Motivation is contagious. I never try to motivate other people. I only worry about motivating myself. When Im motivated, I know others will catch my enthusiasm. This is true in any area of ministry. Your duty as a church leader is not necessarily to motivate others. But if you stay motivated, those you lead will catch your enthusiasm.
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:58b to: Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (NIV) I have to admit there have been times in my life I have not given myself fully to the work of the Lord. But our goal is that every time we preach a sermon, every meeting we lead, every counseling session we are in, that we are giving ourselves fully to that task. We know that nothing we do for the Lord is ever in vain no matter what it is.
Here are nine suggestions about how to stay motivated based on how I motivate myself. Next week Ill share another nine. There isnt anything deep in these but theyve helped me and I think they can help you.
1. Put your plans on paper. Write out what you want to accomplish. Dawson Trotman said, Thoughts disentangle themselves when they pass through the lips and the fingertips. If I can say it and I can write it down, then its clear. If I havent written it down, then its vague.
Many of us live with a vague fear or anxiety that we wont get everything accomplished that we need to. Just putting what you have to do down on paper will often relieve your mind and allow you to focus on your task.
2. Break big tasks into small steps. When I know I have a task coming up, I always write down the specific steps I need to take before the project is done. When Im preparing a sermon, I ask myself, What all do I have to do to finish the sermon? Then I write down all of the associated tasks, such as collecting the verses, studying the verses, looking for illustrations, thinking through quotes, and organizing the presentation. Sermons dont just fall out of your brain automatically. We all go through specific steps as were doing it. Just learn to isolate those steps.
3. Decide where you want to start. After youve broken down the task into steps, ask yourself what needs to be done first. For example, if youre preparing a sermon, whats the very first thing you have to do? Discover your topic? Pray? You need to figure out where to start.
4. Establish check points to track your progress. Give yourself deadlines for each of the tasks needed to finish the project.
5. Start on the task whether you feel like it or not. Be honest with yourself. Usually when we say we cant do something we simply mean we dont want to do it. Sometimes youve got to get tough. Most of the people who succeed in this world are those who dont feel like doing what theyre doing. Successful people have developed the habit of doing things unsuccessful people dont feel like doing.
6. Remind yourself of the benefits of completing the task. A lot of times I do this when Im preparing a message. Ive had a real long week, and my mind just isnt there. I ask myself, What is this going to accomplish? Jesus did this. The Bible says in Hebrews, that Jesus endured the cross because he looked to the joy beyond it.
Those of us in ministry dont often see the thrill of what were doing. Theres a lot that seems mundane at times. But we do it because of the results. God is going to change lives through us. That gets us motivated!
7. Do a small part right now. Get started! Dont stall. I play a game with myself all the time called The Five-Minute Game. When I have a big topic or task I need to do, I just say, I dont want to do this, but Ill give it five minutes. I sit down and after I get going in it, its not that big of a deal.
8. Be optimistic. Optimism creates energy. I cant tell you how many times Ive come into church and didnt think I could make it through what I had to do. But I walk in saying, This is a snap! In Christ. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Optimism can make all the difference in the world.
9. Establish an action environment. Create a place in your office or house where you can get all of your tools together for your task. If youre preparing a sermon, find a place to get your Bible and your study aids all within reach. You need an environment where you can focus on the task at hand. I clear everything off the desk when Im going to study because I dont want to focus on anything else.
Some of you use your desks as file cabinets. And you say youre doing it so that you wont forget what's there. Thats the problem! You dont forget those things. You sit down to prepare a sermon and you see your phone list or a book youve wanted to read and all of a sudden youve drifted off task.
Success comes from focusing on one thing at a time. Clear off your desk. Make a to-do list so you wont forget what youve taken off of your desk. Put a tickler file on your desk of stuff you need to look at every day. Then, whenever you pull it out and look through it, always put it back. But whatever you do, dont use your desk as a filing cabinet. It diffuses your concentration, and makes it tough to focus on the task on hand.
Next week, Ill give you nine more tips to help you stay motivated for ministry.
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and best-known churches. In addition, Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose-Driven Life and The Purpose-Driven Church, which was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th Century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for ministers. Copyright 2005 Pastors.com, Inc. Used with permission. All rights reserved.