Here we are once again at the beginning of a new year. I love this time of year and the resolutions that often come along with it. It’s fun and exciting to think of the ways that we can grow throughout the next year. 

There’s something about a new calendar year that creates motivation. It’s seen as the ideal time to begin working on positive changes in our lives, so if you feel that motivation, run with it!

Been eating too many thin mints? Now’s the time to commit to putting that cookie down.

Been fighting with or avoiding your brother-in-law? Now’s a great time to commit to strengthening that relationship.

And not only is it a good time to set some personal goals, but I also believe it’s the ideal time to look at your ministry or non profit and make some much needed changes or commitments to how you’re going to lead or manage the people and resources that have been entrusted to you.

To help get you started, here are five resolutions I think every ministry or non profit leader should consider making.

1. Don't let a fear of taking risks hold you back.

We miss so many moments, large and small, when we aren’t willing to break out of the pattern of least resistance and attempt greater things.

So many of us are simply paralyzed by the thought that we might make a mistake or, even worse, completely fail at a new task or assignment. But the more I live and lead, the more convinced I am that there are worse things than failure.

I think when we get to the end of our lives, most of us will look back with great clarity and understand that regret stings so much more than failure.

I read this quote the other day and loved it…

"Nothing great can happen without risk. So embrace the positive power of risk and it will give you the courage to take on the impossible." – Lou Casale, Head of Communications at Hiscox USA

I hope you’ll take some risks this year and try some new things. As they say, “If you want to achieve things you’ve never achieved, you’ve got to try some things you’ve never tried.”

2. Start a quarterly schedule for evaluating your people.

This is a discipline that if I don’t make public and ask people to hold me accountable to, then it often doesn’t happen with the people I lead or manage.

Your biggest asset is your team. And that’s not just a cliché. They are the ones providing service, leading teams, assimilating volunteers, mailing invoices, managing social media and answering questions (all of which ultimately reflects on you and your organization).

And these people require and deserve something in return: attention.

In 2017, resolve to meet with and evaluate the people you manage and lead.  It doesn’t have to be formal – it can be a lunch or a coffee. But give them feedback and re-affirm your commitment to them. It will go a long way.

3. Focus on humility and authenticity.

I’m very thankful for the ministry God has allowed me to have over the years. I’m grateful for the opportunity to start a few churches, write a few books and help launch a few non profits.  The past two decades have been a whirlwind in so many ways, but as I look back and now look forward to a new year, there’s something I’d really like to focus on this next year.  

When it comes to personal struggles, I am my own worst enemy and often the architect of my suffering. When I look back on the root causes and my self-sabotage, I find that there is a common theme: hubris.

I have a tendency to think that I can do everything on my own and swoop in to save the day when things get rough. This, of course, is a fallacy. I’m as flawed as the next person, and when I let pride get the best of me, I fail spectacularly.

My guess is that many of you as leaders of non profits and ministries often struggle with the same thing. Most leaders do. So let’s make a pact that this year we’re going to begin by saying, “It’s ok not to be ok.” It’s ok not to have all the answers and not be able to fix every problem. It’s ok not to swoop in and save every situation, and it’s ok to ask for help!

4. Take time to celebrate every success, big or small.

In almost any size ministry, it’s easy to feel like you’re always treading water. Leading in ministry is a full-time job, and honoring a milestone or success of any size can be overlooked. However, it’s important to recognize and celebrate your achievements.

In 2017, make a resolution to stop and smell the roses. What’s the point of working non-stop if you can’t take a moment to pat yourself and the rest of your team on the back and give your ministry the recognition it deserves? Identify goals and milestones for every month or quarter, and monitor your progress toward them. When you’ve reached a goal, revel in your success! Take your team out for coffee, bring in balloons and cupcakes or a food truck. Whatever feels celebratory, do it. These small acts bolster spirits and make it easier to continue moving toward larger and more challenging goals.

5. Abandon what’s not working.

This may be the most challenging resolution to implement. Ministry leaders are busy; it can feel difficult enough to stop and assess what’s working, that taking the time to assess what is not working can seem completely impossible. But just because certain processes are in place, doesn’t mean they must be there forever.

Do a full audit, from operations to culture, and identify the components that are not serving your ministry. I like to call this “trimming the fat”. Rid your ministry of inefficient or useless processes or improve a system that doesn’t quite fit. This will give you and your ministry more time to focus on constructive efforts, and reduce stress, conflict, and budget-drain.

So there are a few ideas to get you started. You may think of some others, but I promise if you resolve to do these five things, you’ll have a better and more effective 2017. And go ahead – have a few Thin Mints. You’re human, and by God, they’re delicious. As for getting along with your brother-in-law? Maybe next year.

Check back in next Tuesday when Pete Wilson shares more tips on how to keep the resolutions that you set for 2017. It’s one thing to choose goals, quite another to actually achieve them. 

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