The holidays are done, Lent hasn’t started yet, and there’s a bit of “pause” in these few weeks of Ordinary Time. In many places, the post-holiday blues lead to a slump in productivity and creativity, but that doesn’t need to be the case!
While the winter season may seem bleak or more slow-paced than other seasons, this lull is also an opportunity of growth for you and your community. Your intentionality in the next few weeks can lead to a stronger parish in the future. So, lean in a little. Use the time to regroup, refocus, and move boldly!
Time to plan.
New year/ new you, as they say. With the bustle of Advent and Christmas behind us, the few weeks before Lent can be used to analyze and adapt. Gather your team and ask for honest feedback on what’s working and what’s not in your parish.
- Define your vision. Often parish staffs are made up of hardworking, focused individuals who are highly specialized in their area of work. Unfortunately, with attention so honed on individual ministries, it is tempting to work as silos. Taking time to refocus on the mission helps a team redirect their attention and renew their commitment.
- Perform an honest assessment. Is your least favorite phrase “We’ve always done it this way”? There’s no reason to change for change’s sake — but it is important to be realistic about what might not be working and how you can improve. A SWOT analysis — Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats — is one way to start. Simplistic but powerful, a genuine team will be able to provide authentic feedback that can be used to create a successful strategy for the future.
Time to rest.
As ministers, it’s easy to overcommit and overwork — after all, we’re doing the Lord’s work! But time for rest and recreation is not only essential, it’s also Biblical.
Can you find time this season to rest and reconnect with God? With fewer commitments, there may be more wiggle-room for a day or two away from the desk. Take some calendar space (maybe some of that comp time from the holidays) and set it aside for prayer.
- Retreat — See what’s offered at your nearby retreat centers or pilgrimage sites. For some of us, a led retreat with reflections and prayer is like water to a parched earth. For others, a personal retreat of rest, prayer, and journaling makes all the difference in the world.
- Holy Hiking — Like Elijah waiting for God through nature, the experience of a walk through the woods can often serve to reconnect us with our Creator. Slowly, we begin to observe the world around us and invite God into our lives. Use an app like AllTrails to find spaces close to you.
- Holy Hour — Consider all the seeds and plants gently germinating under the snow, and how your hopes, dreams, and plans for your community are also stirring and growing. God is the one who causes the growth (1 Cor 3:6), so don’t neglect Him in the process. Take your anxieties to Him in prayer and let Him sort out the details.
Time to re-connect.
Pope Benedict XVI reflects on community in his Spe Salvi saying, “…we should recall that no man is an island, entire of itself. Our lives are involved with one another, through innumerable interactions they are linked together. No one lives alone. No one sins alone. No one is saved alone. The lives of others continually spill over into mine: in what I think, say, do and achieve. And conversely, my life spills over into that of others: for better and for worse.”
- Connect with old friends — Take time to reach out to people who have impacted your life; friends increase our sense of belonging and purpose, they remind us of our worth. If they’re close, try a dinner together. If far, a meaningful letter or phone call will also do the trick.
- Connect with staff — A study by APA the states that “Almost all employees (93 percent) who reported feeling valued said that they are motivated to do their best at work and 88 percent reported feeling engaged.” How is gratitude being communicated in your staff? Is there space in the budget for a team lunch? Team doughnuts? Team coffee? Even small gestures can go a long way.
Time to work.
We all have “back-burner” projects and goals that get pushed further and further as more urgent tasks find their way to the foreground. Some questions to ask in this season:
- Who can benefit from my time and attention right now?
- Come the summertime, what will I wish I started today?
- Which task, if completed, will have the biggest impact on you in the future?
This season is sacred in its own right; using it intentionally will help you build a stronger tomorrow.