You are convicted and convinced that you need to make changes in your life so you can be a better financial manager. But we have presented so much material and explored so many different options. Where do you go from here?
You make a Plan of Action.
A Plan of Action is the whole deal plan of how you are going to get from Today to Eternity. You will pray, think, dream, and plan for how you will serve the Lord. You will put on paper the thoughts and plans you decide on. You will cast your vision far into the future, and then work your way back to today. You will detail what you will do, Today, to work out the Future.
But, you will allow the Lord to work in this plan…
(PR 16:3) Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.
(PR 16:9) In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.
(PR 19:21) Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails.
(PR 21:5) The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.
An effective Plan of Action is a living document that you can use to guide your daily decisions. If you have given it enough attention, it has already made most decisions for you. All you have to do is refer to it and take the Action. It is a document that you can refer to and take the right actions. You made it, so you should agree with it.
It begins with your Vision, or Mission. How do you see yourself and your family serving the Lord? What are the characteristics of that Service? What are the components of your lifestyle that make up that Service? Write it Down.
A church we know has this Vision Statement:
“Reach the Valley and Beyond for Christ.”
This church’s Mission Statement is this:
“This Church exists… To introduce people to Jesus Christ, connect them to His family, guide them into Christ-like maturity and equip them for ministry in the local church and beyond in order to bring glory to God.”
How would your personal Vision or Mission fit into this church’s? Write down a couple of sentences that state how you think you should be living your life. Simplify these sentences into a short statement or motto. Can you agree to the whole concept you have written down? Are you really committed to living like you just wrote? Write it out a few more times using different words. Is this the You that you think God wants? This is your Vision or Mission.
We already discussed SMART Goals and how they are important as milestones or beacons for your travel on the road of life. Your Plan of Action needs to have these Goals solidified and written down. They need to head up each page and be reviewed each day.
Your Goals need to cover major aspects of your life. Since we strive to be like Christ, one example of how we can grow to be like Him is to read Luke 2:52
(Luke 2:52) And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
The legitimate areas for growth or improvement from this example are Wisdom or Knowledge, Physical Health, Relationship with God, and Relationships with People. Another way to say this is that the Mental, Physical, Spiritual, and Social areas of your life are important to improve. You could further divide these to include Christian Service, Financial, Family, Work, and so on. There is no exact formula on how to arrange your goals. Your Goals are Your Goals. You have to understand and accept the goals you choose.
Your Goals also need to be divided into time horizons that you can understand. There are the Life Goals, the Long Term Goals, the Mid-term Goals, and the Short-term Goals. How you structure or use these time-horizons is up to you and not overly critical in the grand scheme of things.
Your Life Goal is just your Vision of Mission. This faces you in the right direction – like North, South, East or West for a vacation trip. The Mission is at the top of your Action Plan. All other Goals need to fit with or face with the Mission.
The Long Term goals might be more specific goals using 5 or 10 years as the horizon. They should flow from the Mission. They should fit nicely. They should be congruent with the Mission of your Life. As you go about your daily activities, you should ultimately be moving towards Long Term Goals. These Long-Term Goals are like the major milestones on a vacation trip – Visit the states of… See these kinds of attractions… Engage in these kinds of activities… Write them down and refer to them often.
The Mid-term Goals are ones that are more concrete. They should cover a time frame on the range of 2 to 5 years. Even though we can’t know the future, the momentum of our daily lives makes the next 2 or 3 years pretty predictable.
“If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll always have what you already got.”
“Doing more of what doesn’t work – doesn’t work.”
“One definition of idiocy is to think that if one continues to do the same things, one will get different results.”
As you live day-to-day, you are caught in your habits. These habits can be changed, but that takes significant awareness and commitment. You can predict how new habits will influence your future. You can reasonably outline your next 2 to 5 years based on your Mission, and the Long Term Goals you have written down.
These Mid-Term Goals are like the Stopping points on your vacation trip. You can map out the major places you will see and where you will spend the night. You can reasonably predict how much you will need to be spending here and there. You can make accurate guesses about the weather, the cuisine, the time it takes to drive from here to there. The Mid-Term goals for your life are much like this.
These Goals are candidates for SMART Goals. You can be pretty specific about your Tithing plans, when you will be debt-free, how much you will set aside for education, what your net worth will be. With targets like these to aim at, all your actions can be brought into compliance. All your arrows will go “that way”. The meat of your Plan of Action is in the Mid-term Goals area. Each of the areas of your life should have Mid-Term Goals.
