Every January, I resolve to lose weight. And every December, I weigh about what I weighed in January. Sometimes, it is just too difficult to follow through on the commitments we make to ourselves. But more often, we don’t follow through on our resolutions because we don’t have a clear, compelling reason why we should change.
Most experts agree that it is essential to understand why something is important to you if you really want to accomplish change. If you believe your goal is important and know why it is important, you are much more likely to achieve your objective.
Another secret to goal-setting and resolution-follow-through is to keep your hoped-for changes reasonable. With that in mind, here are five bite-sized upgrades you can make to your catechumenate process that will make a huge difference in your community.
Focus on the present
Many of us spend a lot of time regretting mistakes we made. And fretting over the past sets us up worry about the future. We pin our hopes on ideal scenarios. What takes a lot less energy and has many more benefits is to stay focused on what is happening right now, right in front of us. Try spending ten minutes every morning just sitting and focusing on exactly what is happening in the present moment. Next time you are cooking, try to do one step at a time with deliberate intention, without worrying too much about the next step. When you next meet with an inquirer, try to listen more deeply without skipping ahead to planning what happens next.
Be grateful—and say so
Early in my ministry, someone gave me valuable advice. She pointed out that I asked a lot of the volunteers who worked with me, and they were happy to work hard. And then she told me what I was doing wrong. “You seldom say ‘thank you.’” That message hit me like a ton of bricks. I learned that if I spend more time expressing gratitude, life improves tremendously. One thing many people do is write down three or four things they are grateful for each night. Another practice I learned about is to put five pennies in your pocket each morning. Every time you thank someone during the day, move one penny to your other pocket. The goal, of course, is to move all the pennies.
Start a hobby
Whether you’re a staff member or a volunteer, parish ministry can be all-consuming. Even during the pandemic, when we were forced to stay at home, I heard of folks who are spending all day and evening on video calls. It can be hard to say no. We feel guilty if we don’t say yes. But if we have a hobby that feeds our spirit and our creativity, saying no to too much work is a little easier. We can justify that we need time to practice our music or painting or baking or whatever. I guarantee that the time you spend away from your ministry will improve and not diminish your work.
If you believe your goal is important and know why it is important, you are much more likely to achieve your objective.
I was originally going to suggest praying more. But that’s not exactly right. Obviously, if you are not praying at all or not praying often, you need to pray more. There have been times in my life when I needed to pray more. Right now, however, I think I pray often enough but not always well enough. I think of prayer as a journey and not a destination. If my 20-something self could see how my 60-something self prays, my younger self would be amazed at how much progress I’ve made. But sometimes I feel complacent. I know there are small things I could do to improve the quality of my current prayer life. I bet the same is true for you. So do something soon to improve your prayer life that will amaze your younger self.
Find a new ministry
I am very serious about this. For most of us, catechumenate ministry fills us with joy. But there are some for whom this ministry is drudgery. Maybe someone talked you into filling a role you are not well suited for and don’t enjoy. If that’s your story, change the script. The Holy Spirit has gifted you with immense talent. If that talent lies elsewhere, it is your baptismal duty to spend your energy doing what it is God called you to do. But there is a catch here. There are some of us who feel called to catechumenate ministry, and we still feel overwhelmed. In that case, it is likely that you need to delegate more. Make a list of five things you are doing that someone else could do (maybe better than you; maybe not better, but okay), and then ask other team members to do those things.
So there are your five small improvements that will have huge impact. If you commit to each of these, you might weigh the same come December, but your ministry will be much richer and your impact much greater.
What commitment to ministry can you make this winter? What steps can you plan now to achieve it? Share your thoughts in the comments below.