Monday, January 4, 2016

Starting a new year

When I was a pastor I always enjoyed the start of a new year. I felt like the church and I had a fresh, clean page on which we could begin our work. Previous weeks had been spent on goal setting and sermon planning, and I was always ready to get started when January 1 rolled around.

Some people suggest spending time at the first of the year reflecting back over the past year. This gives you an opportunity to look at what worked and what didn't. I think such reflection is good, but I always wanted to do at the end of the year as part of my goal setting process. I wanted to enter the new year looking forward, not backwards.

Let me share some things I have found helpful. Perhaps you will want to use some of them as you get your year off on the right foot.

  • I wanted a new devotional plan for the new year. Sometimes that included reading devotional books although I often found them lacking depth. It often included reading through the Bible in a year which is an excellent discipline. In the years I did that I would purchase a new Bible in a translation I had not yet read. A couple of years I did some in-depth study of a book of the Bible as part of my devotions by reading through various commentaries and other Bible study aids. Whatever plan you choose make sure you are doing something intentional to grow as a Christian.
  • Prior to January 1 I planned out my sermons for at least the first quarter of the year. This allowed me more time for sermon preparation rather than spending valuable time trying to decide what to preach each week. It also ensured that I had the resources I needed to prepare those messages. Plus, it gave the church the added benefit of allowing our music leaders time to develop a worship service that fit in well with the message.
  • Our church provided me with an annual book allowance. Our annual business meeting was held the second week of the year at which time we approved the budget. At the end of that meeting I already had an order form filled out for several books I wanted which I gave to our treasurer to mail in with the check. I usually spent about half of my annual budget in that initial order, but it ensured that I had the resources I needed for the sermons I planned to preach as well as other books I wanted to read.
  • Controlling your calendar is vital if you want to control your life. I would spend time filling in essential meetings such as board meetings, business meetings, and other events that occurred at regular times. Once that was done, my wife and could discuss when we wanted to take vacations or short trips and get those on the calendar. I learned the hard way that if these things are not on the calendar other things will find their way on there making it difficult to find a good time to get away. I also put our date night down each week and guarded it as well. You will not enjoy balance in your life if you do not plan for it.
  • As I've written elsewhere, goal setting is important to me, and if one wants to accomplish those goals it's important to begin from day one. Starting January 1 I would begin tracking the Key Result Areas I had identified as necessary if I wanted to achieve my goals for the year. As a bivocational minister it's too hard to play catch-up at anything. It's always easier to stay ahead.
These are some of the things I did to help get my new year off to a good start. There are many things in life we cannot control so it's important to focus on those that we can. If you will be intentional about how you approach the new year you will likely to find it much more productive and enjoyable than if you just drift through the year.

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