Hi, friends. In today’s post, we’ll look at how being a procrastinator or a perfectionist with planning/preparation can stifle others’ participation (or, in ministry, the Holy Spirit).
What Inspired This Post
The issues discussed here can apply to anything that involves teamwork (such as a business or secular organization), but as I wrote this, I was thinking in particular about lay servants and clergy. They generally collaborate during the week to prepare for the Sunday worship service. The pastor usually plans scripture, sermon, and other readings/prayers; lay servants who work with the pastor may include a choir director/worship leader/musicians, a person who does something for the children (like a children’s sermon), a sound/lights/technology director, the person who composes the bulletin, or any other job completed by congregation members.
This topic came to mind when I interned with Lay Servant School this year. As I shepherded my students in leadership, each person teeming with spiritual gifts and a willing heart for God, I realized how vital it is that pastors lift up lay servants in the church. Of course, pastors need to have that encouragement reciprocated; they are still human beings with needs, fears, talents, dreams, and flaws like all of us.
The Two Extremes
In the context of planning/preparation, the two extremes are perfectionism and procrastination (yay for incidental alliteration!).
Perfectionists tend to over-prepare, fretting excessively over their presentations. They also struggle with relinquishing control.
Procrastinators tend to “fly by the seat of their pants” or leave most of their presentation to the last minute and/or chance. Procrastinators do not leave themselves (and others) ample time for preparation.
Why the Extremes Are Stifling
Perfectionists discourage others because they don’t want help (If I want it done right, I have to do it myself). Some perfectionists accept the offer of help but micromanage everyone, which can feel insulting to the ones who are helping. This is a controlling, arrogant attitude in general, but it is sinful in a Christian context because it stems from pride. We are all important parts of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-27), and no one is perfect.
On the flip side, procrastinators put unnecessary pressure on others by failing to give them reasonable notice of what they need to do. That constant stress can discourage people who want to do their best. This is annoying and inconsiderate in general, but it is irreverent in a Christian context; we should respect the importance of a thoughtful, cohesive worship service where lay servants and clergy are prepared.
How to Address the Extremes
If you struggle with perfectionism, ask yourself why you cling to control. Has discord with certain people caused you not to trust them? Have you become overly arrogant in thinking you always know best? Are you too anxious of others’ opinions?
In the Christian context, are you so worried about others’ salvation that you feel like the service has to be earth-shattering (in other words, are you so worried about “the bottom line” that you won’t just trust, obey, and play your role)? Reflect, then take your anxieties to God in prayer, remembering that you are just one imperfect person in the big body of Christ.
If you struggle with procrastination, ask yourself why you put things off to the last minute. Are you managing your time unwisely, or have you taken on too many burdens? Are you apprehensive about completing the task you are putting off? Are you so confident in your ability to “wing it” that you are short-changing yourself?
In the Christian context, are you taking church for granted, perhaps getting so clouded by life you forget that your role in the Great Commission is one of the only things in this world that truly matters? Reflect, then take your struggles to God in prayer, remembering that God deserves more than the last minute.
Finally, if you are struggling to work with a perfectionist or a procrastinator in your organization, whether secular or religious, here is my tough but straight-forward advice: talk to them. Don’t let feelings of resentment fester. Be gracious yet honest. (Matthew 5:23-24)
Thanks for reading! Have you ever had to work with a perfectionist or a procrastinator? Which of these do you lean towards? Let me know in the comments. I’m closer to a perfectionist than a procrastinator, but I hope I’m not a micromanager!