New Year's Reflection: Old First E-pistle 01.03.14

New Year's Reflection: Old First E-pistle 01.03.14

“Keep examining yourselves to see whether you are continuing in the faith. Test yourselves! You know, do you not, that Jesus Christ lives in you? Could it be that you are failing the test?” — 2 Corinthians 13:5

I’ve been thinking how we might be more intentional as a church staff this year… devising a goal setting process now so by the end of next year, we have parameters for looking back and evaluating our development and progress.

Funny thing is, even to begin setting goals, one has to have some standard — explicit or nebulous — against which to judge one’s present and establish one’s goals for the future. In other words, in order to move ahead, implicit is one’s need to also look back. Asking what we ought to do, goal-setting necessitates some evaluative reflection …even if we haven’t set past goals around which our evaluations could be more structured. Inevitably finding oneself and figuring out where one is headed– you must look back in order to look ahead.

Like the Roman God Janus, for which January is named, who is depicted having two faces. Not so he can represent himself in two different ways simultaneously– be “two-faced” — but so he could look backwards in order to look ahead.

I learned this week that Pennsylvania Germans eat pork on New Years, because the pig roots forward… as opposed to chickens and turkeys that scratch backwards. Maybe it’s because I’m Irish and English as well as German, but I figure eating all of the three — a turkchickpig– would be the best preparation for a New Year.

The process I’ve been thinking is borrowed and adapted from a friend whose department in city government uses it. I like it because it’s simple enough not to become a whole extra project in itself. For us church-workers who already have full plates and more than we get done, the ease of a streamlined process means it is more likely to be used consistently. A one time evaluation probably isn’t harmful, but the real benefit seems to come as one keeps at it, consistently moving through the cycles of evaluation and goal-setting and evaluation… so that the process helps one’s development and growth become more intentional and directed.

I share all this because it occurs to me, as we start another year, this process might be helpful to some of you as individuals.

Last year, I forwent resolutions, and instead, set larger goals that I hoped to make progress towards. They were big enough that they were going to require more than just resolve. Or a few weeks.

Now at the end of the year, I confess I haven’t accomplished them. But I have, at least, put in significant time and effort towards moving towards them. I am proud of that progress.

Part of choosing to lead a religious life is, I think, a willingness to look at yourself and your life, to do some consistent evaluation and reflection, on the way towards being more closely who God means for you to be.

Try these 3 easy steps:

1) What were my top three accomplishments (personal, professional, communal) last year?

2) What were three disappointments or challenges that I didn’t master last year?

3) In light of all that– and perhaps leaning into building on my successes– what are 3 goals for the next year?

Once you have worked through those steps, there are two more optional questions you might want to ask yourself:

1) What help do I need to get myself / ask for to accomplish these goals?

2) Is there someone I could share my thinking on all this with?
(Just telling someone else sets up more accountability, and if you give that person permission to offer in return their responses, you might even factor in how others experience you.)

Let me know if you try it, and it’s helpful or not…

Happy New Year (and see you in Church… this Sunday, we will celebrate “Three Kings”),