An Open Letter to Me: 7 Things I Need to Work On This Year

Dear Self in January,

I’m sitting here in mid-December with this current year all but gone. Looking back over these 11 & 1/2 months, we had some great stuff happen with the team and the church, but some tough stuff too.

So as you’re at the front door of this new year, I wanted to remind you of some things so you can lead yourself and your team better in this new year:

1. Make Space To Hear And Enjoy God.

Let’s face it, you’re not a naturally disciplined person. In fact, the phrase “spiritual disciplines” makes you twitch a little.

But do you remember that really rough patch you went through this last year. It was a culmination of lots of stuff. But some of it was because you just weren’t connecting with God.

Remember, the spiritual disciplines aren’t the end in themselves, but the are the tools to create space for you to enjoy God and find restoration.

2. Open The Gorilla Cage.

It’s something you heard Andy Stanley say recently. A mentor of his challenged him as a young youth pastor to “Open the Gorilla Cage” when it came to tough conversations with others.

Let’s face it, you’re wired naturally to be a people-pleaser. If there’s underlying conflict or issues that need addressed, your first instinct isn’t to open the cage and wrestle with that gorilla. But it needs to happen: for your sake and the people you’re leading.

3. Keep A Clear List Of What You Want To Accomplish (And Make Time To Make It Happen).

Dang, you had some great ideas last year. You even went so far as to start some. But a lot of them didn’t get done. Some of that is because your eyes are bigger than your stomach. But some of it is because you didn’t keep the goal clearly in front of you.

Pick the top three things you want to accomplish and figure out a way to keep those goals in front of you. And then make time weekly to move closer to those goals.

4. Don’t Take People For Granted.

2014 was definitely “the year of losing.” It started in April with your best drummer getting married and moving away. Then you lost a great vocalist and her incredibly talented electric guitar playing husband when they moved because of a job.

Then unexpectedly, one of your vocalists and her husband—close friends of you and your wife—had to move because of his job.

And just when you thought the musician hemorrhaging had stopped, just last week a valuable team member (worship leader/drummer/vocal team coach) got an unexpected job offer in another city.

Five valuable team members with great hearts, all gone.

I know I’m probably opening up the wounds again to reiterate all this, but it’s important you remember two things:

First, there are seasons of gain and seasons of loss. While you had some great people join your team this last year, these folks who left were irreplaceable because of their unique mix of talent, heart and commitment. This was a season of loss, but God’s working through this for advancement of His Kingdom.

Second, don’t take friendships and great team members for granted. Take to time to be thankful and express your love and gratitude to your team.

5. Empty Your Cup More Often.

It’s hit you in the last few years that your role is now transitioning to be more of a leader of leaders rather than in the trenches of ministry. There are things you’re going to have to give up and let go. And you’re going to have to watch people do things that you might be able to do better.

But your job isn’t to do the work of ministry better, your job is to equip others to do the work of ministry (Ephesians 4). So be more intentional this year about emptying your cup of knowledge and experience into the leaders and potential leaders around you.

6. Play Church-Hooky A Few More Times.

You remember that week that you were off and didn’t go to church? Yeah, do that at couple more times. Gathered worship is important, but so is rest and intentional disconnect from your job. And since so much of your job is Sunday morning worship, you need to play hooky occasionally to get that needed disconnect.

7. When You’re Home, Be Home.

And here’s the big one: when you’re home, be home. Get off your computer. Ignore your phone. And don’t turn on Netflix. Be present with your kids. Give your wife a break from them. And just because her love language is NOT quality time, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work to spend a little more QT with her.

So there are seven ways to make 2015 an even better year than 2014. Will it be easy? Heck no. But when has “good life” ever equaled “easy life”?

Would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section. What are you doing this year to make it a better year?

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Jon Nicol