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Doing A Lot vs Doing The Right Things

I’m sitting in the midst of boxes this morning. Boxes full of Christmas decorations waiting to be put back in storage, and boxes of new desks and bookshelves from Ikea. One hour in that place and I believe that this is the year everything will be organized, streamlined, and clutter free! I believe.

Add in that everywhere you look on social media, someone is sharing their tips and tricks for starting the New Year off right. It’s that time of year. We all want to be better, and it really is a good thing to make goals and plans to achieve them. But while so many of us do this in our personal lives, what about in our ministry?

Are you planning to make this year of ministry as effective as possible?

Not just thinking and believing it will happen, but actually planning. You may already have this year’s calendar full, your volunteers may already be lined up and your promotions done. But, now is a good time to ask yourself some questions.

What are we trying to accomplish?

The mission of your church and your specific ministry area should be reflected in everything done. Start with a reminder of what you’re being called by God to do. In our church, we recently posted the mission and vision in large letters in our Welcome Center. We wanted the reminder for all of our teams, and to share with our visitors what we’re about. We sometimes have to say, “no” to an idea and point back to that as our why. Just because it’s good, doesn’t mean it’s for us to do.

Is everything we’ve planned not just good, but necessary?

This might be a controversial question at first. Give it some thought regardless. We can get caught up in doing what we’ve always done, or in having certain activities every week or month for the sake of having them. Or, we may even just not want to say no. But if they aren’t necessary to accomplishing your mission, what exactly are they accomplishing? It could be that they are fun or are tradition. If your best resources, your people, are busy doing these things, it will take away from your ability to minister in ways that do meet your mission. In the past year, our church made the very difficult decision to end a long running program. It caused a lot of heartache among even the people who decided it. It was still good, but it was no longer necessary.

Is there margin?

In our most treasured books, such as our daily Bible, the margin is often filled in with our notes and prayers. It stays blank until we fill it. In life, the margin is that space we leave, only to be filled in with something amazing or important. Without that margin, when things arise that need to be added in, we have no room. In ministry, the same is needed. When the calendar is filled to the brim, or your volunteers are maxed out in hours they can serve, we must sometimes pass up opportunities to do amazing things. A new idea that fits our mission and people are excited about just can’t be executed this year. An opportunity to partner with an organization or ministry just can’t be done, and the chance is lost. Leave margin. We struggle with this, and are often trying to cram things in where there is no margin. We sometimes pull it off, and sometimes pay the price of burning people out despite pulling it off. I’ll say it again: Leave margin.

Is there margin in your own life?

A life of ministry can be powerful and worthwhile, but also draining. This is true whether you’re a full time staff member, or a volunteer adding their service on top of another full time job. If there is no margin in your own life to rest, and to add in the things that you either want to or must, you won’t be as effective, and may not last. Try blocking out time each week that is for you. As the week approaches, you may need to, or choose to, fill it in. Or you may be able to use that time to rest and recharge. As you practice adding margin, you may increase the size and find that much of life’s greatest moments happen there.

Asking yourself these questions and making adjustments cannot just happen in January though. This is the time of year when it seems most natural, but it should be an ongoing process in both your ministry and personal life. We can make this a year of not just doing a lot, but of doing the right things.

Here are some additional resources that may help:

Michael Hyatt: How to Create More Margin in Your Life

Paul Brown: Forbes: If You Want To Be Successful, Don’t Confuse Being Busy With Getting The Right Things Done

Dale Hudson: Church Leaders: 10 Ways to Know When It’s Time to Stop a Ministry Program

Anita Davis Sullivan is a mom of two boys, church drama director and creative team member, plus wife to the funniest KidStuf guy ever to set foot on a stage. By day, she is a Software Product Manager, and in her free five minutes a day, she also shares her heart at anitadavissullivan.com. She’d love to meet you there.

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