mojave Desert in Southern California. We were 22 years old, newlyweds, nervous, but excited to reach kids with the Gospel. We went to new staff training in Colorado Springs for two weeks, got super pumped up from all the great training and good people, then set out to save the world. It didn’t take long for reality to set in. Wow, this is harder than I thought.  I don’t really know what I’m doing.  Am I really “MADE FOR THIS”? It became vitally important for my own well-being to find a better way to feel like I was making significant progress.

About two years ago, I was on the tail end of another year, using yet another “productivity planner” on the market and pondered which planning system I was going to use this next year.  I began to complain about all the things my current planner was missing. My frustration exploded into a long, somewhat exhaustive, list of practical ideas.  Then I searched the market to find any kind of Productivity Planner for the Spiritual Leader. No such thing exists, still today!  There are tons of diaries, more journals than we need, and planners for every number and wing combination of the enneagram. But nothing for Spiritual Leaders who want to be highly productive.  I contacted a graphic designer and over the course of 60 days, we hammered out a good product….the FORWARD PLANNER.

The principle at the heart of the Forward Planner is:  “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.

In the mission of Young Life, there are many people who are gifted in pastoral roles and who truly know how to care for people. Young Life staff and volunteers understand the struggles kids face on a daily basis.  We are intent on preaching the Gospel with biblical accuracy in an engaging way. We inspire young people, adults, and donors to join the mission.  I see all of this as the “vine” of ministry fruit and growth.  But we don’t all plan well or manage our time purposefully. Planning and productivity may feel less spiritual than the more outward, visible fruit, but the “trellis” that supports the vine is just as important.  Charisma and good intentions alone won’t produce lasting results.  Each year we need to be clear about where we’re headed, set up a road map on how to get there and course-correct along the journey.

That is exactly why I created The Forward Planner. I wanted to create a rhythm of productivity for Young Life staff, volunteer leaders and other ministry-minded individuals, to help them set goals, track progress and evaluate success. Ministry is, in many ways, like building a house. It’s hard, it’s multi-faceted, you’re building something important, but you need the right tools at the right time. This turn-key planning system will set your course and give you a clear direction on identifying what comes next and then helps you determine definitive steps on how to get there. 

It has been said, “Every day is a little life, and each life is but a day repeated.” My hope for you is that, in using this tool day after day, you will see patterns of productive kingdom work emerge in your daily rhythms that will propel you forward in sharing Jesus with kids. God bless you and happy planning.

If you would like to purchase or find more information on the Forward Planner, you can find that here.

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