Finally, your days and weeks should be guided by Short-Term Goals. These goals have a time horizon of weeks or months. You really can see the end of these roads. They are aimed at your Mid-Term Goals. You take those Mid-Term Goals and break them down, divide them up, and line up the pieces to make a whole. This corresponds to the Daily plan for your vacation trip. When are you going to begin? Which road will you take? How fast will you travel? How often will you stop? Where will you eat lunch? When will you arrive to spend the night? These Short-Term Goals guide your daily activities.
The SMART Goal concept applies to your Short-Term Goals. Now you can add actual numbers and time-frames to a Goal. You can use the Mid-term predictions to outline what needs to get done each month, week, or day in order to reach the Goals you have established. The Plan of Action is here in the Short-Term. Your ACTION takes place each day, not in the dreamings of your futures. You can do this – once you have set these goals and worked out the Breakdowns for today.
Each of the Goals should logically lead you to a set of Plans for each area. The Plans will be Long-Term, Mid-Term, and Short-Term to fit with the Goals. You should include plans for your life areas. The Plans are more and more specific as you get closer to today’s activities.
Plans are Step-by-step instructions you make for yourself to follow. You decide today how you will act on a day in the future. By deciding outside the realm of your daily habits, you are able to see the consequences of your actions or inactions more clearly than when in the midst of the day. If you haven’t thought out and practiced your responses, you will fall back on habits – and you’ll fall a long way. Progress is made one step or action at a time. Plans guide those steps.
Since this is a Plan of Action, you obviously need to outline what Actions you will be taking. We have talked about many specific things you can be doing to become better Financial Managers. Your Plan of Action should take these specific actions and mold them into a Daily Plan.
What will you do with your credit cards to avoid using them? What will you do about menus and shopping for them? How will you provide for the future with a savings plan? What are you going to do about communicating plans and actions to your spouse or mentor? How will you pass on what you learn to your children or friends or family? How will you act when confronted with a “shopping trigger”?
These are the questions that lead to taking an action. If you think through your normal activities and situations, you can identify when and where you lose control of your finances. You can plan out how you will change your response to these situations. You can predict how you will overcome temptation.
Your Actions should be written down and reviewed as the situations dictate. For example, if you make a list of Actions to take when it is bill-paying time, then get that list of Actions out when you get out the bills. Review what you said you were going to do… Do it. If you said you were going to make all payments on time, then be sure you aren’t overlooking any bills for this session. If you said you were going to pay an additional $10 to xyz company, then be sure to add the $10 to the minimum payment and notate the additional payment on the check, the invoice stub, and the invoice. Do what you said you were going to do.
(MT 5:37) Simply let your `Yes' be `Yes,' and your`No,' `No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
In order for you to actually reach your destinations, you need to see if you are on course. Simply writing down your Goals and Plans is not enough – you need to take the Action.
(Jas1:22) “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”
Action moves you forward. Evaluation tests whether your actions are effective.
Evaluation is the process of examining actions and results, and comparing to plans and expectations. You examine your actions, compare them to the Plan, and then decide about Next Steps. If you did a good job of making your Plan, then Actions should have Results that match Plan. If Results differ, examine Actions to see if you did what you said you would do. Examine Plans to see if they point to Goals. Examine Goals to see if they are appropriate.
You should be reviewing the Daily Plan of Action each and every day. You should review your Plans and evaluate your actions each week and each month. Compare your expectations with your results. How did you do? What do you need to fix? Do you need to be more attentive to your Plan? Do you need more motivation to stick to the Plan? Is the Plan too aggressive for you at this stage in your life? Are you trying to do this in your own Power instead of God’s?
Make adjustments as you discover variations. Move more steadily towards your Goals with Action each and every day.
Let’s presume that your Mission is to be a better Christian by being a better steward of your time, talents, and treasure. You will do your part in the Kingdom scheme of things. You will live each day to the Glory of God.
Your Long-term Goals include Helping the local Church be successful by exercising the Spiritual Gift of Giving. This means giving sacrificially of your Time, Talent, and Treasure.
Your Mid-Term Financial Goals include 1. Financial giving at Tithe or beyond; 2. Being out of short-term debt (credit cards) and 3. Having a Short-Term Mission Nest Egg of $1,000 you can use or that you can use for others.
