Beyond Goals and Resolutions for 2015

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Individuals often make resolutions for a new year and pastors often set goals for their churches or the new year. The personal resolutions are often forgotten and the goals for a church frequently fall short.

I know a church where the pastor set an attendance goal at the beginning of the new year for the church to achieve by the end of the year. They didn’t meet it.

Goal setting can be good, but looking back on my ministry I’m not sure goals are all that we make them out to be. There can be a sense of obligation to set goals, after all, isn’t that what any good leader worth his or her salt would do? Actually, goal setting is easy to do; achieving the goal is another story, and one that doesn’t always have a happy ending.

Sometimes I think goals that leaders set never really trickle down to motivate the followers, it just makes the leaders feel good for having set them. Corporate buying into a goal is a tough process.

I’ve also sensed that my setting exciting goals for our church for the future could be a distraction from doing the better and more difficult work of grasping the opportunities (sometimes fairly well hidden) of what is at hand. Then too, there’s the reality that we can never predict the future and so we often find ourselves making things up as we go along instead of carrying out a carefully crafted plan of action toward a certain set of goals. I doubt Moses had a clear plan of action with objectives and goals in mind of how to lead, let alone feed, the people of Israel as they made their way toward the Promised Land. He certainly didn’t start out with the idea it would be a forty year process!

I can think of several goals I set for myself and my ministry years ago that never happened. On the other hand, God’s acted in some wonderfully serendipitous ways over those same years. It was that great theologian Woody Allen who said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him about your plans.”

I don’t want to communicate that I believe goals are not good, I believe they can be. It’s just that they need to be kept in proper perspective. I want my heart and soul be in such a place with the Lord that I can both sense the goals for which He would have me aim and also be sensitive to His moment-by-moment leading.

Happy New Year!

Dave

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Merry Christmas!

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May you not only be able to communicate the message of Christmas in a powerful way but may you experience that message personally in a profound way.

Merry Christmas!

Dave

More Than a Vicarious Christmas

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It’s now been two months since my retirement as senior pastor at Mayfair-Plymouth Church. Many things are different since then, including how I view the holidays. I’ve now experienced Thanksgiving and am currently going through the Advent/Christmas season without guiding the congregation through those experiences.

I realize now, more than ever, that so much of my reflection on the holiday themes was on how “it would preach.” I put a lot of thought and effort into how I could help the people get the most out of the season.

I’d like to pause and give myself at least a little credit here. Yes, I was aware, as I’m sure you are, that I was to make it all personal, and I think I did to, hopefully, to a major degree. I realized I had to embrace the meaning of it all for Dave Claassen, not just as Pastor Dave leading the congregation. It’s just that now I see it even more clearly, now that I’m no longer actively being Pastor Dave and that Christmas services I’m in an unadorned pew instead of nestled among the Christmas decorations on the church platform.

It’s easy to critique others for their approach to Christmas. I even preached about how it’s not primarily about the gift giving, Santa, the family gatherings or any of the other many traditions we associate with Christmas. It’s supposed to be primarily about Jesus, His coming, what that means to us, and how it should impact our lives. I think I heard my own preaching and didn’t make my own Christmas all about the gifts, the gatherings or whatever, yet, it was sometimes more about putting together a Christmas service that would knock the Christmas socks off the snow-covered feet of the C & E folks (Christmas and Easter) than I would care to admit.

Truth be told, the joy of Christmas for us pastors may not be so much the joy of experiencing it personally but the thrill we’re trying to create for others to experience. We can leave a Christmas service thinking, “That was really emotional, powerful, and life-changing for the people,” and all the while not having really experienced it that way ourselves.

I inwardly shake my head when someone states that the best way to experience Christmas is to be around children and see it through their eyes of wonder. Yes, this is a thrill (I am, after all a grandpa), but experiencing Christmas should be more than experiencing it vicariously. Christmas is not just for kids! If we’re not careful as pastors the Christmas season can be more a vicarious experience than anything else.

So, I want to do more than wish you a very merry vicarious Christmas! My prayer is that in spite of the disadvantage of the distraction of having to lead people in Christmas worship and celebration you’ll be able to put aside the pastor role enough to experience Christmas with the child-like wonder from your own position of being a child of God’s.

May you have a very personal merry Christmas!

Dave