1. Start the project you’ve always dreamed of creating.
The clock is ticking, and you’re not getting any younger. Remember the book manuscript in the desk drawer you’ve always wanted to publish? Or the radical new ministry you planned on the back of a napkin? Or the media outreach you always believed would change the community or city? Stop dreaming and start doing. There’s no better time than now.
2. Understand the power of a compelling brand.
In a media-driven culture, a compelling brand is the key to breaking through the clutter and getting noticed by your audience. A successful brand is the story that surrounds a product, organization, or person, and it’s much more than just a logo. It’s a promise you make to your community, congregation, or partners, and it powers the connection that transforms organizations and revolutionizes fundraising. Don’t end the next year without creating a strong brand identity for your church or ministry.
3. Carry a small notebook and pen everywhere you go.
Ideas are fragile, and your memory doesn’t always work. Write it down. Ideas come in the strangest places, and if you don’t write them down, you’ll lose the idea that could transform your church or ministry. Many people type notes on a handheld PDA and then download them into a computer. Either way, if you don’t record your ideas, you’ll regret it later. Phone conversations, meeting notes, spiritual insight, breakthrough ideas – write them down.
4. Read more novels.
Because most pastors and ministry leaders deal with reality – preaching and teaching – we often forget the power of drama. Make a commitment to explore more fiction this year and learn the art of storytelling. You’ll never be a great preacher or teacher without the ability to tell compelling stories. As my old writing teacher told me, great fiction may not be “true,” but it’s “truth.”
5. Spend less time on what’s urgent and more time on what matters.
Think about your epitaph. Will they praise your great ability to handle e-mail or your genius with church budgets? Or will they honor the time you spent as a husband and father or how you accomplished great things for the kingdom of God? Eliminate the distractions and focus on real priorities. Whoever invented the “open door” policy for leaders never accomplished much. Be accessible to your ministry team, but don’t be afraid to shut the door and achieve the big picture priorities in your life and ministry.
6. Explore the media.
The latest study indicates the average American family watches TV and surfs the Internet an average of 10 hours each day. Compared to your time in the pulpit of a couple of hours each week, who has the most influence? Unless pastors and ministry leaders learn the power of the media and how to use it effectively, we’ll continue our not-so-slow slide into oblivion. Discuss movies and TV programs with your congregation, and teach them how to properly prioritize the media. And think more about your media outreach – even the smallest church or ministry can create an effective Web site or energize their graphic design. The battle for influence in your congregation’s life has begun, and you’d better get into the fight.
7. Remember the reasons you chose the ministry as your life’s calling.
It’s so easy to get caught up in advancing technology, paying the bills, preparing sermons, and the daily grind, we often forget the reason we decided on the ministry in the first place. Chances are you had a dream and calling back then, and the question is – was that vision ever accomplished? Cut through the clutter, and get back to the heart and soul of why you do this for a living.
The most valuable practical asset you have right now isn’t money or even knowledge; it’s time. Time is the currency of the most successful people in the world, and you can always identify influential leaders by how they value their time. Use the coming year to rethink your priorities, cut away the junk, and get back to the heart of your ministry.
You’ll never have another chance to relive this year, so let’s invest this year in what could potentially change the world.