Diocese of ChichesterDiocese of Chichester

The song that keeps on singing

The song that keeps on singing

By Andy Malcolm

I’m going to start by making an assumption – if you are reading this, you probably subscribe to a number of other blogs that you also enjoy to read? And if you are anything like me, you’ll have trawled through those favourite blogs over these past few days finding a fairly similar message – New Year, new beginning! Or something along those lines.

I want to be up front with you though, this isn’t going to be the exception. I think there is something beautiful that the rhythm of a new year can show us, but often we can miss it.

When I was younger (it is always painful writing that) I used to regularly proclaim at this time of year that ‘I don’t set New Year resolutions – I review my life all year round!’ (I mean, who wouldn’t want to be friends with a guy like that, right?!) There are many moments when I look back at younger me and squirm a bit, but in this instance I think I had just missed the point. I don’t know what your stance on New Year resolutions are, but the stats are there to say that the vast majority are well intentioned but poorly executed! But why is that? Well the point younger me had right I think is that there is a danger we make reviewing a one-off event – something we do at a fixed point in time to check in on how we are doing and look to get better. Now, if that is your rhythm and it works, great, it is good to do something, but for me, it would be very easy for distractions to move that date, or shorten that time, or skip it just this once. It takes a whole chuck of discipline to pull that off.

Where I think younger me was wide of the mark is that I completely missed the strength of rhythm. New Year is a great moment to pause and reflect because it is always there, and everyone is always writing about it! In isolation, it loses some of its capacity to assist us all year round, but as part of an annual cycle of reviewing, it is a great point in time for a number of reasons. For me, January 1st has never ACTUALLY been the start of a new year, that moment in my work context always falls at the start of September. As a result, the big difference in a review in January is that there are far less variables – I know the young people in the group, they are finding their feet with me and my team, I’ve had some time to try some things in our sessions together to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t – you review from a position of knowing.

I used to work with a guy a number of years ago called Matt (his name has not been changed for the benefit of confidentiality, he needs to be named!). He was, and still is a top guy, he was my best man, we worked together for four years and shared some fantastic memories and moments – including overtaking a Porsche in a minibus. Legit story. But he had this one really annoying habit – whenever a new song was released that he liked, he would quickly buy it, put it on in the car, and leave it on repeat over and over and over and over again. He is singlehandedly responsible for ruining most of the best songs of the early 2000’s for me! But looking back, Matt’s annoyance taught me an interesting lesson, rhythm and repetition are powerful. I still know the words to a lot of those songs now, getting on towards 15 years later. Reviewing as a one off event in the new year will do you some good for a few weeks, but my conviction is that the lasting, noticeable gain to your ministry year will be negligible. It is when we find reviewing as repetition that we see the lasting gains to the process. So this New Year, commit to review, but why not review how you review! What are the natural cycles of your year where you can find space to pause, reflect, listen and tweak? Your year will be all the better for it.