Dedicating your life to the ups and downs of vocational ministry is like locking yourself onto a roller coaster of energized and exhausted. The life of a pastor or full-time church staff member is high on exhausting effort and low on immediate gratification. 

And whether you’re a megachurch pastor or a one-person operation at a smaller rural church, preaching on Sundays is not your only job. You’re likely wrapping up another year that required burning the candle at multiple ends. 

Aside from the regular duties of planning sermons, meeting with members of your community throughout the week, and overseeing volunteers, 2020 also forced you to migrate everything your church does online, find ways to reach new people in the digital world, navigate political tensions, and avoid contracting a potentially life-threatening virus. 

All while being the steady head among a sea of people losing their minds. On any given Sunday in any given year, we’d understand if you were running on fumes by early or late November. 

But in 2020, we’d be shocked if you have an ounce of energy left. We know you’re exhausted. 

With Christmas season lurking around the corner and a brand new year rushing right behind it, it’s easy to feel like you need a week off to recharge and prepare. If not a whole sabbatical. 

But rest isn’t going to solve the issue. 

A retreat to a quiet cabin will feel nice and solitude will surely reconnect you with the heart of the Lord. But it won’t give you what you need to make it through 2021 without fizzling out toward the end. 

You need momentum. 

It’s like a Dave Ramsey Debt Snowball, but for bringing your yearly vision to life and ending the year with more energy than you started with—the kind that will supercharge the start of a new year and grow with each passing day in 2021.

It’s time to break the vicious cycle of resting, working yourself dry, resting, repeat. Vision doesn’t spring to life and churches struggle to flourish when that’s the norm. 

You struggle to flourish when that’s the norm. 

Jump-start your year and maintain your emotional capacity to pastor a church with joy by doing these three things that will kickstart and sustain your momentum in 2021.

#1 – Move your body every day. No matter what.  

Start the year by taking your attention off of lofty resolutions and honing in on small daily practices and rhythms. 

These lead to small daily wins that build into a massively successful year. 

Too often, pastors burn out halfway through the year because they fail to unplug from their responsibilities and plug into their personal relationship with God. Yet we wonder year in and year out why we’re stuck in a never-ending loop of exhausted, refreshed, exhausted, refreshed, exhausted again. 

There’s certainly a place for vacation and taking extended time off to meet your needs. But in order to create and sustain momentum, you need to develop the regular habit of unplugging.

Making time for a 20-minute uninterrupted, undisturbed walk or exercise every day is a huge way to do that. No phones, no meetings, no company. This is your time to do an audit of your thought life, reflect on what happened yesterday, and look forward to what God has in store today. 

And just like author, speaker, and former Head of Global Sales at Disney, Dave Hollis, says, “Moving your body will change your mind.” 

Even Matthew McConaughey, the coolest guy on earth, said in his recent Joe Rogan interview that he has to move his body in the morning to get his thoughts in order. His thoughts are disorganized before and feel perfectly lined up when he is finished. 

When we asked our Church Fuel members if they have a daily exercise discipline, the responses certainly lined up: 

Creating new habits is difficult. Unhealthy habits are hard to break. But you can kick start your year with the healthy habit of unplugging from the world and moving your body. 

For help with starting new habits, James Clear writes in his book Atomic Habits,

“All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision. But as that decision is repeated, a habit sprouts and grows stronger. Roots entrench themselves and branches grow. The task of breaking a bad habit is like uprooting a powerful oak within us. And the task of building a good habit is like cultivating a delicate flower one day at a time.”

If you need guidance or accountability cultivating the delicate flower of a good, daily habit, consider our Church Fuel membership that gives you access to our incredible ministry coaches. 

Each coach holds their full-time position as a pastor for their church, so they know exactly what you are going through. They can not only walk you through starting this year off with a new habit, but they can walk WITH you as you do it. 

