6 Questions to Evaluate Last Year and Start This Year Right

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“Let us test and examine our ways…” – Lamentations 3:40 (AMP)

This time of year is great for reflecting on last year and dreaming and planning for the year ahead.

Socrates once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” We must make time to reflect on the past in order to prepare for the future. If you want to be successful you need to ask and answer the right questions.

Here are six question to help you evaluate last year and start this year off right:

1. What was great about last year? 
This can be anything from getting a new pair of shoes to getting a new job, staying up late to catch up with some old college friends, a great vacation, getting a raise, getting out of debt, etc. It doesn’t mater how big or how small. What matters is that it was great to you.

2. What wasn’t great about last year? 
Author and speaker John Bradshaw says, “You can’t heal what you can’t feel.” What were the disappointments, hurts, and regrets that you experienced last year? Acknowledging these set-backs can help you heal and move forward in a healthy way.

3. What major lessons did I learn? 
Novelist George Santayana said, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Boil the big lessons you learned last year down to a short sentence or two so you can make the necessary course corrections in your life.

4. What do I need to START this year? 
Think of the things you know you need to get to but just haven’t yet. Make a list and sort it in order of importance. Tackle the top 3-5 items on your list. Once you’ve accomplished those things, work on the next 3-5 until the list is complete.

5. What do I need to STOP this year? 
Some examples of things to include on this list are binge watching Netflix, eating junk food, holding a grudge, worrying, and being in an unhealthy relationship. Get rid of what’s holding you back so you can thrive in the year ahead.

6. What do I need to CONTINUE this year? 
Date nights with your spouse, family nights with the kids, going to church, reading, meditating, praying, journaling are all great habits to continue cultivating in your life. Put them on your calendar before something else crowds them out.

Make some time in the next few days to reflect and respond to these questions. Write your answers out and keep them someplace that you can refer to often. This exercise will help you bring closure to last year and start this year off right.

What were your biggest accomplishments and life lessons from last year? What are you hoping to accomplish this year? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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1 Tip To a More Relaxing Christmas

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In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus visits the home of two sisters, Mary and Martha. Mary enjoys spending time with Jesus, but Martha gets distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. Frustrated by her preparations, Martha asks Jesus to tell Mary to help her.

Jesus responds to her by saying, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42 NLT).

The lesson is pretty straightforward: if you’re too busy to spend time with Jesus, then you’re too busy.

Christmas can feel overwhelming. We have gifts to buy and wrap, cards to mail out, decorations to hang, gatherings to prepare for and attend, tense relationships to navigate, etc. Many people dread Christmas because it feels like one more colossal thing to do on their already overloaded to-do list.

Thankfully Jesus offers us a better way. Instead of an obligation to do more things, Jesus offers us an invitation to sit with him and be refreshed.

In Matthew 11:28-29 Jesus says, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls (NLT).

The key to a more relaxing Christmas is to spend less time doing stuff and more time being present with Christ.

Jesus doesn’t need something from you, He wants something for you. He doesn’t need you to do stuff for Him; He wants you to spend time with you. He doesn’t want you to buy more presents; He wants you to be present with Him.

Carve out some extra time this week, even if it’s just a few extra minutes each day, to spend with Christ. Scale back on some of the things you were planning to do so you will have more time to rest in Jesus. You’ll be glad you did.

Going Deeper

1. What are you feeling stressed-out about this Christmas season? Why do you think these things are causing you so much stress?

2. What do you think Jesus would say to you about those things?

3. What do you need to say no to or stop doing so you can say yes to being more present with Jesus and the people you love this week?

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5 Ways to Gain Influence as a Young Leader

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Being the youngest person in the room can be hard. Sometimes it feels like everyone knows exactly what they’re doing while you’re filled with doubt and insecurity on the inside.

I remember when I first started out as a leader. I was at a networking lunch with several leaders from various organizations. I was nervous and hoping to gain some encouragement and insight from some of the other leaders in attendance.

While in line to grab lunch I started up a conversation with another leader. As we got to talking he began asking me a lot of questions about my background. After I shared a little bit about myself he pulled me aside and proceeded to tell me why he thought I had no business being there. He said I was too young and inexperienced to even be in the same room learning and asking questions of leaders like himself. Needless to say I walkout out of that gathering pretty discouraged.

