If you are like me, you were ready to see 2022 fade into distant memories. I don’t think any of us were prepared for the struggle of rebuilding our church ministries in a post-covid world. Getting volunteers to re-engage in ministry, build classes, and recruit leaders have all seemed to be a struggle. Many of you have experienced those same struggles.
In November of last year, I began challenging myself to read more. I am not a natural reader. I don’t necessarily have a problem reading a book that I am asked to read to help improve an area of ministry or personal discipleship. I am referring to the kind of reading I take upon myself to challenge me into changing an area of my life that I am weak or need to improve. I have been blessed to have close friends and family who recommend books from time to time. I decided to read a few of those books. It sparked something in me, and I began to set a new course for 2023. I was re-energized. I spent time in prayer and found myself ready to take on the world and make an impact as a leader this next year.
Well…, It’s now March and I can say that I haven’t done a very good job of keeping the resolutions I put in place to not fall into the trap of mediocrity. After some consideration, I have realized some things I didn’t get right from the beginning. If you have found yourself having fallen from the lofty goals and resolutions you set out at the first of the year, take hope, with a few course corrections you can get back on track in no time. The measure of success at the end of 2023 will not be how many times we had to course correct or get back on track but will be with the results of our efforts. Even though it is March, we can still meet our goals by asking three questions and giving honest answers. Today is not too late to turn things around.
- Did I only set a goal?
Setting a goal is only the first step. Many organizations share the same goal even when only one of them will ever achieve that goal. In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear gives that analogy of the NFL. Every team at the beginning of the season has a goal of winning the Super Bowl. However, only one team will be successful in that goal. Are the other teams a failure because they didn’t have a goal? Of course, not. The difference is in each team’s processes. If I have a specific goal in mind and don’t put any processes in place, I will never be successful. Processes take planning and good execution. Some teams have processes but execute them poorly. An example I have personally is exercise. At 47, I am beginning to experience all the aches and pains my father spoke of, but I passed off and marginalized as if it were never going to happen. Well…, it’s now here. For me to reach a goal of losing 20 pounds and increase my cardiovascular health, I need to exercise. But what process have I put in place? Processes help eliminate any obstacle that might be in my path. Then how do I execute the process? Habits are what help me execute.
- Do my habits hinder my success?
Habits will make us or break us. You have heard it said if you do something seven days in a row it can become a habit. We all have bad habits but how do we break them? Most successfully we do it by replacing that bad habit with a new one. Habits are created by an action and reward process. My subconscious brain drives me to do something automatically because there is a reward at the end. What if you set up a reward system for doing good. For example, I love McDonalds breakfast. My go to order is a sausage egg and cheese McMuffin with hashbrown and Dr Pepper. If I am trying to lose weight, this is not a good thing for me. What if I said I am going to take that $8 from 3 days that week ($24) and buy myself something that is useful at the end of the week? This is something that is easy for me to put in place and the reward isn’t lost. To be successful James Clear says we need identity-based habits which focus on the type of person you want to become rather than the outcome you wish to achieve. The next question is about helping to keep you on track.
- Do I have the right accountability?
Many of us never share the goals we are setting out to accomplish over the next year. One thing I have always appreciated is having a Pastor who asks us to share our ministry and personal goals with others on staff. This helps us know how to pray for and encourage one another. There are certain people who don’t make good accountability partners. For example, my wife and I love dessert. We are no good for each other when it comes to losing weight. The craving for Andy’s Frozen Custard is very strong and persuasive at 9:00 PM. I can’t tell you how many times we have caved because the other isn’t willing to say no. We all know who we can go to who will shoot straight with us when it comes to accountability. My advice to help keep yourself on track is to let others know what you are trying to accomplish and give those people permission to hold you accountable.
The truth is we set goals because we don’t want to be in the same spot we are currently in a year from now. I know that some of the frustration I had in 2022 is a direct result of not doing the necessary things in 2021. And those choices are on me. However, if I only set a goal and don’t put the crucial processes and accountability in place it will continue to be a struggle. Don’t lose hope! If you have fallen away, then pick yourself back up and start again.
Below are some of the books that helped me over the last six months.