If you want to show up to work every single day of 2021 with enough mental real estate available to build healthy momentum in your church, start each day by unplugging from the world and moving your body for 20 minutes. 

#2 – Use. A. Planner. Please.

How many times have you started the week with intentionality and by the end of the week had accomplished nothing and were still unprepared for Sunday? 

Likely too many times to count. 

As a pastor and vocational minister, you need a planner. Not solely to keep you on track and organize your year, but to serve as a prayerful reminder of what is important and what will contribute to your overall mission in the church. 

There are plenty of planners and calendars out there that promote productivity and will challenge you to start the year with momentum and end the year with momentum. 

Jon Acuff’s Finish calendar is a really unique, helpful calendar for people who are big on achieving goals. 

The calendar is one big flow chart as opposed to a book of pages so it makes your year feel more fluid. People have accomplished things like building their own business and running their first marathon using his calendar. 

For a daily planner, Michael Hyatt’s Full Focus Planner has helped thousands of people achieve a fulfilling year from wire to wire.  

Michael’s planner has helped business leaders break their gigantic vision into small bite-sized tasks that are manageable and achievable every day. 

But pastoring a church and leading a church staff is a whole different ball game. The playbook for productivity and success is different. There are issues in the church world that can derail your entire year that would never arise in the day to day life of a business person. 

If your planner is not church specific, you’ll have to bend it as best you can to fit your regular schedule. 

What may help you most is a planner made by pastors for pastors. A planner that emphasizes momentum being the key contributor to your overall success in 2021.

Our Pastor’s Planner ensures that the demands of ministry won’t keep you from doing the actual ministry. Each page is digital so you can print one page a week, print all 52 at once, or keep everything online so your backpack isn’t stuffed with yet another book. 

Whichever way you decide to organize your weeks and your entire year is up to you. And you should pick the option that works best for your personality and style.

To plan every week with purpose, get our 2021 Pastor’s Planner here. 

If you want deeper instruction on how to set 2021 up for success, watch this exclusive replay of our training on Creating a Strategic 2021 Ministry Plan

Use these resources to keep your momentum on track throughout the new year. 

#3 – Control what you can control 

Nothing will bring your momentum to a screeching halt faster than worrying about things that are outside of your control. 

When your focus is on the various things going wrong in the world, or even in your own community, your mind panics. 

And when you panic, you stop working and start worrying. Every moment spent worrying about things beyond your control is a moment you could have spent working in your ministry. 

Think back to the beginning of COVID. Your church and every other church that wanted to stay afloat had to move the bulk of their in-person ministry online. 

The churches that chose to panic instead of pivot ended up sinking. 

Brian Beauford helped his church in Boston control what they could control by starting up weekly webinars as a form of community outreach when meeting in-person was flat out not an option. 

Hear more about how Brian decided to focus on what he could control by listening to his episode on our podcast here. 

Look outside of the church world and into the restaurant industry. During a year when eating out is heavily regulated, restaurants, have been faced with a choice:

  1. Let COVID and all of its chaos control their destiny
  2. Control what they can control and command their destiny

Restaurants that threw in the towel early were forced to close their doors for good. 

Restaurants like Canlis Restaurant in Seattle decided to control what they could control. Overnight, they transformed from an iconic fine dining restaurant to a drive-through burger stand so they could stay in business, keep their employees employed, and feed the surrounding community. 
At one point along the way, they started hosting drive-in movie nights in their parking lot!

Currently, they are joyfully still in business and serving the community around them. You can hear more about their story on Donald Miller’s Building a Storybrand Podcast here

No matter what 2021 decides to throw your way, control what you can control. Be stubborn on your vision and flexible on your strategy so you can stay laser-focused on the impact that is directly within your control. 

Try and control what you can’t control and you’ll fail. Every single time. 

Put all three of these little things together and pursue the small wins so that you can generate unbelievable momentum throughout the year.

You’ll kickstart your momentum in 2021 and never have to pause, catch your breath, or look back.