3 Surprisingly Unexpected Ways To Evaluate Your Year

At the end of a year, wise people will stop and evaluate the previous year, and see how they can improve themselves over the next 12 months.  Well, the last page of this last year is soon to be written, and the first page of the next is almost ready to be turned.

Before you turn the page on a new year, here are 3 super simple, yet easily overlooked things to check to evaluate your 2016.  I hope you’ll take this challenge, and check these 3 things, even today.

1.   Your FACEBOOK

If you’re reading this blog post, chances are pretty high that you have a Facebook account, and that you even use it quite frequently.

Here’s the challenge… Go to your profile page and take 30 minutes to scroll through your entire 2015 year’s posts.  Look at the type of things you posted about the most and ask yourself some questions:

  • Are the majority of my posts positive or negative?
  • Did I post anything in the heat of the moment that looking back, I regret now?
  • Did I tear anyone down, build anyone up, or exalt God through my posts?
  • Did I post about anything spiritual, encouraging, or helpful?
  • If I were someone else, would I want to follow me and get my posts in my news feed every day?
  • What do my last year’s posts reveal about my priorities and life perspective?

2.  Your CHECKBOOK

Jesus said that “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Look at your checkbook log over the last year (yes, please tell me that you have one 🙂 )  It reveals not only where you’re investing, but more importantly, it’s a good indicator of where your heart is.

Grab your checkbook, and here’s the challenge as you look through it… Ask yourself these questions:

  • If someone else were looking at my checking log, could they easily see that God and His Church were given first priority in my giving?
  • Apart from my giving to God, can I find any other expenses that were used for the benefit of others outside of my family?
  • Approximately what dollar amount did I spend each month on personal convenience, pampering, and entertainment?
  • Looking at the previous year’s log, where do I feel I need to adjust my spending habits or my priorities?

3.  Your copy of GOD’S BOOK

While we’re checking the “books” that play an important role in our year to year life, let’s not forget about the most important book of all – God’s Word.

Here’s the challenge… Pick up your Bible right now, open it up, and answer these questions as you flip through it’s pages:

  • Is your Bible any different at the end of this year than it was as the beginning?
  • Are there any more highlights, notes written in the margins, or wear and tear from usage?
  • Did you read it more or less than the previous year?  Did you read it daily?
  • At the end of another year, do you know more about your Bible than you do about the latest TV series you watched or the latest gossip on FB?

Someone once wisely said, “A Bible that’s falling apart belongs to a Christian who isn’t.”

Unfortunately, if we were to put all three of the above “books” into printed form, I have a feeling that the first two in the list might show significantly more wear and tear than the last.  Sad, but true.

Will 2017 be any different?  Well, Now is the time to decide!

Let’s get ready to write the first page of 2016 with things like building up others, investing our treasures into what really matters, and spending more of our time in the only Book that has the power to change our lives!

Books I Read In 2015

Throughout the year, I try to read through a new book every couple of months.  Here are the books I read in 2015.

Books Read in 2015

These are not in order of importance, simply in the order that I read them throughout the year. (I purposefully didn’t include the Bible in this list considering it should be a given.  However, by the end of the month, I will have read through it this year as well.)

What If Jesus Was A Ministry Volunteer?

A Glimpse Of What It Looks Like To Be The Perfect Volunteer

Churches are some of the largest volunteer organizations in the world.  Without volunteers, ministry doesn’t get done.

Ministry Volunteer

Yet, every church and ministry struggles with having both the number of volunteers they need as well as the level of commitment from the volunteers they have.

Imagine with me, what if every volunteer in your ministry was a ‘perfect volunteer’?

Well, we know that there’s no such thing as a perfect volunteer.  That is, of course, unless Jesus Himself were to walk through the doors of your church to serve.

So… what if this week in your church, Jesus did, in fact, walk in to serve as a volunteer in your ministry?  What would that look like?

Well, imagine with me for a moment…

  1. He would have spent sufficient time with the Father prior to showing up for ministry to make sure His spirit was right, His motives were pure, and His #1 goal was to please the Father.  John 8:29
  2. He would be committed and dependable in His area of ministry. He would take His ministry as seriously as if He were going to give an answer to God for it.  John 5:36
  3. He would be passionate, going above and beyond what was expected, reaching for what was exceptional and remarkable. He would be trusted to get a job done and to get it done right.  John 17:4
  4. He would “own it.” He would show possession for whatever responsibilities were given to Him, and would seek to excel in the use of His talents and abilities to make that ministry better.  John 17:12
  5. He would take ministry as seriously as any other job.  He would show up on time, every time, to be in His place without fail.  Luke 16:10
  6. He would be invested.  To Jesus, it wouldn’t be just about filling a time slot or appeasing the pastor until the next time. It would be about making a real, eternal difference by giving it all He’s got.  John 6:39
  7. He would have an obvious passion, an infectious smile, and a warm and gracious spirit with all those He interacted with.  Mark 10:13-16
  8. He would submit to and support the church leadership and their vision for moving the church forward, even when He might have personally chosen to do things somewhat differently.  He would align to the vision, adopting it as His own, and owning His piece of that vision.  John 8:28
  9. He would motivate and encourage those who serve alongside of Him by His positive attitude and team spirit.  John 13:14-15
  10. He would be flexible when changes and adjustments were required, willing to change His plans as necessary in order to make ministry happen effectively.  Luke 22:42
  11. He would serve, not for the praise of men, but for the glory of God. He would realize that no ministry is too big or too small to serve in.  Regardless of what responsibility He was given, He would understand that it mattered, whether it was done in public or in private, whether it was done to be a help to the saved or to the lost, whether He was recognized for it, or seldom noticed.  John 13:31
  12. He would guard His testimony as a believer, understanding that He is a walking Bible, and a reflection of Christ and His Church to the world, either for good or bad.  He would protect the testimony of Christ and the Church through His words, His actions, and His conduct (both online and offline).  John 8:29, 14:9
  13. He would understand that His commitments to ministry take priority over his desire to be comfortable, entertained, or never having to be inconvenienced.  Matthew 8:20, 20:28

As a Christian, our job is to continually be conforming to the image of Christ.  This would include our service to the Lord as a ministry volunteer.