Short Term Financial Goals related to the Mid-Term Goals are: 1. Give $10 each Sunday above normal Giving for the next 3 months. (This will be increased to $20 the next 3 months, $50 the following, etc…) 2. Pay $50 additional each month for the next 3 months towards credit card debt. (This will be increased to $75, then $100, etc…) 3. Save $10 each month for the next 3 months towards the Nest Egg. (This will be increased to $20, then $40, etc…)
Do you see how the Short-Term Goals flow from the Mission? Are any of the short-Term Goals incompatible with the Mission? Do they all fit into the Long-Term Goals? Obviously, we have not covered all the possibilities, but we have demonstrated the principle – Mission leads to Action today.
What is the Action required for Today? Since we are committing $100 each month towards these goals, we need to find that $100 from existing living. We need to make changes in daily living that equal $100 for the month. Some of the ways we can do that each day are:
You can think of many more ways to reign in the daily habits you have that are not contributing to your overall Mission and Goals. Each day, you need to be doing those little things that transform an average performance into a superior success.
(Mat 19:26) “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
(Phil 4:13) “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
As you begin each day (or prepare for tomorrow each night) you should be sitting quietly with the Lord. You should be asking Him what you did right and wrong. You should be asking Him how to do better. You should be building a partnership with the Lord. You might do something like this…
This sample morning takes some further commitment. You will have to devote time to this. Maybe your day can’t be re-structured this radically, right away. Maybe it needs to be. Make changes as you need to. It is your life that is in the scale and being measured. It is your life that you should be living.
Financial Management is a skill we all can master. Like developing any skill, it requires thought and effort to establish the basics, and determination and practice to improve. Financial Management is a life-long requirement for a long life with no worries. If you take care of your Today’s, all of your tomorrows will take care of themselves.
Your first commitment has to be to the Lord. You need to reaffirm your commitment to living each and every minute of your life in a way that Glorifies God. Be filled with the Spirit, not led by the Flesh. Take your minute-by-minute thoughts actions captive to Christ.
Live for the Lord – Give to the Lord
(Rom 12:1-2) “THEREFORE I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. “
(Phil 4:8) “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”
(Col 3:17) “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”
(I Cor 16:2) “On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come.”
(II Cor 9:6-11) “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; as it is written, HE SCATTERED ABROAD, HE GAVE TO THE POOR, HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS ENDURES FOREVER. Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God.”
This seemingly self-evident principle is the one most likely to be abused. Do not be conformed any longer to this world… Avoid the world’s urgings to live a selfish and self-indulgent life. You really do NOT deserve a break, today. Don’t try to fake it until you make it. Be patient and wait on the Lord. Don’t run after the things of this world. Delay your gratifications. Spend less than you earn.
The Borrower is Servant to the Lender. By being in debt, you are no longer the Lord’s servant, you are the servant to the lender. If God wants you to go here or there, you cannot because you are entangled with a creditor who wants repayment. As a Christian, you have no other choice except to honor your promise to pay back that which you borrowed. To remain available for the Lord’s work, avoid debt.
Spending less than you earn is one way to avoid debt, but you need to remember that you cannot predict the future, so don’t get into debt any farther than you can re-pay. Don’t obligate your future finances for today’s gratifications. Plan your purchases. Pay cash. Buy on sale. Avoid debt.
You are going to spend the rest of your life in the future. Make sure you have something there to live with. Savings, Investments, Insurance, Education, Taxes, Wills & Estates are all areas where you can make a difference in the future without going into debt – without spending more than you earn – without dis-honoring God in the process. God can do any miracle he wants if He needs you to do this or that. However, why make Him waste a miracle on your bad choices and actions? Put aside a little bit each week for some un-known future event.
Make your Tomorrows come alive with your Today actions. Be thoughtful how you live your Todays – they will weave a web of habits around your future. Pray, Plan, Prepare, and Perform. Your Plan of Action should guide you each day. Follow it to the future.
(Or, contact John & Sandi Larson via email at: email@example.com)
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God’s Vision or Mission
Long Term Goals Related To The Mission
Mid-Term Goals That Fit The Long-Term Goals
Short Term Goals For The Next Several Months.
How To Deal With God…
How To Deal With Planning…
How To Deal With Spending…
How The Deal With Saving…
Any Other Actions To Take…
Each Day, Do The Following:
Each Week, Do The Following:
Each Month, Do The Following: