Every year, the internet is awash in articles about New Year’s Resolutions. Some of them are positive; others say that resolutions never stick and are a waste of time.
But from a Christian point of view, it’s essential that we make intentional choices that we can spiritually, emotionally, and physically benefit from. If it helps to make those choices at the beginning of a new year, so be it!
We’ve put together 24 resolutions for pastors. You can choose resolutions straight from the list, or use them as a springboard to come up with your own resolutions.
Spiritual Development Resolutions
As pastors, we need to be committed to loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Here are some potential decisions that could help you do just that:
1. I will commit to regular Bible reading
Pastors spend a lot of time in God’s Word. The problem is that it’s typically in preparation for things like teaching, preaching, or counseling. Because you spend so much time studying scripture for others, it can feel like you’ve got yourself covered, too.
It’s important to remember that God’s still using scripture for your development, too. Reestablishing some sustained time in God’s Word for yourself is critical. This could mean following a reading plan or choosing a specific amount of time devoted to reading or studying every day or week.
2. I will incorporate a new spiritual discipline
Scripture is full of powerful spiritual disciplines that can help us become more deeply committed. Why not spend the year working a new one into your lifestyle? For instance, John Wesley would typically fast from sundown on Thursday until about 3 PM on Friday. Not only was he practicing self-denial, but he was also focusing his energy on prayer and recognizing the presence of God.
You could also create a regular schedule of solitude and silence. This might be an hour a week where you get away from distractions and stimuli to focus on hearing from God. Whatever you decide to do, see if you can work it into your life for the year and keep track of your positive experiences.
3. I will focus on mentoring and being mentored
Someone out there could benefit from concentrated time with you. Resolving to find someone you can invest a year’s worth of intensive one-on-one time can be life-changing—for both of you. Spend some time thinking about who you could mentor this year.
On the flip side, you could also benefit from mentorship. Think about who you look up to and feel that you’d profit from building a closer relationship with. Maybe it’s a retired pastor who’s been where you are vocationally, or perhaps someone in your community who regularly demonstrates spiritual fruit in his or her life—seek them out and request that they take you under their wing.
4. I will go on a one or two-day personal retreat once a quarter
If a logger wants to stay productive (and safe), he will take some time to make sure that his equipment is in working order and his saws are sharpened. If he doesn’t do that periodically, no matter how hard he works, he’s going to experience diminishing results. Pastors are continually pouring themselves out for others, and this can leave them emotionally, physically, and spiritually depleted. If you don’t sharpen your saw, you can end up becoming ineffective.
Planning one or two days a quarter where you can unplug and disengage can help you sharpen your saw. This is a time where you can get away, seek the Lord, and get refilled and refreshed.
5. I will plan a sabbatical
If you’ve been in the ministry for more than ten years, it might be time for a sabbatical. A sabbatical isn’t a vacation; it’s more of a sustained break from pouring yourself out for others so that you can refill and recharge your own spiritual batteries. It’s a helpful time for rekindling your calling, focusing on your studies, and deepening your spiritual life.
Your church or ministry might not have a plan for sabbaticals, so your first order of business might be to request one. A lot of churches offer three months for every seven years of ministry—but you can work out a schedule that makes sense to your church or organization.
Professional Development Resolutions
Pastoral ministry isn’t just about being a great teacher or a spiritual person: There are other skillsets at play, too. Here are some commitments that could make you a stronger, more efficient church leader:
6. I will visit five other churches in my community
One of the most tragic things happening in any community is that the churches silo themselves off from each other. Instead of learning from and encouraging each other, they become isolated. Why not make it a resolution to bring an end to that?
Make a plan to build a relationship with five churches in your community. By putting this resolution into effect, you can encourage other clergy, learn tactics that are working in these churches, and create strategic partnerships. You win, they win, and, ultimately, the entire community wins.
7. I will improve my organizational/leadership skills
Developing your organizational and leadership skills has great benefits—for you and your church! Make a plan to attend a management conference, put together a list of leadership books, and look for ways to shore up your weakest organizational traits.
