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Over the summer I have been working on a project at home to put in new floors throughout the entire house. I am sure you can appreciate the feeling of starting a project, having it take far longer than you expect, and having your enthusiasm and drive wane along the way. That’s exactly what has happened to me.
Now, the floors are all laid with the exception of a small landing by the front door and the stairs, but every day I am reminded of the unfinished project because we still lack baseboards everywhere. As nice as the floors look, and as proud of them as I am, the lack of baseboards is a constant reminder my job is unfinished.
In ministry, it can feel exactly like that. In 20 years of ministry experience, I have found the feeling of accomplishment can be elusive.
Maybe on a Sunday morning when the sermon is delivered and it really felt like it landed the way God intended it to.
Or at the close of a big event that took months to plan and contained hundreds of details to be managed, but was executed with no major flaws and met expectations.
But, if your experience is anything like mine, the feeling of accomplishment is short-lived, and then you have to move onto preparing for the next Sunday, or Wednesday, or the next meeting, or big event, and you long for the time to sit back and really enjoy the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction of a job well done.
Today, I want to give a few practical steps to increase your feeling of satisfaction in ministry and provide you with the space to enjoy the feeling of accomplishment.
Set Clear Goals
Too many ministers are reacting to the next thing in front of them. Many of the ministry leaders I coach and consult with ask me to help them with their time management and productivity.
Essentially, what they are wanting to me to help them do is get ahead of where they are so they get more done and stop being reactionary. Innately we know that if we can work ahead, then we get more done and a more relaxed pace.
By setting clear goals using the SMARTER goal method (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely, Energy, Reward) you are able to look ahead, work ahead, and get things done before they have to be done.
This allows more time to be mindful of details, add a little extra ‘wow’ factor to the project, or move on to the next project to get an early start.
Many times disappointment comes because our expectations of things are not well set. We often expect things to be much better than they are. This is why we become frantic when even the smallest detail is missed.
I know I have had moments where a detail got missed, or something went wrong in the process, and I would get flustered and upset because I wanted things to be just right for the people I was serving and anything less than that was unacceptable. I felt I should have thought through everything and planned for any mishap.
It is in those times I remember the words of my youth pastor Carey Huffman from the first event he asked me to plan and run as a Junior in high school… “work hard in preparation, but once it gets started, just let it be whatever it becomes.”
In other words, manage your expectations of the work you are doing so that once it is done, you can see past the minor flaws and missed details and properly appreciate it for what it is, rather than being frustrated with what it isn’t.
Work to Stretch You, Not Satisfy Others
As ministry leaders, our bar of quality is often set by those in our faith communities. We preach sermons that people will pat us on the back for.
Now, please understand, I want a firm handshake and a smile from a congregant followed by “that was a great word, Pastor”. However, I do not pull my satisfaction or sense of accomplishment from compliments.
We should not measure the quality of our work from the satisfaction of others, but rather from how much the work stretched us to be better. As wonderful as people are, they can be fickle and are not always a good gauge of our work quality. Look at the Apostle Paul and how often his hard work was unappreciated.
We should continuously be trying to stretch ourselves to preach better sermons, throw better events, lead our teams with higher effectiveness, and apply our craft as ministry leaders with increasing quality. When we stretch ourselves to be better, people are satisfied.
When we are running from event to event, sermon to sermon, meeting to meeting, we can neglect the step of evaluation. We need to evaluate everything. Even our sermons need periodic evaluation.
When we pause after something and evaluate properly, even committing an hour to the process, we allow ourselves the opportunity to understand what went wrong, but, more importantly, to appreciate what went right. When we take time to recognize what went right, then we have something to sit back and appreciate.
A simple process of evaluation of an event is to ask:
- what went right?
- what went wrong?
- what could we have added?
- what should we subtract next time?
Reward Yourself (and your team)
Finally, take time to reward yourself and your team. When there is a reward attached to accomplishments it does a couple things.
First, enjoying a reward commemorates the finalization of something. Maybe it is a sermon series, maybe it is a small group season, or maybe it is a retreat. Even a small reward serves as a pause from the hampster wheel to reflect and appreciate what was just accomplished.
Second, a reward trains you brain that seeing something to the end is worth the pain, frustration, and weariness you feel at the end. You associate accomplishment of a task with positive feelings and relational connection if the reward is done as a team. This will then serve as a trigger for the next event, sermon, or task that the challenge in front of you is worth going through.
My baseboards will get done, my stairs will get done, and in the coming weeks, I will have finished reflooring my whole house. When it is all done and the tools are put away, I will sit back with my reward, check ‘refloor the house’ off my honey-do list, and gear up for the next project.
Let me encourage you to do the same the next time you reach a finish line in your never-ending list of ministry to-dos.
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