One of the persistent dangers of life as the pastor of a local church is the danger of allowing others…perhaps MANY others…to set our priorities for us. This happens sometimes imperceptibly in the guise of programs, meetings or duties that we all assume are ‘givens’ in terms of the pastor’s participation. Sometimes it happens because there are individuals in the church who have specific (often unrealistic) expectations that they directly or indirectly foist upon us. It can also happen because we have our own internal set of expectations that make us feel we are supposed to be the ‘be-all and do-all’ entities in the church.
The danger, of course, in these priorities is that they often are unexamined. We tend to carry them with us, consciously or unconsciously, from one year into the next without taking the time and energy to evaluate what the REAL priorities ought to be in terms of how we use our time and to what we devote our best energy.
While I’m not much for ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ I do believe there is a place for periodic evaluation and recalibration of life priorities. New Year’s Resolutions tend to be spur-of-the-moment, guilt-driven statements that have almost no connection to reality in terms of potential accomplishment. Recalibration of life priorities on the other hand, should be an exercise of prayerful, careful evaluation of how God wants us to live our lives and then clearly aligning our best efforts with His desires for us. When these priorities are clearly identified and committed to, it’s a lot easier to fit the less important things in after them and, better yet, drop off the lower priority stuff all together. Sometimes this is a matter of delegating the responsibility to someone else and sometimes it’s a matter of stopping a low-priority activity altogether. But that’s a discussion for another All In article!
OK, so for some practicality, here are the categories I would suggest for this priority clarification work (nothing magic here, feel free to develop your own set): Spiritual, Personal, Family, Professional, and Kingdom.
In each category I answer three questions related to Vision, Strategy and Action.
1. Vision – If I am following God’s lead in this area, how will my life be different in this category a year from now?
2. Strategy – What is the best way to move from my current state in this category to the envisioned place defined above?
3. Action – What specific, proactive steps do I need to take to begin this movement toward vision? The corollary here is often a statement about stopping something that is an obstacle to the positive action.
Here’s a personal example from my own process of setting priorities for this year. By way of background, Connie and I have three adult children, all of whom are married and in different stages of growing into career and family decisions so our ‘parenting role’ is significantly modified from earlier years.
Vision: Connie and I will have regular intentional life-developing conversations with each ‘kid-couple’ this year in order to have deeper than normal interaction about life impacting decisions they are facing.
Strategy: We will proactively set up breakfast, lunch or dinner times with each couple separately once each quarter and will clearly define a topic of conversation for each get together.
Action: Set dates for the first quarter’s set of meetings by the end of January, 2012.”
There is one more major issue I’d suggest you clarify for yourself. You can get at this by finishing the following statement “ If I am going to maximize my contribution in ministry this year, this ONE THING I MUST accomplish…”
When you are clear about this one thing, spend some time deciding what it is going to take in terms of change and action in order to actually accomplish this.
As you can see, there is nothing earth shattering about this process, but I can almost guarantee that the few hours you would spend thinking through these priorities will make a huge difference in your ability throughout the year to stay focused on the important things and be able to avoid the trap of living life based on other people’s priorities for your life and ministry!
Take the time…it’s worth it!