By Eddie Pipkin

February 25, 2016

January of every year brings a raft of articles about resolutions, goals, and strategies for improving the year ahead.  The New York Times published an article on their web site called “15 Ways to Be a Better Person in 2016, which was actually a collection of some of the best (and quirkiest) ideas from all the articles and blogs they published during 2015—sort of a “greatest hits” collection for enlivening the year ahead.

These ideas weren’t grand strategy or philosophical mantras.  They were some practical, but mostly playful, notions that have a lot to say about the attitude with which we approach each day.  Here are two of my favorite ways the authors recommended that you and I can be a better person in the year ahead:

  • Wear Comfortable Underwear.
  • Stare Into the Eyes of Someone You Love for Exactly Four Minutes.

I can’t argue with those recommendations, but I thought in this space it might be useful to share some insights from the good folks here at EMC3 for 15 ways to be a better ministry leader in 2015.  These ideas won’t necessarily change your life or revolutionize your ministry, but if applied, they might just tweak your perspective or give you a new insight.

15-300x2901)      Let Somebody Else Take the Credit.

It is human nature (and a sound professional survival strategy) to take credit where credit is due, but it is a valuable exercise in humility and can be a real boost to team confidence to sometimes let someone else get the glory.

2)      Be Counterintuitively Thankful.

This is one of my new favorites.  It’s the spiritual discipline of being prayerfully grateful for difficult challenges—not in a generic sense, but in the moment.  For instance, try praying an active prayer of gratitude before walking into a meeting you dread: “Lord, I am grateful for the difficult conversation that I know lies directly ahead, because through it I will learn patience, empathy, and the strength of relying on you.”

3)      Let Something Fail.

Make it a goal to routinely fail at something.  It is a graceful skill that imparts much wisdom: how to laugh at ourselves, how to live without the paralysis of fear, how to more deeply appreciate success.  And it is one of the best metrics for understanding if we are embracing bold new initiatives (because you can’t fail at something if you aren’t trying something risky and new).

4)      Learn Somebody’s Name.

Make it a point to learn the name of someone that you routinely encounter but whose name you do not know.  Get beyond your embarrassment of having to admit you don’t know what it is (or use a little subterfuge to find out) and then do whatever it takes to imprint this new moniker on your brain.  Expand your deeper connections one name at a time!

5)      Don’t Apologize.

Okay, if you step on somebody’s foot or inadvertently pass gas at the dinner table (or do something else that routinely is acknowledged by an apology), go for it.  But many of us are apologizing all day long out of habit or insecurity for things that don’t require an apology—like simply expressing our opinion or for our actual work (e.g. “I’m sorry this blog isn’t what you were expecting”).  Give that habit a break.

6)      Wear the Wrong Clothes.

We all worry a lot about how we present ourselves, or perhaps more accurately how others see us.  We’re careful about constructing a sense of style and making sure that we fit in.  Pick a day or an event and turn that on its head by wearing something at odds with the normal routine.  If you’re a more formal person, try wearing flip flops and a t-shirt to your next meeting, and if you are the type who routinely dresses down, put on a fancy suit and head to McDonalds’s.  Use it as a way to see how you might view the world differently, and how the world might view you differently.

7)      Start a Rumor.

In this case, a good one.  Make it a point to brag on someone or tell a great story about something someone did.  Tell it to several people in several venues and see if you can get it to come back to you.

8)      Send a Text NOW!

Texting is a powerful tool.  It is relationship-building technology right in our pocket.  It’s a means to micro check-in, just to let people know we are thinking about them.  And one of the best ways to use this tool is in the gaps between things on the schedule.  Try it right now: send a quick text to someone who has been on your mind to let them know you’ve been thinking about them, then work on doing that as a routine habit in those thumb-twiddling, in-between moments.

9)      Clean Out Your Sock Drawer.

Pick some chore you’ve been procrastinating and knock it out in 10 minutes.  Sock drawers are dark places that spiral out of control without occasional maintenance.  “Sock drawer” makes a great euphemism for anything in ministry that spirals out of control without occasional maintenance—email, expense reports, thank-you notes, etc.  A chore-a-day discipline keeps things smelling fresh.

10)  Just Say No.

You don’t have to say yes to everything.  In fact, it can be a nasty path to burnout and to limiting the opportunities for other people to find their way to serve.

11)  Just Say Yes.

On the other hand, don’t get so comfortable saying no that you cut yourself off to whimsy (and/or the leading of the Holy Spirit).  Make it a point to occasionally say yes to an off-the-wall request or one you would usually avoid.  Some of the most surprising opportunities for growth and self-revelation come from these yes moments.

12)  Unleash the Magic of a $2 Bill.

If you come across a two-dollar bill (or if you want to have fun with this experiment by acquiring some from the local bank teller), use it as an opportunity to inspire spiritual improvisation.  Give it to someone as a thank you or a random blessing, but specify that they can’t keep it and they can’t spend it on themselves.  They have to look for an opportunity to use it to make God’s love real in the world—and they have to report back to you what they  did.

13)  Bake Some Cookies.

This one’s an oldie but a goodie.  Keep some cookie baking supplies on hand (I’m a fan of those slice and bake tubes) and occasionally bake some just to give away.  Neighbors.  Friends.  Co-workers.  Complete strangers.  Everybody loves freshly baked cookies.  This activity is recommended for days when you are feeling down—don’t know why it works, but it does.

14)  Do Somebody Else’s Job.

Take over and do a task for someone else—something that is clearly not your responsibility but is something on which you can pitch in with a spirit of generosity.  (This is a one-off, of course, best practiced in a scenario that is unexpected of you.  If you are routinely doing somebody else’s job, that’s another blog.)

15)  Stop Obsessing Over Listicles.

A listicle is the name for those lists which are so popular all over the Internet.  You know, “here’s 15 things . . . blah, blah, blah.”  Release yourself from the tyranny of feeling like to have to do everything you see printed in a list.  You do you, boo-boo.  That is, you be the glorious, perfect, wonderful, unique you that God created you to be, this year and every year.

What are some ideas that come to you as you read through this list?  What are some thought-provoking or whimsical activities or habits to get ministry leaders off to a great start in 2016 or any year?  Please share in the comments section!