20 things I’d tell my younger self in 2020

By Marshall Eizenga

Well January is upon us, and it’s not just a new year but an entirely new decade! I’m not sure how that happened so fast. I woke up one morning and discovered, to my shock, that I was approaching my mid-60s with almost 40 years of pastoring behind me.

I have a faint recollection of people saying this would happen, but I never dreamed it would actually happen to me. As I look back on life and ministry, there are some things I learned along the way that would have been really helpful to know at the beginning. But alas that’s not how it works. Hindsight is indeed 20/20.

And so while statistics say 60 per cent of the population make New Year’s resolutions, I’ve decided to – in a moment of self-examination – take a look back and hopefully help a few leaders who are just starting out. So, here goes: 20 things I’d tell my younger self in 2020.

First, 10 things I wish I had done:

  1. I’d start working on my master’s degree earlier. Quite frankly I didn’t because I wasn’t sure I could handle the workload. But there’s never going to be a perfect time for more education. Just do it!
  2. I’d spend more time being a peacemaker than a peacekeeper. If I could go back, I’d deal with conflict head-on.
  3. I’d engage a life coach to help me think more deeply and ask the difficult questions.
  4. I would not hesitate to contact a counsellor for areas early in our marriage that we kept stumbling over. Calling Focus on the Family Canada (1.888.5.CLERGY) would have been a great start.
  5. Early in our ministry, when I was a youth pastor, the board said they would be putting money into an RRSP for me. Two years later upon my leaving, to their dismay they realized they had never done that. It simply got lost in the shuffle. I learned an important lesson: Always circle back when promises are made so they become reality.
  6. I’d be careful to not throw the baby out with the bathwater. When criticism comes, it’s important to ask yourself, “Is there some truth there that would help me grow if I applied it?”
  7. I’d work at making reading more of a discipline in my life. While I, of course, did it, it wasn’t and still isn’t my favourite thing. It’s hard to refute the phrase “leaders are readers.” I’d be more intentional in this area.
  8. I had no problem delegating, but in looking back I could have been better at checking in on a more regular basis until the person felt confident in the assigned area.
  9. I would have taken a yearly solitude retreat.
  10. I would have enrolled in a preaching course sooner. There are so many excellent resources out there now to help in this area.

I think it’s a good thing to look back with the intention of assisting others as they look ahead. Here’s the danger: You can get stuck there. If the “looking back” is laden with regret and “if onlys,” it becomes a tool that the enemy can and will use to immobilize you. Are there things I would do differently? Or do earlier? Yes. Do I wallow in regret? Absolutely not.

Here’s the truth: For most of us, while there are things we might change, there are all kinds of things we’d do all over again. It’s a good thing to remind ourselves of this and, quite frankly, I think it’s good to remind the devil too! So the last 10 things I’d tell myself are a reminder of what I did well.

  1. I spent almost two decades coaching our kids’ sports teams in the city where I pastored. It gave me a voice in our community that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
  2. I protected family time. We had family game nights. I picked the kids up mid-week from school for lunches out. We never forfeited family vacations.
  3. I looked specifically for young men to mentor in their life and walk with God. This decision was one of the most rewarding ministry experiences for me.
  4. I’ve worked hard to stay fit and keep my weight down. While some genetic things may be out of my control, these two things are not.
  5. My spiritual disciples have always been a priority. Prayer, Bible reading and fasting have been part of the rhythms of my spiritual journey. I knew I could not do life or ministry without them.
  6. I met regularly with men who carried a burden of prayer for my family, our church and me.
  7. As an associate pastor I knew God had called me to be a faithful, loyal armour bearer for the lead pastor. I felt privileged to protect, support, pray and work side by side with them.
  8. As a lead pastor, I never threw my staff under the bus when people had a complaint about them or their ministry style.
  9. I worked hard at learning people’s names. I talked to people who were good at this art and incorporated some of their memory techniques.
  10. I lived by my personal life statement: “Serve God, love people.”

So, as the calendar turns to a brand new decade, take some time to look back. I invite you to share some places you’d make course corrections but then make a list of what you’ve done well and slap that up on your office wall!

We’d also love to have you visit us at Kerith Retreats this year – why don’t you put that on your New Year’s resolutions list?


Marshall Eizenga and his wife, Merrie, are the program directors at the Alberta Kerith Retreats location. For more information about our retreats, visit KerithRetreats.ca.


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