To take it up another level, consider learning from people outside of the church space. Sometimes you can find significant breakthroughs in the business or nonprofit sector. See what you can learn from CEOs and managers of some of the leading Fortune 500 companies.
8. I will build a relationship with another local pastor
Like churches, pastors tend to get pretty isolated. When they’re not with people from their own congregations, they’re spending time with their own families. It’s not often they feel like they have someone they can talk to who can identify with their unique vocational challenges. Even when they do have another pastor in their life, they might not live in the same town—and local issues can have a unique affect on their ministry.
Deciding to build a relationship with another local pastor allows you to create a mutually beneficial and encouraging relationship that can have a remarkable impact.
Pro-tip: If you want to take this resolution to the next level, make friends with a pastor from a Christian denomination that you’re not familiar with—this will not only give you someone you can confide in, but it might give you a refreshing new perspective on the Kingdom.
9. I will give my staff regular performance appraisals
People in almost every industry feel like they could use a little more performance feedback. Having a better idea about what they’re doing well, what they could improve upon, and what they should stop that would have a significant impact on their job satisfaction and execution.
If you want to take your church’s synergy and mission to the next level, you’ll make it a point to ensure that your staff and volunteers have the feedback necessary to improve their performance. Make a plan to give regular performance feedback.
10. I will plan team-building events
Some of the most important things get left undone because they’re not the most pressing or urgent. Team building is a perfect example of something that lots of organizations recognize as necessary, but never seem to get around to doing. It’s truly regrettable. The more that people get to play and socialize together, the better they communicate and work together.
Resolve to get some team-building events on the schedule. They don’t all need to be elaborate, expensive, or time-consuming. Occasionally, it could be a potluck lunch or an afternoon playing board games. And then once or twice a year, you can do something special like rent out an ice-skating rink or have a weekend retreat.
Ultimately, your vocation is about growing the Kingdom. Here are some pledges that can help you build key relationships in your community and introduce more people to Jesus.
11. I will attend 12 new (non-church) community events this year
A pastor friend made a comment that stuck with me: “Everything changed when I realized that I wasn’t just my church’s pastor. I was my community’s pastor.”
That realization helped him rethink his vocational focus. He started spending more time looking beyond his church walls. Instead of expecting people in his town to come to him, he realized that he needed to build relationships with them.
Why not make a plan this year to attend a dozen events that are happening in your community? Don’t worry. You don’t have to have a strategy for getting them to visit your church—in fact, that might be the wrong plan. Instead, meet and encourage people. Let them know that your church exists to be a visible and involved part of your community.
12. I will join the city council (or some other organization)
If you want to take your community influence even further, do more than attend city events. Make it your intention to get involved in your community on a deeper level. Joining your local city council or other civic groups gives you a voice—and gives your church a more significant footprint.
Being more involved in community groups and clubs also makes you more aware of the needs around you—needs that your church is poised to meet!
13. I will partner with another church for an outreach event
When churches start working together with the Kingdom in mind, God does incredible things. If you’re serious about outreach and want to see more people in your community experience freedom in Christ, partner with another church.
Not only can a partnership improve your reach for an event, but it will also send an important message to your city: We’re not in competition—we have the same goal. Just one shared outreach event can leave a profound impact. It could lead to even greater things.
14. I will find one organization in my community to partner with this year
Are you already partnering with churches in your area? Maybe it’s time to take it to the next level. There are plenty of needs and causes in your community. You can partner with a nonprofit, business, club, or organization. You’d be surprised at what you can accomplish with other groups—even when they don’t share your Christian motivations.
Putting aside your theological views to work with extra-church organizations can greatly increase what you’re able to accomplish, and it can also give you an opportunity to work beside people who’d never step into a church. These sorts of outreaches can do a lot to tear down people’s ideas about what Christians are like.
15. I will invite people I meet to church
Encouraging people to visit your church can be hard for a pastor. They’re often uncomfortable with giving the impression that they benefit from someone attending their church. If that’s you, it might be a good idea to make it a discipline to invite people around you. It might be helpful to make it about joining the community that you’re part of instead of visiting your church.
