Christmas in July . . . and August

Last year at this time I wrote a column about the concept of taking time during this final week of the year (or, if you still need it, the first week of January) to plan for the new year.

This period has become quite meaningful to me, and I have grown to love the idea of investing time in reading, reflecting, scheduling, goal setting and generally preparing for the year ahead.

As I am engaged in that exercise this year, however, I realize that my schedule is still too cluttered with things that must (or at least should) be done during the old year, but which could easily have been done earlier.

One thing I wrote about in last year’s article was my desire to enter into the fall and holiday season with confidence, focused on implementing the things I need to do—and enjoying them. I would like to expand upon that idea briefly here.

It seems to me that a successful plan for the new year ultimately involves setting the end of August as the cutoff for everything that I can possibly fit in before the last four months of the year descend upon us.

You see, in my role as a church ministries representative with The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, those four months are probably the busiest time of the year—and should be among the most productive, as well as meaningful, for me.

Each year, I plan to attend and exhibit in at least three ministry conferences in September and October, and one of them (the Shepherds 360 Church Leaders Conference) involves a trip to North Carolina.

Added to that, these are the months in which I focus on teaching about the Reformation, the Geneva Bible, the Thanksgiving Pilgrims, Advent, Hanukkah and Christmas. I strive to take advantage of every opportunity to cover these topics during this limited time frame, so I seek to be in churches for midweek services, as well as Sundays, throughout the fall and holiday season.

This year, I also made a trip to Texas during November and, in 2022, Lord willing, I will be traveling to Iowa in October to present a conference on the Reformation.

Beyond all that, these last months of the year are very important for those of us involved in any type of ministry that involves connecting with constituents and donors. It seems to become more necessary each year to be organized for these efforts as early as possible if one wishes for such communications to receive attention.

Finally, I would really like to take some time off for the holidays—and also to be able to do more planning for the next year! My wife and I enjoy wrapping the year up with a trip, and we want to leave space to be part of special gatherings.

In light of all these factors, it seems to be clear: A successful “end of the year” (Deut. 11:12) is crafted in July and August.

That means using those weeks and months to accomplish as much as possible ahead of time on things like letters, messages and other projects that will be coming due once September arrives. It also means dealing with details, like making travel arrangements, far ahead of time—even getting doctor and dentist appointments out of the way.

For all practical purposes, then, the year ends in August. If I could approach it that way—and get things completed in that fashion—it would indeed allow me to focus on implementing my plans in those final months of the year, and then enjoying the experiences.

So many of the things that we relegate to squeezing in before the end of the year could easily be done earlier with just a bit of planning. Of course, there will always be unforeseen circumstances. Still, some of our end-of-year emergencies could be dealt with in August if we would only think further ahead.

Mind you, it is “not that I have already attained” (Phil. 3:12) in this area—and I may not get there in 2022. But these are thoughts that I’ve had for quite a while and, at least by being consciously proactive and making the attempt, I am more likely to make progress “toward the goal” (Phil. 3:14) in this coming year. I desire a more productive, meaningful and memorable holiday season, and an even more profound interlude of meditation and planning around the launch of the next new year.

How are your preparations going for 2022? Perhaps your circumstances are very different, but time works the same for all of us. Where are you in the quest to be more efficient in using the next 12 months? I would love to see your responses and ideas.

So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Ps. 90:12)

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Paul Scharf 2019 Bio


Paul J. Scharf (M.A., M.Div., Faith Baptist Theological Seminary) is a church ministries representative for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, serving in the midwest. He also assists Whitcomb Ministries and writes for “Answers” Magazine and Regular Baptist Press. For more information on his ministry, visit foi.org/scharf or email pscharf@foi.org.

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