"New Year"

Well, it's the first week of January and you have undoubtably been inundated with conversations and questions around what this “new year” is going to mean for you.

A better diet?
A new fitness regiment?
Being more disciplined about reading your bible and prayer? 
The stereotypical list goes on and on…

I reflected these past few days on what the new year means, I realized, the changing of the calendar year never feels like a new year for me. In actuality, the majority of my life just so happens to run, far more, on the school year calendar. 

My wife and I celebrate our wedding anniversary in June, which means the years of our marriage change in the summer. Both of my boys were born in July, so the years of their lives are counted in summers. And as a youth pastor, the entirety of my vocational rhythm is based on the school year.  Fall Kick-Off in August, Winter Retreat in January to graduation and move-up for 5th graders in May right before my new year begins.  

I’ll admit, in years past, I actually carried some guilt around the idea that the new year never meant resolutions or positive change. That I never decided what new thing I was going to start (or stop) doing. The fact is, I don’t have the margin to assess everything in my life and take a mental inventory of how Im going to better improve myself right now! Ive got Winter Retreat in 3 weeks! Ive got plenty to do!  

Maybe you’ve felt this way before. If so, know that you don’t have to make the passing of another calendar year the arbitrary time to start or stop that thing that is going to improve your life. And sure, better habits, healthier rhythms, new disciplines are great things to aspire to. But as they say in real estate, “Location, location, location.”  

Where in your year is a better time to look at your life and make the changes you’d like to see? It’s been said that only 8% of the people who made a new years resolution actually stick to it.  And most people give up by week two. If this isn’t a model for success, I don’t know what is :) 

This year, Im planning to stay the course. Im sticking with what worked in 2017. Getting done and focusing on what needs to happen in January and this Spring semester and then when MY year ends in May, I’ll change what I need to.  Before I put together my new volunteer team for the year.  Before I make plans for the Fall, I’ll take an honest look at my life, my ministry and even my marriage. Until then, Im going to stop feeling bad that the new year didn’t mean a new me and be ok with that… until Summer. 

Do the feel the pressure to change or improve in the new year only to find it difficult or unrealistic to do so? 

Does your life seem to run on the school year calendar so nothing about this new year seems new? 

What can you do to play ahead for May, or this summer when our years really do change to take advantage of the opportunity to learn and grow?

Thursday Mornings

If you have your mid-week youth event on Wednesday nights like me, you know what I am talking about. Thursday morning is always the most volatile time of the week for me. Things at youth group last night could have gone great. Maybe a ton of students showed up; good reports back from my small group leaders + super fun game = great night.  

Or it could easily have be the opposite of that. Low numbers because everyone had “homework.” Students all over the place in small group so nothing got accomplished + game bombed = :(

No matter what happened at youth group last night, the sun rises again on another Thursday and it is time to get back to work. A lot of times Thursdays can be invigorating in the sense that I feel I get a lot of life and energy and direction from my time on Wednesday nights. It’s one thing to plan something in your office by yourself, but when it comes together on a Wednesday, it breathes new life into Thursday. Or on a morning like today, I’m a bit more pensive. A bit more unsure about what is next and questioning every facet of our ministry model. Do you ever feel that way? Ready to burn the whole thing down just so you can start over?  

Ok, lets be real, it’s never really that bad. It’s just a feeling of wanting more.  Thursday is always my deconstruction day where I dissect and analyze every thing about the night before.  

What worked? What didn’t? What was good? What could have been better? 

That’s a volatile place to be when you’re putting everything on the table.  But I think that is our job right? 
If we are not constantly assessing, critiquing our own ministries and processes, how will we know if what we are doing is working? Or if it even matters? It’s certainly not our volunteer leaders job to spend extra time and energy processing and trying to improve our ministries, especially if we aren’t already doing that.  I don’t want someone in church leadership above me to start critiquing my ministry because I haven’t.  

I try to live in between two ideas. The first is to “not fix what’s not broken” and the second is the reason we do things is because “this is how we always do it.”  I don’t want to exist in a ministry that is constantly trying to reinvent itself so much that we never gain any traction and end up in an identity crisis every 9 months. But I also don’t want to get 3 years down the road and have missed the writing on the wall (in the lives of our students, or in our faith community, or even in culture) that things needed to be tweaked and changed. 

Living in the tension of those two ideas on Thursday mornings is my sweet spot. If you find yourself in the same place, you are not alone.  

How do you assess and critique your ministry along the way? What process do you have?

Is it more easy for you to leave things as they are or are you constantly changing your ministry?