I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Never have. It’s too deflating, at the end of January, to know I’ve already missed the mark. But since I’m goal-oriented, I prefer setting objectives to help me start fresh each year.
So, here’s my plan for 2014, in areas I believe God has called me to live out.
1. People First; Tasks Second – This is a hard one for me. I’m a strong “D” (Director) and enjoy seeing results. Sometimes the outcome of the task becomes more important than the process of the people. When I noticed this was happening even with my kids, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Relationships last a lifetime; tasks come and go. This year I’m working on building stronger relationships at home and in ministry.
2. Embrace Connection as Ministry – Related to being more people-focused is the process by which that happens. Connections build relationships. I need to see it as “ministry” when I invest time to genuinely ask how someone is doing, send an email just to say ‘hey’, go to lunch with a co-worker, or lift someone in prayer. This year I’m going to allow myself the time to make connections with the people God sends in my life.
3. More Listening; Less Talking – There’s a reason God gave us two ears and only one mouth! Connecting to people, and building relationships, takes more listening than talking. I’ve learned (from my wife) that listening is hard work. It means putting down the paper, giving eye contact, using reflection to stay on the same track, and allowing time for the conversation. This year I’ll work on my communication skills—not by what I say—but by how much I listen.
4. Celebrate the Small Victories – When was the last time you had a party with your team? Our leadership group recently invested time to go out for lunch and ride go-carts! It was a refreshing way to celebrate the season as well as the things we had accomplished as a team in the past year. Often we save celebrations only for the ‘big’ things we accomplish in ministry. It’s the small celebrations, the God-sightings, which keep us motivated for the long haul. This year I’ll take more time to party—and not feel guilty!
5. Value People’s Time – I don’t particularly enjoy meetings. As a leader, if I call a meeting, I make sure it’s worthy of the time people give to make it possible. With email, Skype conferencing, and Google groups, time spent with volunteers for an onsite meeting must have a clear purpose and focused agenda. This year I will value people’s time by conducting only purposeful and team-enriching meetings.
6. More Mail; Less eMail – When was the last time you received a hand written note in the mail? Email is a great convenience but lacks the social graces that my mother taught me as a child. (We had to hand-write our thank you notes!) Carol Johnson, Director of Children’s Ministry at Rosedale Garden Presbyterian Church, in Livonia, MI, has established the practice of writing four notes, immediately after her staff meeting, to the people they prayed for that week. This special touch has helped create a culture of caring. This year I’ll keep some stamps in my desk drawer, along with some note cards, and be ready to write one note each week to someone who needs a special touch.
7. Focus Externally – Do you find yourself so focused on your own family and church that you fail to reach outside your bubble? A few year’s ago my family decided to sponsor a child through Compassion International. It has become our personal mission experience. Getting to know our sponsor child through this ministry has helped us achieve a global view of evangelism. This year we’ll continue our sponsorship and also look for ways we can bless families from our own community.
8. Spin Less Plates – I’m tired of all the plates I’m spinning in the air. It’s time to re-examine my priorities and take some of those plates off the stick before they crash. (Or, before I crash!) Know what I mean? ‘Nuf said.
9. Daily Reflection Time – I’ve discovered there is a difference between daily Bible reading / study time, and daily reflection time. I joined a Bible Study Fellowship class last September but find myself taking time only to answer the daily questions. A Jesus-centered life spends time in daily quiet reflection to listen—and hear—from God. This year I’ll take time to ask God to speak to me before I attempt to grow from his word.
10. Seek Balance and Wellness – Guess this should have been number one on my list. At my last annual physical, my doctor wanted to know my ‘plan’ to lower my cholesterol. “Well…I try to walk the dog each day.” That answer didn’t cut it. For years I’ve experience an unbalanced lifestyle of serving everyone, except myself. It caught up with me recently and 2012 was the year I hit the wall—physically and emotionally. Like other leaders who’ve gone through this before, you never see it coming. Burnout is the result of living in such constant ‘work mode’ that you lose your joy for life. A life-coach helped me understand the areas missing in my life so I could restore the scales that had tipped way too far in one direction. God is good and so is the network of support he sends when people go through trials. My goal for 2014 is to seek balance so my family, work, and church life are energy-boosters, instead of energy-drainers.
So how about you? With a fresh start, what will you do differently in 2014? What life lessons have you learned from last year that will help you, and your ministry, as we walk into the New Year? I’m praying for your journey and ask that you do the same for me.