Countdown to a Checkup
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Every December 31st, as the clock counts down to midnight, upwards of two million people pack into New York City’s Times Square, huddling together in the cold eagerly awaiting the 60-second drop of the Waterford Crystal ball atop One Times Square. For the millions of us either too smart or too far away to join the festivities in NYC, most still participate in yet another New Year’s Eve tradition; the making of a list of New Year’s resolutions. This is a time-honored tradition that invites each of us into a fresh start; an unblemished 12 months/52 weeks/365 days/8,765 hours/525,948 minutes/31,556,926 seconds where we can renew broken commitments, dust off unrealized projects, set fresh goals, and dream new dreams. Each new year calls us to reflect on the previous year’s journey while also providing us an opportunity to look ahead and chart our course forward. So every new year shortly after (or maybe even before), the crystal ball counts down to a new year. May I challenge you to carve out time for a checkup, an intentional time of reflection on your past year, and charting of what’s to come? Let’s count it down…
Outside of your own ministry, what did you do this past year to make a difference in someone’s life? Do you see serving as more of a burden than a freedom? What gets in the way of you serving regularly or with more intentionality? What things can you rearrange or reprioritize in order to serve others with joy more frequently?
How often did you step back from the planning, promoting, pulling off, and posting on social media to just worship God? How can you be intentional about doing this more in the coming year?
Identify three to four ministry wins from the previous year. Be careful not to overlook the seemingly small yet significant. Write these wins down so that you can look at them, ponder them, celebrate them, and fully appreciate all the Lord has done in and through you this past year. Take some time in prayer to thank the Lord for all He has done and ask for wisdom concerning this next part. Spend some time praying and discerning one practical ministry win, one “big dream” ministry win, and one personal non-ministry-related win you feel led to go after in this new year. Again, write these wins down and keep them somewhere you can see/pray over them throughout the year.
Be honest with yourself; did you run the ministry this year, or did the ministry run
you (or did you get run over)? What’s the root cause of that? What practical steps can you take over this next year to improve in this area?
6) Evaluate Yourself
Without honest and regular evaluation, your personal and spiritual life will stay exactly where it’s at right now. When it comes to types of evaluation, this is usually the most difficult and often the most dreaded, but in my opinion, it’s also the most important. Healthy things (and healthy people) grow. Start out by reading Ephesians 1:17-19. Turn that Scripture into a prayer, and ask the Lord for discernment and wisdom as you have some time of reflection. As you evaluate yourself, pinpoint some areas of strength as well as other areas where you still need growth. Don’t be afraid (or too prideful) to ask those you trust or those who live on the other side of you in ministry and at home for help in identifying areas of strength, weakness, and blind spots. Then, ask yourself the following questions:
- What are two or three things the Lord has been teaching me this past year?
- How would I describe my relationship with God at the moment?
- What have been my biggest mistakes this past year? How about my biggest areas of victory? What did I learn from them?
- Where am I stuck, and what is keeping me there?
- What do I still need to surrender?
- Is there anyone that I am holding a grudge against or need to forgive?
- What are my blind spots and areas of needed growth? Where am I most vulnerable to the lies and deceptions of the enemy?
5) Evaluate Your Ministry
On the surface, evaluating your ministry sounds much easier than evaluating yourself. Think again! If we are honest, many of us would have to admit that our feelings and sense of self are often tied to the ministries we’ve built. With that in mind, the first step is your willingness to put everything on the examination table (even the ministry areas that are “your baby”). Take a moment in prayer to confess any pride or closed fists when it comes to this ministry that the Lord has placed in your care. Ask the Lord to see as He sees when it comes to this ministry and recommits every aspect of it back to Him. Next, break your ministry down into its parts (Sunday mornings, Wednesday nights, summer programming, mission trips, volunteer training, events, retreats/camps, etc.). Ask some hard questions about each one of these parts and answer them honestly.
- Where is the particular area of ministry right now? Is it taking ground, losing ground, or stuck? If taking ground, what does it need to keep moving forward? If losing ground or stuck, can it be tweaked, or should it be pruned?
- Is this particular area of ministry helping or hindering you in achieving the ministry’s overall mission, vision, values, strategy, primary wins, and measurable wins? (If your ministry doesn’t have these things, you need to put some time and pray into developing them.)
- Does this particular ministry area have a clearly defined purpose/goal? Is it achieving this purpose/goal or falling short?
- Who is the target audience for this particular ministry area? Is it reaching and meeting the needs of the target audience?
- Does this particular ministry area have a clearly defined win? Is that defined win understood by parents, church staff, volunteers, and students?
- Does this particular area of ministry have clear next steps for the target audience to take? Are these next steps well communicated, understood, and resourced?
- What kind of student, parent, or volunteer is my ministry producing?
Think everything is perfect as it is or feeling brave? Craft an email or a four to five-question survey for parents and leaders to provide you with feedback. Don’t cheat and only send it to your parent or volunteer “Stans.” It’s not always fun to receive constructive feedback, but if you can hear it and account for it going forward, you and your ministry will be all the better for it.
Attempt to put a finger on one or two key areas where you felt your ministry missed the bullseye this last year or could use some tweaks in this new year. Be honest, realistic, and specific.
How’d you do navigating the ongoing tension between ministry and family this past year? What’s one thing you wished you’d have done differently to improve this critical area? What are the practical steps to make it a reality this next year?
How well did you take care of yourself physically and mentally? Be honest with yourself; what gives you life, and what is sucking the life away from you? What must change so you don’t burn out or burn down everyone around you?
How’d you do spending time in God’s Word (outside of prepping for messages or working on curriculum)? How about your prayer life? What is getting in the way of you growing in this area? What’s your plan for your spiritual well-being going forward? What’s your plan for accountability?
Looking back at 2021, what’s your biggest: ministerial win, personal win, area in need of a tweak, greatest area of strength and weakness?
Share your thoughts with the YM360 community:
Looking forward to 2022, what are your strategies/tips for navigating the tension between ministry and family, strategically staying ahead, knowing yourself, prioritizing your health and sanity, growing in your own walk with the Lord, pausing to praise, and making a difference outside your own ministry? Consider sharing your thoughts and ideas in these areas with your youth worker peers by authoring an online article for YM360. Interested? Email me at Kerry@YM360.com
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