When it comes to checklists, timing is everything. Knowing when to use the checklist matters almost as much as using it at all. Every checklist needs a pause point (or multiple pause points), a specific time when the checklist is supposed to be run. Sometimes the checklist needs specific instructions on when the checklist is supposed to be run and at other times, pause points are obvious.

In the book “The Checklist Manifesto,” the author, an accomplished surgeon, was tasked by the World Health Organization to develop a system to save lives in field surgery centers in developing countries. The mortality rate was too high, often due to completely preventable causes. After a lot of work, research and testing, a checklist was developed that truly saved lives. The difference was significant. 

This surgical checklist had 19 steps that could be completed in less than 2 minutes. It was broken into three parts, following specific pause points.

  • Before anesthesia was administered, there were seven checks
  • After anesthesia and just before the incision, there were seven more checks
  • After the operation but before the patient left the OR, there were five final checks

The pause points were clarifying. The informed when and where checklists needed to be enacted. As a result, thousands of lives were saved. The very same list was brought to modern hospitals with better trained doctors, better equipment and a higher standard of care. Medical professionals were reluctant to use the list, thinking that it wasn’t necessary in modern surgery centers. However, the list significantly helped patients, even in the finest hospitals.

Your ministry can benefit from a collection of checklists. In the same way, timing is everything. Some pause points may inform the checklist to begin a week before the event. Other pause points may inform what needs to be done before kids arrive or after they are gone for the day. Other checklists might execute if the check-in system goes down or a child is reported missing.

Knowing what checklist to utilize and when to utilize it is key.


This post is part of a larger series on moving your ministry forward using the often neglected tool - the checklist. In this series, we unpack how a system of checklists can actually help us take our ministry to new levels. Plus, we want to share dozens of actual ministry checklists you and your team can implement right away. Click on the link below to explore this topic and pick up some helpful resources!