Creating Margin

Charles Kiser —  March 24, 2008 — 6 Comments

One of the rhythms we’ve been developing in our early weeks in Uptown concerns space for reflection and evaluation. Andy Stanley and company, in 7 Effective Practices of Ministry, call this rhythm creating margin—space carved out of the calendar for the purpose of evaluation, planning and celebration.

My suspicion is that, if you’re like me, there’s not usually a whole lot of margin in your life. The activities take up all the space on the page. We keep pretty busy; things are hectic; we don’t have time for much more than crashing in front of the TV for a little while at the end of a long day.

Porche and I are trying to make deliberate calendar decisions in our church starting work that will provide moments of margin along the way. We’re convinced it will make us more fruitful and less crazy in the long haul.

Margin moments occur when we evaluate what’s happened in the past: how did the Prayer Walk go? What were the strengths and limitations of that worship gathering? What went well in that hospitality event? What progress are we making toward achieving our goals?

Margin can also be used for future planning and generating new ideas. Maybe it’s reading a book on a subject of interest and sharing its best concepts. Maybe it’s a retreat experience for the sake of planning sermons for a year.

Probably one of the most neglected uses of margin is celebration: rejoicing in our successes, saying thank you, encouraging each other to keep up the good work. How weird would it be if a baseball team forgot to celebrate after winning the World Series? It would never happen. Yet sometimes we get so caught up in the busyness of life and ministry that we forget to celebrate our victories with each other.

This margin idea is not really new at all. The Israelites’ word for margin was Sabbath. God started the Sabbath rhythm after creating the cosmos. What did God do for Sabbath? God evaluated/celebrated (“God saw all that he had made and it was very good”) and he rested.

One concrete way Porche and I have put the margin principle to work is through the development of our own annual personal growth plans. In short, we’ve created a document that puts together all the ways we’ll seek to create margin in the following year—from vacation dates and conferences, to monthly mentoring and coaching appointments, to monthly personal mini-retreats, to daily times of solitude and spiritual habit. I’m invigorated just thinking about how I’ll be invigorated in these times of margin.

Where do you find margin in your life?

Charles Kiser


I’m a pastor, missionary, and contextual theologian in Dallas, Texas. I’m committed to equipping and coaching Christians to start fresh expressions of Christian community in Dallas County — communities of hospitality, inclusion, justice, and healing.

6 responses to Creating Margin


    margins… i’m a doodle-er. funny, because that’s what my margins in my life look like. doodles. random. clusters of different patterns. pictures. repeated patterns. block letters. all doodled upon.
    so… tootles…


    This is encouraging! Praying for you all.

    Dwight Robarts March 24, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    Charles- Pat Kieffert is our consultant from Church Innovations. He has a mantra that I’ve adopted and tried to practice and that supports your post. He says, “We do not learn from experience. We only learn from experience that we reflect on.” Reflecting on what we done is crucial ministry. Blessings.


    Our small group read a book together last year about spiritual disciplines and one of them was celebration. The good Lord planned several times of celebration for the Jews. Then there was the whole year of Jubilee. So our small group plans meals together and we block out 30 minutes every time we meet just for fellowship. It’s made us stronger as a group and our discussions are better because of our relationships with each other.


    Hi Charles! Don’t know if you remember me or not. I remember you. God bless you, your family, and this new church!
    Resting and evaluating are excellent ideas! Actually planning it is fantastic! God bless it all!
    BTW, here is a good book I’ve read and highly recommend:
    The Simple Church by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger. Excellent resource. Be blessed dear brother!


    i appreciate your efforts of being ‘mentored’ or ‘discipled’, whatever they call it these days, through relationships, the WORD, and other readings. while you are reflecting on your day or your approach, let me encourage you to continue relying on His Spirit to lead you through His Word and His Ministry. beware of those with alluring words of counsel, wolves in sheep’s clothing, that lead you away from the Word and overshadow your reliance on Him to lead you. man’s books can be a good thing, but nothing will trump a ‘simple’ reliance on Him. (where your time is spent may reveal the most.) God bless!

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