Do you like who you are? Are you the spouse, the parent, the youth leader you want to be?
Like the start of a new year, the beginning of a new season of youth ministry is a natural moment for reflection and change. It’s good to have moments like this to honestly look at ourselves and ask ourselves if we like what we see, if we are the person we want to be.
If not, it’s time to make some changes. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that people don’t change, that you’re too old to change or that you don’t have the time for it. Those are just lame excuses for not wanting to do the hard work of looking deep inside yourself and deal with your shortcomings. You can change and you know it. You just need to act.
So how do you change who you are? What is the road to become the person you want to be?
It’s not a process you can walk through in a couple of hours, it needs time and hours of thinking, reflecting, discussing and above all prayer. Growth never comes instantly. But you can start now.
Make a list of your most important roles
Everyone has certain roles they have to fulfill: parent, spouse, youth pastor, small group leader, etc. Just write down the most important roles that you have in life.
For me that would be child of God, wife, mom, youth leader, writer, homemaker and friend for instance. I have more roles than this, but these are the most important ones.
Write down who you want to be in each role
Now it’s time to do some deep thinking. Who do you want to be in each of these roles, what do you want to accomplish? This is also the part where constant prayer and conversations with God are of crucial importance to get His opinion so to speak.
There are several ways to go about tackling this. A well known one is the ‘funeral approach’, where you write down a eulogy for yourself for each of these roles. How would you want your spouse to describe you? Or your friends? Another is to simply ask your friends, team, spouse etc for their input. That approach can be very challenging and even scary, but you may get some valuable feedback. A third and less frightening option is to look at some people you really admire in one of these roles and describe what you see in them.
You have to find a balance here between what’s desirable and what’s realistic. I could write down for instance that I’d want to be known for my thoughtfulness and calmness, but that’s never gonna happen. It’s not who I am and it’s also not something I should strive for.
Your character is who God made you to be so don’t try to become someone else entirely. It’s not about completely changing who you are, it’s about becoming the best version of you possible (I’m beginning to sound like a self-help guru here – sorry for that!)
Determine what you need to do
Now that you know who you want to be in each role, you’ll need to determine what you need to do to become that person. Let’s say you’ve written down you want to be known as a small group leader who was there for the students, whose door was always open and whom students could talk to. What would you need to change in your life to better reflect that desired identity? Maybe you’d need to spend more time with your students, hold a pizza night every other week, or keep at least two nights a week appointment-free so kids could drop by.
The key is to make it very practical and executable. You could write down you want to be a better dad for instance, but if you don’t translate that into tangible actions, nothing will ever change. What does being a good dad look like for you? Being home for dinner? Putting your kids to bed? Taking your son to a baseball game? Think about it, write it down.
Make the change
Changing isn’t easy, especially when it concerns deeply ingrained patterns. Changing who you are is often about habits, not just single actions. But it can take at least a month and often longer for new habits to take effect. So change your life one habit at a time. Keep evaluating to see if you like who you’re becoming. And don’t give up. Learn from your mistakes, keep extending grace to yourself and keep trying.
In what role do you want to change most? Do you have a clear strategy for how to realize that change?