I always like ministry work trips where you spend a few days serving in building walls, cleaning out old houses or other small projects. I enjoy completing those things! When you’re putting up a wall, you know when you’re finished. At the end of the workday, you have completed the steps, you can see progress and you know you’re done.
Contrasting that to ministry work – working with the people and the church – that finished feeling is not always there. Even in the case of events that have an end time, there is always work to be done, people that need to be followed up with, planning for future ministry, calls that need to be made, vision that needs to be cast and the list goes on and on. It can become overwhelming! As a result, ministry leaders often lived unbalanced lives trying to do it all right now.
You need finish lines. Here are a few you can put in place.
Daily Finish Lines
I’ve heard it said that you should end your day before you begin it. This means to know what you plan to accomplish and write it out. If you have a plan with some objectives, you’re much more likely to accomplish the tasks you need to. Give yourself time limits. Determine to work on a project until 4:30 then head home. Set up something in the evening so you are able to be motivated to stay on task during work. Become comfortable leaving your work until tomorrow. Just before leaving for the day, make a list of what is needed for tomorrow. While you’re “on the clock” in the office, give 100% so you are able to give 100% at home once you are finished with the day. Develop a ritual as you leave your ministry work and head home – something to help you transition and as much as possible, leave the work to focus on family and friends.
Weekly and Monthly Finish Lines
You no doubt have long term projects and ministry opportunities. Visions for the future of the ministry, discipleship, development of leaders and more. These things aren’t one big to-do item on your list. They must be broken down. For example, say you want to develop your worship team leader. The item on your to-do list this week is to arrange a time to meet with them. An item for next weeks agenda is to have lunch with them. Once you have accomplished those two steps, you have crossed a finish line for the week. This small thing, along with several other small things, has helped move you closer to the goal of effective ministry and leadership. At the end of the week or month, it’s good to look back and determine if you have moved closer to the goal. Some months and weeks are seasons for your ministry. An example might be Holy Week, leading up to Easter. You can easily gauge that you have done something during that week. It’s amazing what all gets accomplished when there is a present goal known by all! Why not make every week the same way? With a goal of a great Sunday (or other ministry end products) you will keep the energy and level of leadership up.
Annual Finish Lines
Vacations can be looked at as annual finish lines. Year-end reports and reviews also work this way. Typically around New Year’s Day, I have a time of reflection and goal setting. This helps me create finish lines. Where do I want to be at the end of the year? What are the goals and what are the steps to get there? Reflect on where you are in life. Annual goals help move you closer? They help set the pace and determine if you are making headway. They can be motivating either way – if you are getting them done or if you are not getting it done. Annual finish lines are difficult to keep in front, so it’s helpful to write them out, have accountability and keep them in front of you.
Life-Long Finish Lines
Interestingly, life long finish lines have little to do with to-do lists and much more to do with inward attributes – integrity, loyalty, faithfulness, love, and service. Have you been faithful to Christ and his call? Have you been loving to your family? Have you been faithful to your spouse and kids? Have you lived a life of integrity? Have you been loyal to the church, to your friends, to your family and to yourself? Each day, week and month of your life provide opportunities for you to cross little finish lines that help you achieve faithfulness in crossing the big finish line. Don’t give up or become weary. We’re in the race, striving for the prize. One of the books I read on this idea for life long finish lines was called Finishing Strong by Steve Farrar. You can buy a copy of Finishing Strong: Going the Distance for Your Family here!
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