Stop, Refocus and Celebrate

Written by Founder Raul Rivera on Dec 30, 2013 in Pastoral Helps

I understand what goes on in the hearts of pastors during this time of year.

Most pastors are focused on the vision side of the ministry. Equipped with an ability to peer over the fence of today and see what is coming, they begin to plan and work towards goals. During no time of the year is that more apparent than the end of the year as many pastors and leaders begin to make plans for the upcoming year. A pastor and church planter myself, I understand what goes on in the hearts of pastors during this time of year. It is a time for examination: How can we do things better?  We usually focus on improving existing programs, plan for more outreach or try to get better at meeting the needs of our church and community. While those are wonderful things to consider, my experience is that they usually mean more work and an increase in the complexity of managing our churches and ministries.

Make three lists and check them twice

But what if there was another way? What if this time of year was not used to plan for growth, but to do something super important in the life of any church or ministry? I suggest during the hustle and bustle of the year's end, that rather than focusing all of your energy on ways to grow, you should pause and take a moment to consider simplifying your church and ministry. I believe there is nowhere you can more effectively focus than on the internal aspects that make your church and ministry better. Let me explain. 

Leaders are so preoccupied with growth that they focus on it with little to no thought about how to keep it once they have achieved it. Instead, why not take a moment to look inside-to get under the hood, if you will-and see what can be done now to shore up the inside, so that when you grow on the outside, you can be ready for it?

A primary way to do this is by creating three lists. These are three lists that I believe will make your current organization better and easier to manage, so that you have the infrastructure for what your ministry will become in the future. Once you make the lists spend time refining them to make sure that they truly reflect what is in your heart. Below is a description of each list.

List one:  the stop doing list

Throughout the year, in an effort to grow, churches start many programs. Every new need in the church seems to be answered by a new program. Over time, however, what was fresh and life giving for a while becomes a burdensome program to keep managing. In that way, many programs become like the barnacles that slow down a ship, leaving pastors to wonder what is hindering them from picking up speed. When I pastored, I was often guilty of planning a new outreach and depending on my already taxed and overworked staff and volunteers to implement and help make it happen, only to realize later that it came at the price of other already existing programs or efforts. It is here that a stop doing list can become a pastor's best friend.

There is a powerful moment that happens in the life of a church or ministry, when the leadership sits down, makes a list of everything that they are doing, and then reviews this list with two questions in mind.  

What are we doing that is no longer producing life to the church?

What are we doing that is only being done because we do not know how to stop it?

It is amazing what happens when you look at this list through these two questions. Time and again I hear pastors talk about the power of creating a stop doing list and it's ability to get them back on track with what God has called them to do. A stop doing list can be the best thing you create this November. 

List two:  the refocus list

Mission drift is something that every leader will have to combat. Even if one has a very clear vision for his/her church, running the day-to-day ministry can over time cause one to drift. It is not that you are doing bad things; it is that you have drifted from the main thing God has called placed in your heart. Mission drift happens to the finest of leaders, and now is the best time of year to rediscover your true north by allowing God to recalibrate you and to remind you of who you are and what He has called you to do in the first place.

Think about the time you started your ministry. What was the driving passion that compelled you to do it? What did you lay in bed at night thinking about?  Like many pastors, when you think about that, you will be surprised to realize that you may have drifted far from it. The refocus list has the power to bring you back on course. It helps you to balance between your driving passions and your ability to facilitate that passion.

I believe that high on that list should be excellence in policies, finances and compliance. The truth is, many pastors struggle with the tension between the ministry and the administration side of their organization. In other words, many are the leaders that have good hearts but bad books and policies. And this can have devastating consequences, because even though your driving passions are wonderful and noble, a few misunderstandings, accidents or ill-intentioned individuals can easily wreck them. What better cure for this than to refocus on the things that matter most and then create sound policies and procedures born from your convictions on how you will handle them.

Here is a sample refocus list:

1.     What is the most important task in my ministry?

2.     Which programs and activities drift the church from its true north?

3.     How do my policies and procedures reflect what is most important?

Notice point 3 above. Rarely does a pastor or church leader throw the church policies and procedures into the mix when creating a refocus list. The reason they do not normally include the policies and procedures is because they often see them as legal beagle stuff that has nothing to do with the vision of the church. Yet the contrary is true. The following policies will reflect what is truly most important to you:

i.      Alter ministry policy

ii.     Offering counting policy

iii.    Church credit card policy

iv.    Church reimbursement policy

v.     Counseling policy

List three:  the celebrate list

How often do you celebrate your victories? Too many of us leaders work, work, work, and rarely celebrate the victories. I recently discovered that I rarely celebrate victories. Even though in the last several years I have had many wonderful victories, one of my officers brought it to my attention that I did not celebrate them well. After much contemplation, I discovered that it was because I felt I would have regret if later I suffered a failure of any kind. It is something I am learning to do and it may take a while to fully overcome. But I want to celebrate, even the little things that God is doing in my life.

Maybe this year your ministry has only had a couple of victories. That's ok! The real question is: did you celebrate them? Did you honor God for what He is doing in your midst?  Did you take time to show those on your team the wins they accomplished? If not, then December may be the time to do so! Celebration is important in the life any church or ministry. It keeps the fun in ministry and allows you to enjoy the journey by honor those who have been laboring with you. Keep in mind that God wants you to celebrate with those closest to you. He mandated at least seven feasts in addition to the weekly Sabbath. These were celebrations that took time and planning. I believe God knows that we are wired to celebrate what He has done in our lives.

So here are some ideas for your celebrate list. Take some time to write down a list of people and achievements that you need celebrate. After writing them down, plan a day and a time to celebrate those victories. Take a moment and publicly honor those people that have been so faithful in laboring with you toward the vision. Send them a letter of appreciation. You will be glad you did!

What to do if you hate making lists

Not too long ago I, too, was a list hater. But after seeing the most productive person I have ever known use them effectively, I changed my tune. No one person I know can do more things in one day than my wife. Not only does she get things done, she gets them done in line with the priorities of the day. How does she do it?  She makes lists!

It is amazing how she does it. Each evening before she retires she makes a list of things for the next day, then when she awakens, she reviews the lists and makes modifications before she starts her day. She does not always get to every item on her list, but boy does she give it her all to get that list done. The key to her success in getting things done is that her lists are made up of the priorities.   Anything else that gets done is a bonus. Keep in mind that lists only work if you seriously prioritize them.

As you develop your three lists, I want to encourage you to pray, asking for God's help to remember the why behind what you are doing in ministry. As you take the time to stop doing the wrong things and start doing the right things, celebrate the victories. A fresh sense of purpose and passion will enter you and your team. 

Please feel free to comment. We always appreciate good dialogue. However, we do moderate each comment to ensure that it is on topic and not derogatory to other participants. We ask that you keep your comments brief and pertinent to the topic so that others may benefit.

Raul Rivera

And receive Book 1 of our Grow Trilogy FREE today! This series gives you the strategies you need to get started growing your church plant today!