How is your New Year’s resolution going? For most people, when you ask that on January 1 or 2, they’re doing pretty well. But now that we’re months out from January, how are you doing now? Every year people make resolutions because the calendar year has changed and oftentimes these resolutions are in direct response to what happened the year before. They are an attempt to avoid a repeat of something unpleasant that happened or to continue something good. As a result, around January 1, gym memberships go up, Hostess cupcakes sales go down (I’m guessing), and sidewalks and parks become filled with exercisers. With all these good intentions, sadly, most New Year’s resolutions only last about 3 days. Is this simply because we’re lazy, are creatures of habit who don’t like change, and the fact that cupcakes are just too delicious? Well, that’s part of it. But more than that, we need a better reason for a new start than just a new page on the calendar. A new year in and of itself does not provide enough motivation to make a change.
Instead of sitting on January 4, March 18, or September 2 and saying, “Well, I’ll just wait until next year to fix this in my New Year’s Resolution,” why don’t we do something about it today? Why wait until the calendar turns the page to start something that we could’ve done now? We don’t have to wait until a big transition or change in order to make a resolution or have a reset.
As we look at youth ministry, we have times of contemplation throughout a year. We look back and wonder what we could’ve done differently, what went well, what needs to change, how we can reconnect with certain kids, how to get others more involved, and numerous other things. If it has been a tough month, season, year, or multiple years we desire to have a “reset button.” It would be great to be able to reset everything to square one, to get a fresh start, or get another chance. We attempt this through new programs, different volunteers, or schedule changes. Sometimes we think that the only way to find that reset is to totally change ministries or churches. While sometimes a change in churches may be necessary, I want to suggest a few things we can try before making that drastic of a reset:
Reset your devotional life. Returning to the Word of God as the sole foundation for your life and ministry is the most important step you can take in a “reset” because on your own, the only change you can make in your heart is temporary. We can change behavior or motivations, but it is God that changes our hearts through His Word. A passion for God’s Word, which is developed from that very Word itself is what truly makes a lasting reset in our hearts and lives. What a beautiful gift God’s Word is to us, as we receive His gifts of forgiveness, strengthened faith, and the fruits of the Spirit through His Word and also through His Sacraments. Leaning into your baptismal identity and regularly receiving the Lord’s Supper are more important than any programmatic change you could make.
Reset your prayer life. The most difficult or even lukewarm seasons of my service, family life, and personal growth almost always coincide with the times where my prayer and devotional life is the weakest. Restart that prayer journal, go through your youth roster regularly and start praying for those kids, or start praying over your parents when you send out e-mails. This will not necessarily change your circumstances, but it will certainly change your attitude and that can make all the difference. It’s hard to be overly upset with someone when you’re regularly praying for them and it’s easier to show compassion to them when they’re consistently in your prayers.
Reset your attitude of thanks. Take some time and give thanks for the previous year or season of ministry. Think of how you’ve seen God at work in big and small ways. Send a few text messages, letters, or maybe even call (gasp!) a few of your youth that have really made strides recently. Write a thank-you note to each of your key volunteers. Thank your family for all they do to support you throughout the year. “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever!” (1 Chronicles 16:34)
Reset your commitment to communication. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you send out more e-mails each day to your families, but that you not only communicate via newsletters or informational e-mails but that you commit to personal communication also. Send individual texts or phone calls to get a youth involved in helping with an upcoming event. Start a habit of reaching out to a youth if you haven’t seen them in 3 weeks or more, just to see how they’re doing. Ask your students and parents for prayer requests individually and then follow-up on those in subsequent weeks. Families and individuals can still choose not to get involved, but don’t let it be because they didn’t know or because they weren’t asked.
If we can reset in the areas of devotional life, prayer, thanksgiving, and communication, it will go a long way in impacting the year to come because it will keep us rooted in God and His extravagant love for His people, shown to us in Jesus Christ. Whether you’re at the end of your rope and want to a reset button for everything, or just want to try again with an individual program or relationship, take comfort in the God who specializes in making things new! We’re “built to last” not in our own strength, but by continually resetting and rooting our life in God’s strength.