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200-Year Plan – How to construct a plan – 1

ADDENDUM as of 2/5/09: While I am still excited about the materials I discuss in this post, it is with great sadness that I feel compelled to note I have discovered there are reasons for caution with respect to the sources referenced herein. With respect to Vision Forum Ministries, I call your attention to the series of articles at Ministry Watchman and Jen’s Gems. And with respect to Geoff Botkin, see Who is Geoffrey Botkin? at the Under Much Grace blog.

[Continued discussion of Vision Forum Ministries' program titled The 200 Year Plan: A Practicum on Multi-Generational Faithfulness.]

Sadly, the Vision Forum CD set I purchased provides a sanitized (indeed, in my opinion, overly-sanitized–to the point of being useless) PDF view of the spreadsheet Mr. Botkin showed his audience as he discussed how he built his family’s 200-year plan. (The spreadsheet displayed in the CD shows no headings, no titles, no data at all. It consists, solely, of a grid with a few of the rows and columns colored in. Period. That’s it!)

After persistent attempts to get the company to provide me an example of what Mr. Botkin’s original audience saw, a member of their customer service department wrote back, “The slides originally contained personal information which has since been removed at the request of the speaker. I apologize for any inconvenience that you have experienced and I am sorry that I am currently unable to help you further in this area.”

To their credit, they offered me a refund for the entire CD because this one set of PDFs wasn’t up to par with what I would have hoped for. But I wanted the information more than a refund! So I attempted to contact Mr. Botkin directly in order to acquire a readable example of the spreadsheet and at least an exemplary sample of the data he had developed for his family’s 200-year plan. I was thrilled when he graciously provided what I asked for. I am only now beginning to work through the implications of what he showed me.

Rather than burdening you here with a full rundown of what Botkin sent me; indeed, considering how little I think I really understand the plan, I am numbering this post as #1 in a series. I have no idea how many more posts will come nor how quickly. But let me at least begin working through with you where I am going with our family’s 200-year plan.

Perhaps the first and foremost most important feature of creating a 200-year plan as I’m urging, here: it creates a sense of time.

Botkin says he first acquired his own “long view” sense of time when he was a young man and an ardent Marxist. “Marxists think long-term and they think strategically. So I was thinking 200, 300, 400, 500 years as a Marxist. Marxists think this way. They are patient and they think of conquest. . . . There is a brotherhood among Marxists that, ‘If I don’t finish, the others who come behind me will finish.’ And, ‘I have a duty.’ . . .

“[The Marxists] have proved this: you can take any man, even a fellow who has no confidence, he might be very timid, he might be overweight, and he might have a terrible acne problem, . . . and they can make a hero out of him because they will inspire him with vision, . . . a long-term vision, and they can make him part of something.”

So the first two columns of Botkin’s spreadsheet show time–the passing of years. One column shows the actual calendar year numbers; the other shows Botkin’s age. (He shows his age out to 96.) Interestingly, because he starts with the end in view, the top of his spreadsheet is set to the year 2080–200 years from the day he and his wife were married.

Down at the bottom of the spreadsheet, then, beginning now, in 2008, Botkin lists every year–out to 2015, a period of 8 years. Then he lists only every fifth year (2020, 2025, etc.). And beginning in 2040, when he turns 86, he begins to list only each decade (2050, 2060, etc.).

While we’re at it, let me note two additional–what I will call–basic structural columns Botkin includes. One column is titled “Marriages” and the other is “Deaths.” Of course you’re not going to try to predict when your children, grandchildren, etc. will be born, marry, or die. But by placing guesstimated time figures in your plan document, you will, I think, be beginning to act appropriately with respect to the prayer of Moses recorded in Psalm 90: “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

It seems to me, until we begin, at least, simply to number our days, we can hardly expect God to teach us how to number them aright! (Oh. And by the way. I encourage you to read the entire Psalm 90. It strikes me that it is all about paying attention to our days, passing on a legacy, and helping our progeny, after us, follow the ways of God.)

Because I’m trying to work this through for myself, I am going to set up my 200-year plan a little differently from how Botkin set his up. Among other things, I’m going to change the order in which my plan’s columns appear. I’m going to run my numbers out to the year 2200 (223 years after Sarita and I were married, but exactly 200 years after our eldest daughter got married).

I think, besides listing marriages and deaths only, I want to include births as well. At least now, as I’m getting my feet wet in this plan. . . .

So here is a general overview summary of how my first five columns are beginning to look:

  Year John’s Age Marriages Births/
. . . A1-4 . . .
2080 Luke, Jonelle, Justin . . .
2070 Amy
2050 95 John, Sarita
2040 85
2035 80 J2, A5, J3 . . .
2030 75 A3, A4, L2, L3, J1 A1(3), A2(2, 3, 4), L1(2, 3) . . .
2025 70 A1, A2, L1 A1(1,2)2, A2(1), L1(1)
2020 65 Ju3, Ju4
2015 60 Ju2
2014 59
2013 58 J4,Ju1
2012 57 J3
2011 56
2010 55 Justin J2, A5
2009 54 L1, L2, L3
2008 53 J1, A4
2007 52
2006 51 A3
2005 50 Luke
2004 49 Jonelle A2
2003 48
2002 47 A11
2001 46
2000 45 Amy

What is your spreadsheet going to look like?

1 Letter references our child’s name; number references ordinal position of grandchild within child’s family.
2 Letter and ordinal number reference grandchild; parenthetical number references great-grandchild.


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