One New Year’s Resolution for Church Planting Families
By Annie B. Garman
Are you approaching this new year with optimism, cynicism or a little of both?
It can be easy at New Year’s to get discouraged by our weakness, our lack of performance the previous year, our lack of spiritual discipline, our inability to follow through and the general weight of our sin. Despite our failings in the previous year, we are encouraged to “forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead” (Phil. 3:13).
So, what goals should we focus on for this year?
As I look forward to another year God has given us, I keep coming back to Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:37-39. What is the greatest commandment? What would be His New Year’s resolution for us? The truth is, what He wants us to focus on most is love.
“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Simply put: love God, love people.
As ministry families, how can we better love God and love the people in our lives this coming year? I think it’s worth reflecting on practical ways we can be more loving this year.
- Invite God’s searchlight. How often do we still ourselves and invite the searchlight of God’s presence and His Word into our lives? How often do we pray with David for God to “search us and know us?” (Ps. 139:23) and pay attention to the answer? We don’t have to fear the light. We can admit the depths of our depravity because Jesus is our advocate (1 John 2). The light simply exposes what is there so we can…
- Confess our sins to God. We who are concerned with other people’s spiritual lives are at great risk of neglecting our own hearts. Don’t tolerate sin as it is revealed, but take it seriously as an offense to our Holy God.
- Phone a friend. James 5:16 tells us to “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” We as ministry leaders aren’t above this. Build a relationship with another trusted pastor / pastor’s wife that invites open confession and accountability. Only when we deal properly with our sin issues can we love God with all our hearts.
- Cultivate gratitude. Set a daily gratitude alarm on your phone to pause and ask God to bring things to mind you can be thankful for. It’s easy to forget as the day drones on, isn’t it? When we’re not getting what we want, we forget all He already has given. When things get challenging, we forget He’s a Helper and a Provider. Pausing regularly to reflect on all God is and has done softens our heart and guards us against entitlement.
- Retreat. Put a personal retreat on the calendar – right now! Take at least 24 hours to go and be still before the Lord. Worship. Soak in His Word. Marinate in His presence and in the gospel. Repeat as necessary, without guilt or shame. Your emotional and spiritual health are important too.
- Be hospitable. Have people who need Christ around your table once a month. Include the kids in the planning, shopping, cooking and hosting. Take time to pray as a family for the people who will be coming to your home.
- Be generous. Make it a habit to regularly give personally, as a couple and as a family. Love people by giving of your resources. Watch your kids become addicted to the joys of giving as they see its powerful effects.
- Learn to listen well. When we listen attentively to others by being fully present, instead of distracted, we can enter their world and love them as unto the Lord. Proverbs repeatedly encourages the importance of listening more than we express our own opinions. When we are slow to speak and quick to hear others, we will grow in wisdom and show proper value to others. Most importantly, we will bring glory to God.
- Express gratitude. As we cultivate gratitude personally before the Lord, we also must find a way to express it to others. Thank your kids for something. Pause to express genuine gratitude to your spouse. Words have the power to give “life and health” to our souls (Prov. 15:4), so let’s not restrain grateful words.
- Create margin for interruptions. Don’t over-schedule yourself. Giving of our time is a genuine expression of love, so let’s be sure we have it to give.
- Protect family time. (1) Protect family worship time: Despite ministry pressures, we can’t neglect to gather intentionally as a family. Looking into God’s Word together and asking Him to speak to us is so vital. Even if it’s not every day, find a time and rhythm that works to connect with God as a family. (2) Plan family fun: Our families need recreation and laughter. Rotate letting your kids plan a family fun day with a budget. Good conversations will surely come as you just hang out together. (3) Date your spouse: Make a list of things you would each enjoy doing as a couple this year and take turns blessing each other with a date.
Ministry is tough, and we are pulled in many directions. Remember Jesus’ priority and make love your biggest goal. After all, that’s how Jesus said people will know we are followers of Jesus! (John 13:35)
Won’t you pray with me?
Jesus, we commit this new year to you and make it our aim to please You in 2022. In the haze of life’s demands and anxieties, we often lose focus. Please bring us back to the center of what You want for us: loving You and others.