Not long after this I came across a passage of scripture that lifted my spirits and set me on a course to grow and develop as a young leader:

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” – 1 Timothy 4:12 (NIV)

In this verse the Apostle Paul  encourages Timothy and gives him some advice on how to gain influence as a leader. Here are a few practical ways, regardless of your age, to put Paul’s advice into practice:

1. In Speech

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” – Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)

This is where many young leaders mess up. Crude language, making fun of people, and sharing gossip might get you a few laughs but it will damage your reputation over the long haul, especially on social media. Most schools and organizations today will check what you’ve posted online as part of their admissions and hiring process. You might not think that’s fair, but it is reality. Before you post something online ask yourself, “Would I want my future employer to see this?” Chances are they will.

2. In Conduct

The old saying, “Actions speak louder than words” is true. Leaders gain influence by what they do, not what they say they will do. Don’t make promises you can’t keep, but keep all the promises you make. Follow your leader like you want those you lead to follow you. Go out of your way to help others with their work. Praise your team when things go well and take responsibility when they don’t. These actions will accrue interest into your leadership account.

3. In Love

Be loving and courteous to everyone you interact with. Don’t talk negatively about others. It can get you into a lot of trouble, even when you think the person you’re talking to will keep it to themselves. You don’t know for sure if they might repeat what you shared later or who else might be listening close by. Being kind to people, even when they’re not around or always kind back, paves the way for them to be kind to you in the future.

What you say about people, particularly when they’re not around, says more about you then it does about them. (Click to Tweet)

4. In Faith

“Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.” – 1 Peter 3:15-16 (NLT).

Live out your faith in a way that is respectfully to the beliefs of others. Don’t demean someone of a different denomination or world-view. Discover why they believe what they believe. Ask questions to learn more about them, not as a way to trip them up or prove a point. When you take treat someone else’s faith respectfully, chances are they’ll want to hear what you have to say about yours.

5. In Purity

“Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life.” – Proverbs 4:23 (NCV)

Andy Stanley says, “Who and what you listen to will influence you.” Get the people and things out of your life that are filling your mind with negativity and garbage. You may think you’re strong enough to handle it, but eventually it will erode your soul. Jesus said, “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world” (Matthew 5:8 Msg).

It’s not how old you are, but who you are that will determine your success as a leader. (Click to Tweet)

Our churches and organizations need young leaders now more than ever. Your passion and fresh ideas are crucial to tackling the challenges facing our churches, organizations, and world today. Use these tips to gain influence and make a difference.

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2 Ways to Get More Students Involved in Your Ministry

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Have you ever struggled with getting students involved in your ministry?

I have. I think many of us who work with students have been frustrated, hurt, and confused by the lack of engagement in our ministries at one time or another.

We put our heart and soul into planning, promoting, and putting on programs and events we believe will change lives. We have big dreams of seeing students transformed into authentic, passionate, and life-long followers of Jesus. But it doesn’t always work out the way we’d hope.

Over my 16+ years of working with children and teenagers I’ve learned two big lessons in getting (and keeping) students involved in the life of the church and growing in their relationship with Christ:

1. Change things up.

Sometimes kids check out because we keep doing the same thing week after week, month after month, year after year. To put it simply, they’re bored.

Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If the students in your ministry aren’t as involved as you’d like, it may be time to do something different.

Change things up by having different speakers rotate in, have some students you trust plan and give the next talk, revamp the order of service, add a time of silent meditation, do a service project during service, have them text in questions live to you during your teaching, etc.

Get rid of the sacred cows. Try something new. If it doesn’t work out, try something else. The key is to be open to keep things fresh and to be open to new ideas.

Changing things up in your ministry will get students more involved with your ministry. (Click to Tweet)

2. Challenge them to step up.

Reggie Joiner says, “Kids won’t have a significant faith until we give them something significant to do with their faith.” I didn’t really get involved in my youth ministry growing up until my youth pastor challenged me to start reading my Bible on my own and serve in a ministry.

The kids and teenagers in your ministries are looking for something significant to do with their lives. Find the kids who are bored or checked out and give them a piece of the ministry to own.

Ask them to help you plan your services and talks. Let them run and manage your ministry’s website and social media accounts. Have them put together and run worship and tech at your programs. Challenge them to serve on a ministry team or go on a missions trip.

Giving students something significant to do in your ministry will keep them connected to your ministry. (Click to Tweet)

Getting kids more involved in our ministries today is harder than ever. There is so much competing for their attention. Changing things up and challenging them to set up are two of the best ways I know to get students more involved.

Imagine what would happen if you started changing things up in your ministry? Think of what could change in the lives of the kids and teenagers you minister to if you began to do something new and fresh in your ministry.

Imagine if even a few of the students you challenged to set up this week actually did. Picture how your church and community would be transformed if your students discovered the joys of giving and committed themselves to serving God and others in love.

Isn’t that why we got into ministry in the first place?

Get students more involved in your ministry by changing things up and challenging them to step up. (Click to Tweet)

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