There is always a big push at the beginning of the year to set goals in hope that we will end the new year better than we began it. I am a big believer in setting goals and working as hard as possible to hit those goals throughout the year. Unfortunately, it seems that while most of us are good at setting goals, few of us are good at hitting goals.
Instead of ending the year as always with the stress of Christmas planning and budget constraints, I challenge you to take some time out of your schedule to reflect on your year. These moments of self-reflection are key to being able to start the next year right. Not only that, but we are called to be good stewards of what we have been given and stewardship can only happen with reflection.
Remember the parable of the talents? The servants each knew exactly what they had done with what had been given to them. The ones that were honored were ones who had made progress. It didn’t matter how much progress they made, it just matted that they tried and moved in the right direction.
As pastors, we must be willing to account for how we are doing both in ministry and in our relationships with God and people. So, read through the questions below and set aside some time to answer each of the questions.
#1: What were my goals for the year? Did I hit them? Why/why not?
Goals are important. Doing a post-mortem on the goals that we set is even more important. We cannot move forward if we do not set aside time to reflect on past goals. Think through some of the goals that you set for the year. These may be goals related to ministry, family, or personal goals like weight loss and finances. Did you hit these goals?
The most important part of this question is not just reflecting on the whether or not you hit your goals, but instead is examining why you got the outcome that you did. Did you devote time to the goal? Was someone holding you accountable? Write down everything that you think is relevant so that you can get a better understanding of how you can hit future goals.
#2: What accomplishments in ministry am I most proud of this year?
As a recovering perfectionist, it can be easier for me to think of all the things that I could have done better instead of focusing on my successes. Take a few minutes to think through some accomplishments from this past year. Don’t just list off the obvious things. Go a little deeper and come up with a list of five to ten things that you are proud of. It does not matter how big or small the accomplishment is, what matters is that you take time to acknowledge your forward progress.
#3: What things do I wish had gone better in ministry this year? What could I have done differently?
I purposely put this question after the last question. Unlike the last question where I asked you to write down five to ten accomplishments, I only want you to think about the top three things that you wish could have gone better this year. Don’t sweat all the small stuff, just think about the top three things. Did you want to grow your ministry only to see minimal progress? Did you plan an event that failed?
After you have identified the top three things, take about ten minutes to think through a couple of practical things that you could have done differently. Make sure to write these down so that you can gain better insight when planning in the future.
#4: What are the top two things that I want to see improve in 2019?
I always find that it is easier for me to set goals for the next year immediately after reflecting on the current year. Using your answers to the first three questions, think through what the top two things that you want to improve on in 2019. These could be things that are already going well that you want to see grow more or they could be taking another shot at a couple of those failures from question three.
Don’t worry about planning practically how to achieve these goals yet. Just write them down and come back to them in a couple of days or weeks with fresh eyes. If they still feel important after some time away, start making a plan on how to achieve the goals next year.
#5: Is my relationship with Jesus better than it was at the beginning of the year?
I recently started reading Under the Unpredictable Plant by Eugene Peterson. In this book, Eugene Peterson explores the tension between being a pastor vocationally and a Christian privately. He writes, “In our eagerness to be sympathetic to others and meet their needs, to equip them with a spirituality adequate to their discipleship, we must not fail to take with full seriousness our straits, lest when we have saved others we ourselves should be castaways.” I know that I have found this to be true in my own life. I have sacrificed my own walk with the Lord in exchange for the busyness of ministry.
Take a few minutes to think through your relationship with the Lord. Did you proactively grow in your own walk this year or did you coast by? For many, I imagine that this will be an uncomfortable question to answer. We want to resoundingly exclaim that we’re growing, but the truth, more often than not, is that we’re simply coasting. This isn’t going to change overnight, but taking a realistic look at our own walk is the first step to making a change in the new year.
#6: Is my relationship with my family better than it was at the beginning of the year?
In a similar vein to the question above, we all know that our family can be put on the back burner as we pursue the demands of ministry. I know that one of my goals this year was to serve my wife better. I feel like I have made some progress on that front, but not as much as I would have liked. Spend just a few minutes thinking through your relationships, are they better off now than they were at the beginning of the year? Write down a couple of ideas on how to either improve or continue in the right direction next year.
#7: Am I pouring into and leading those who serve under me well?
So many times in ministry we can focus too much on the what instead of the who. We live in a results oriented culture that requires tasks to be completed. But, we have to remember that ministry is all about people. We are called to make disciples. It is messy, it is time consuming, but it is incredibly rewarding.
Take a few moments to think about your relationship with those who serve under you. This may include paid staff members or unpaid volunteers. Is your relationship with them one where you are pouring into them and helping them grow? Or is it mainly task oriented where your conversations are only about getting things done? This exercise helps you to see areas where you can lead your team better in 2019. Don’t worry about planning on how to improve yet, just evaluate for now and wait a few days or weeks before creating a game plan.
#8: Is there anything that I need to stop doing in 2019 to better achieve my goals?
To be honest, a few months ago I would not have thought about adding this question to this list. I have always thought that growth happens by adding on more responsibilities. But, the truth is that as we grow and seek to accomplish new things, we must stop doing some of the things that we are currently doing. This could either mean delegating some tasks to others or even eliminating programs that aren’t working. Take a couple of minutes to write down two to three things that you should consider delegating or stopping in 2019.
I hope that these questions are helpful for you as you reflect on 2018 and begin to plan for 2019. We would love to help in any way possible! Please feel free to use the chat window to the right to talk with our team. We’re all in ministry and love helping pastors like you succeed!