A new year means a new start: 3 tips on making 2016 a great year of ministry

I love fresh starts.  New school years, new weeks, new months, and even more, new years.  2016 brings with it all the best part of fresh starts.  This new year brings with it a new semester for our students and for our ministry as well.  

What is great about the New Year, that makes it unique to a new academic year, is that you already know all the players and variables.  When I start a new year, I often get swept up in all the hopes and dreams of a new academic year of ministry.  But very soon, I come to realize just what we are dealing with, who the leaders will be, who the flakes will be, and because of all these true facts on the ground I need to readjust my game plan.

With a new year, you get a fresh start at the same kids.  Everyone treats the new year as a fresh start, and your ministry should too.  It isn't the sort of fresh start where all things are possible it is the fresh start with the ministry you already have.

I have always struggled with my weight.  

I spent this last year being injured, and then eating my feelings.  All that is to say, I ended 2015 up 20 lbs.  2016 is a brand new beginning.  It isn't the sort of beginning where I am 20 lbs less, it is a start where I am up on the scale, but get a renewed effort, a revitalized plan to get to where I long to be. 

The exact same thing is true with our ministries.  This group of students is our group of students. The variables won't change, but what can change is our passion, our perspective, and our plan.

So here are a couple of things you can do to make this new year, this new semester be great:

RENEW YOUR PASSION:  Did you know you bring 99% of the mojo to your ministry?  If you are doing well, if you are excited about what you are teaching, if you are excited about this game you have played 1000 times, if you are excited to visit with your students, then that excitement oozes and sets the tone.  So instead of waiting for someone else to do it, or some circumstance to change, simply gear up and bring the passion to your ministry.

For me, bringing this passion does take some gearing up.  Don't get me wrong, I love my ministry and my students, but I am old and have been doing the same thing for almost 20 years.  But if I am going to keep getting after it, then I am the one who needs to do the work.  As we kick off the new year, I am going to bring it!  I am going to do the things my soul needs in order to genuinely love Jesus, my students, and my ministry.  What are the things you need to do in order to bring the passion?

BRING THE CORRECT PERSPECTIVE:  What differentiates a normal person from a crazy person is whether or not you have the right perspective.  If the road is icy, then you drive a certain way.  If you perceive that the road is clear and fine while the road is actually icy, then you are crazy and will get you and the people in your car into some serious trouble.  

Most of us go though life sure we have the correct perspective.  We have the right line of sight on our souls, our theology, our students, and their spiritual development.  The truth is, our perspective is skewed, and usually more wrong than right.  This is why we must invest in spiritual formation, spiritual direction, even therapy so that we bring the correct perspective to our ministry.  

We have had a semester of ministry with this group of students under our belt.  Instead of doing the same thing, and hoping for a different result, take a step back, and evaluate your ministry, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Take stock of who your students are and what they really need (not generic students, but the actual ones in your ministry right now) and develop a ministry plan that will care for their actual needs.

RECALCULATE YOUR PLAN:  I love how everyone now has a GPS in their phones, and whenever I drive somewhere now I use WAZE to get me there.  (And to let me know where cops hang out)  When I stop paying attention to the directions and get off course, WAZE will inform me that I am off course and recalculate a new route.  And a new semester is a great time to pull off to the side of the road, recalculate, and put a plan in place that meets the spiritual and relational needs of this group of students.  

Where are you?  Where is your ministry?  Where do you want to go? How are you going to get there?  

These are the questions I spent the last week wrestling through.  And because my answers are different then where I thought I would be way back in September, I need a course correction.  My beautiful teaching calendar needs some adjustment, and I will need to add some relational fun to knit our students together.  Because I was willing to examine my ministry and, even more important, willing to adjust, I think I have a real plan to help these actual students know and love Jesus better.  

AT THE END OF THE DAY:  At the end of the day, we can only try our best to be faithful to the students we are given by Jesus and to leverage our gifts and abilities to the best of our ability.  For really, we are called to plant and water, and it is the Holy Spirit that causes faith to grow!

May we spend this new year with a renewed passion, perspective and plan to plant and water like crazy, so that by God's grace he might cause faith to grow!  

Happy New Year!