Maybe we are conditioned. Maybe it is just a fleeting hope that things will mysteriously change as the calendar page turns. Regardless, we instinctively feel the new year is a perfect time to let go of the past and start over.
Quickly the reboot slows and fades as each day passes and the best of intentions disappear as we settle back into the physical, emotional and spiritual ruts that have us locked into self-defeating behaviors.
Years ago, I briefly tried my hand at cross country skiing. I’m pretty bad at it so have never been willing to pay to visit a ski center where I could “effortlessly” glide along a groomed/grooved trail. That means I was always carving my own trail which was not at all “effortless.”
As I looked wistfully at the ski center’s well-maintained trail I wondered, “What I would do if I needed to pass someone”; or more appropriately, “What would they have to do to pass me?”
Again, I confronted the “effort” monster realizing I would have to step out of the rut, increase my pace and carve my own way around the obstacle. It isn’t mysterious at all. It takes effort and effort requires strategy.
Cathy Hutchinson at Church Production Magazine suggests these practical ideas for re-energizing our hearts and our faith.
- Reach out and touch faith. What would happen if we each started the year investing in encouragement? Establish learning what others are doing in their churches and why as a personal goal. The result can be growing relationships established through conversation. We might realize we aren’t alone in our challenges. We might become grateful for what God is doing in our midst and not remain victims of comparison.
- Make it personal. If we truly care about our church, leaders, volunteers and teams, why not commit to interceding on their behalf. Brian Dunaway, director of communications at Cross Church in Northwest Arkansas suggests, “When we discipline ourselves to pray for anyone or anything it forces and focuses us to understand the details. We are responsible for the spiritual condition of our people. Prayer raises that understanding high and much will come from this focus.” It is also important to “close the loop.” Let the people you pray for know that you are praying for them. Don’t hesitate to ask, “How can I help?”
- Clear the Air. It’s been a tough and demanding year. People are stressed. Feathers get ruffled. Tempers flare and collateral damage occurs. People passionate about their church, faith, craft or talent are most susceptible. Even if it wasn’t your fault and an apology isn’t necessary maybe owning a part of escalating tensions might open a dialogue and start repairing a relationship.
- Free yourself from micro-management. Often when we are overwhelmed it’s because we are doing things that could better be handled by members of our teams. This could be a good time to re-evaluate our responsibilities and create space for others to use their gifts and talents. Empowering staff and volunteers will free you from the burden of micro management. There is often so much to do and we think we are the only ones who can do the job with excellence. That may be true but it is at that point we need to begin diligently mentoring others to do things at the same level of excellence we expect from ourselves. By the way, this is a long-term exercise.
- The keep-stop-start exercise. Sit down, breath then pray for guidance. Once you are focused.
- Name one thing that you are currently doing that you need to KEEP doing.
- Name one thing that you are currently doing that you need to STOP doing.
- Name one thing that you are NOT YET doing that you need to START doing.
Involve members of your team to get their input. Sometimes we fall in love with our own ideas and become blinded to their actual value.
- Go for a clean sweep. Spring cleaning starts now and it isn’t just physical. January is a good time to organize music, clean equipment, vacuum your work space and eliminate anything that is obsolete to make room for new and more functional space. Yes, this sounds physical but it also needs to be mental and emotional. Just like sending the 8 track player, broken microphone or octavo from 1905 to the dump, consider unloading the “we used to” and “that’s the way it’s supposed to be” steamer trunks and replacing it with “what could be” and “what does that mean now” shoulder bags.
- Reaffirm the vision. If you don’t have a vision maybe you should begin with getting one. Start the conversation with,
- Why are we doing this?
- Who are we trying to reach? (Be specific)
- What are we trying to accomplish?
- How do we accomplish the vision?
- Where do we begin?
- When can we realistically expect results
- So, what does it really mean? Will it impact lives?
If you already have a vision, revisit the steps above and make sure it aligns with your team and congregation’s vision. Articulate it clearly and make sure it is understood. Leverage momentum. Motivation is a perishable commodity. Don’t miss out on its power just because you took the first step successfully. If the first step wasn’t successful, examine why and take the next one. Remain vertical and keep on stepping.