Resolve to better supervise others. It is part of a minister’s work. In many ministry settings, this involves keeping up with a couple of part-time employees. While this surely involves keeping up with their performance, it also means keeping up with them: their experience, their ideas, their hopes and dreams for the church.
Time invested with church employees is some of the most productive time a minister will ever spend. This is especially true for pastors who supervise a staff of associate ministers. Outside of staff meetings, staff retreats and planning meetings, spend quality time with the ministers you supervise: think about 45 minutes a week as a standard. Spend the time learning about their area of ministry, affirming their work, holding them accountable for the goals they set, getting to know them and extending pastoral care to them.
Resolve to take time away. The pastoral grind is not so constant as it is endless. Being “on call” 24/7 weighs heavily on most ministers – heavier than they probably realize. I remember Hardy Clemens noting the third week after his retirement, “I had a wonderful euphoric feeling and realized, ‘Oh this is what it feels like to be rested.'” In addition to vacation, pastors must find a way to regularly get away from their work. Go out of town.
Resolve to say “no.” It is an essential ministerial skill. Appropriate boundaries are essential for successful ministry. Just say “no” – calmly, humbly, thoughtfully and firmly. Ministers are not responsible for everything. The minister who can’t say “no” is the minister who has yet to figure out appropriate boundaries and, maybe more important, has yet to identify healthy priorities in ministry.
Resolve to nurture the spousal relationship. It is a key of successful ministry. Long after your success or failure in a particular ministry, your spouse will be hanging in there with you – if you grow and care for the marriage relationship. Ministry is tough on spouses. The love, care, passion and laughter that first brought the two of you together must be nurtured or else it will die. Loving the church and job and Jesus can kill a good marriage if you let it.
Resolve to grow personally. How can we challenge others to grow if we are stuck in our own personal growth? The minister’s psychological, social and spiritual growth is critical for a life of ministry. Find a good psychologist for yourself. Knowing self is the most important knowledge anyone ever possesses.
Resolve to grow professionally. A new seminary graduate has a lot to learn; this was true in 1977 when they turned me loose on a local church and it is equally true today. The skill set and knowledge base needed for a successful ministry is staggering. It takes six to 10 years of experience as a pastor to become a good pastor; yes, it is that hard to master the necessary skills. Each year identify another skill that needs to be improved and get busy making a weakness into a new strength.
Resolve to grow your ministry. Grow your ministry in quality and quantity. On your third anniversary at the church, things should be better than when you started the job or else you need not plan on being there for a fourth anniversary.
Obviously, the definition of “growth” is tied to demographics and cultural setting. However, poor demographics are not an excuse for laziness. Grow the effectiveness, efficiency and quality of a church’s ministry; create a healthy environment where spiritual maturity can flourish and flower in others. After creating a healthy context, press on to draw new people into the ministry.
Sure, resolve to lose five pounds, play with the children more often and give up the third cup of coffee, but also make a resolution that will change your life and make you a better minister.