Once you’re more comfortable with inviting others, you can share your stories with the church and encourage them to welcome others to join you, too.
Your church isn’t your sole responsibility. Your family needs you as well. We’ve put together some promises that will have a positive effect on those people closest to you:
16. I will plan a regular date night with my spouse
You’ve probably made this suggestion to lots of couples you’ve counseled, but have you ever applied it to yourself? Plan a date night a week with your spouse; it doesn’t have to be expensive. You could just plan an evening where you unplug, play games, and talk about life.
Next to your relationship with God, your marriage is the most critical relationship in your life. And yet, it tends to be the one to suffer the most due to ministerial demands. It’s worth setting aside time for.
17. I will be home for dinner a certain number of times a week
How many nights a week do you make it back for dinner? Would your family benefit from a concerted effort to increase that number? Maybe it’s time to consider committing to a certain number of nights a week to a family meal.
If you are regularly home for dinner, you could try committing to a couple of nights a week when the family turns off all electronic devices and sits around the dinner table together.
18. We will take a family vacation
A lot of people look back at their family vacations with nostalgia. If your family hasn’t had one for a while (or ever), resolve to plan one. “Can we even afford something like that?” A better question might be, “Can you afford not to?”
If finances are an issue, you might look at camping trips or take that church member up on the timeshare they keep offering you. Sometimes the frugal vacations end up being the most memorable.
19. I will establish family devotions or prayer
Be honest. Have you created the spiritual dynamic in your family that you hope to see in your congregation? If not, don’t beat yourself up about it. Resolve to change it. Make a plan to incorporate prayer and devotions into your family time.
Maybe you were better about it when you were newly married, or when your kids were younger. It’s easy for changing family dynamics to cause it all to fall apart. That’s OK! Any movement forward is positive. So set aside one night where you read a book or Bible story together as a family or a morning where you pray together before everyone goes their own way.
20. I will spend one-on-one time with my children this year
Just like a spouse, your kids need individual time with you. Intentionally set aside a certain amount of time to spend with your kids. The key here is to decide on an amount of time and schedule that time as early as possible—then fight to ensure that it doesn’t get infringed upon.
If you already spend time with them, think about how you can make it more meaningful. Are there conversations you should be having? Special things that they enjoy doing? Making a plan to spend time with your kids can have a huge impact—on both of you.
Church Financial Resolutions
One area that church leaders don’t spend enough time thinking about is church giving. How can you make more people excited to give? These resolutions can help make your congregation more committed to generosity:
21. I will teach about giving at least four times this year
A lot of pastors feel uncomfortable teaching about financial responsibility. Sometimes, church members take offense or see it as a confirmation that the church is just out for their money. But we know that Jesus talked about money so often because it’s one of the clearest indicators of our spiritual commitment.
A resolution to talk more often about giving can leave a big impact on your church. Not only can it help your congregation understand the importance of returning to God what already belongs to Him, but it will eventually make them less sensitive to the topic.
22. I will (finally) find a digital solution to giving
We all know that people aren’t giving cash and checks like they used to. The offering plate is becoming a relic of church giving. Maybe you’ve given some thought to digital giving, but it seems like a big hassle. That’s just not the case!
Technological solutions like a native church app will not only revolutionize how people give but can change how your church communicates. When you’re offering a means of giving that makes sense in a technical age, your church will benefit from an increase in regular giving.
23. I will emphasize technology-friendly ways for people to give
It’s not enough to offer alternative means of giving. They’re not useful unless people are using them. That means you need to prioritize them. If you haven’t thrown your attention into this area, it would be wise to start.
Spend time training people how to give electronically. To help you get it right, set a goal to raise your giving while lowering the traditional cash and checks. This would be an excellent time to teach your congregation about recurring giving.
Growth Is a Choice
Maybe the naysayers are right—resolutions typically don’t work. That’s somewhat immaterial. The truth is that growth is about making a choice. Maybe you put one of these resolutions into effect, and four months later it falls through the cracks. That’s okay! Just start again. It’s not about doing it perfectly—it’s about coming back to it until your resolution becomes a habit.