If you are a ministry volunteer in any area, while we may never attain the status of “volunteer perfection”, let’s make it our goal to try!

Because if the church were filled with lots of Jesus’s for volunteers, the church would be an even better and more effective place at making a difference and reaching the world.

Romans 8:29  “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son.”

Leading From the Bench – The Discipline of Delegation

After more than 14 years of ministry, if I had to do it all over again, I’d certainly change some things.

Discipline of Delegation

I’d change some things about myself as a leader and my leadership approach. And one of the things that I’d do differently is I’d have been equally a delegator as much as I was a doer.

Earth is Playdough, Eternity’s a Stone – No Difference We Can Make In Heaven

“Earth is playdough, Eternity’s a stone.”

Earth is Playdough

Image Courtesy of PlayDough World Channel

Does it ever suddenly occur to you that life is quickly passing you by, and eternity is even more quickly approaching? Every day, eternity could literally be just one breath away for any of us.

I’m a Better Christian Today Because of These 4 Things a New Believer Taught Me

With the new birth at salvation comes new life in Christ. It’s fresh. It’s raw. And it’s real.

Salvador

I love seeing the “new man” develop in the heart and life of a new believer in Christ. And one of the biggest reasons is because it’s energizing and motivating to those of us who are sometimes guilty of allowing the “newness” of what we’ve been given in Christ to wear off and begin to fade a bit.

Life and Ministry Lessons I’ve Learned from My Pastor

In just a few weeks, our family will be answering God’s call and transitioning to a new ministry in Illinois.  As I look back on the the past 14 years of ministry in Liberal, KS, God has blessed me abundantly with an amazing church to call home, and a wonderful pastor to call my friend. Pastor Bill Prater has been a mentor, an encourager, and a friend to me, for which I am thankful.

Pastor and Katie

The life and ministry lessons I’ve learned from him are more than I could express here, but I want to give you a few of them that have shaped and made me a better pastor and ministry leader.

Here are 8 life and ministry lessons I’ve learned from my Pastor:

5 Qualities of Great Servant Leadership

Ronald Reagan, who was a great servant leader, once wisely said, “In the end, it all comes down to leadership.”

Reagan

All of us, in some way or another, are leaders in some area of our lives, because as John Maxwell puts it, leadership is influence, and we all have influence.

And one of the greatest ways to leave a positive impact through our influence is to not just to be a leader, but to strive for being a servant leader.

Leveraging Your Most Contagious Asset – Your SMILE :-)

Every person, every day has something to offer to make the world around them a better place. Whether as a student or teacher, an employee or employer, a parent or a grandparent.

DSC_4363-03

Each one of us have a unique contribution that we alone can be or do to change the world around us.

However, there’s one thing that every single person possesses that has the positive power to influence for good… if they’ll simply choose to put it to use.

5 Intentional Strategies to Your Best Year Yet!

At the start of 2014, I tried something I’ve never done before. I didn’t know if it would work, but figured it was worth a shot, and it proved to be one of the best things I’ve done in a long time.

2015 Calendar

I chose a key word to describe my year and give it clear direction. My one key word – INTENTIONAL.

I made a choice that I was going to be more intentional than ever before about nearly every area of my life, and I began planning my yearly goals accordingly.

My key verse was Phil. 3:14 “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God…” and my key thought was this, “When I know what the mark is, I can be intentional about reaching it.”

With that mindset of intentionality, I’ve been able to accomplish more of my goals in the past year than any other year prior. Here are a few of the many things I was able to accomplish this year more consistently than ever before:

  • Flossing daily 🙂
  • Drinking a lot more water
  • Getting up an hour earlier every day
  • Running at least twice a week
  • Greater consistency in our family devotions
  • Increased reading and study time

These things have now become habits of my daily/weekly routine, and I can’t wait to get started on a new list of habits to develop in the coming year.

What more could you accomplish this year if you got more intentional? Here are five things I’ve learned this past year that will help you develop a mindset of intentionality:

Adopting the Mindset of an Owner

Whether working on a job or in a ministry, there are always those who seem to “get it” and those who just “don’t get it”. And I think that a lot of it has to do with one simple principle – whether or not they have adopted the mindset of an employee or an owner.

OwnerIt’s the same difference in mindset between a renter and a landlord. The difference is in one word – Possession!

  • An employee who takes on the mindset and initiative of an owner will probably be the next one promoted.
  • The renter who treats the house like the landlord would treat the house will probably never get evicted.
  • In the same sense, the staff member or ministry volunteer who takes possession of their calling and responsibilities will probably be the most effective.

How does an owner think? They always have the best interest of the organization in mind.

They’re always looking for ways to make it better. They want their organization to be the best that it can be and to reach it’s peak effectiveness. So what kinds of things do they do?

When the Plan Doesn’t Go As Planned

It was the third night of Vacation Bible School.  Things for the week were going perfectly as planned.  Attendance was good.  Offerings were great.  The high-octane spirit of VBS was in the air.  But something was about to happen that no one could have expected…
Plan B
It was stormy, windy weather that night in the Land of Oz, Liberal, KS.   As the final rows of kids were piling in and we were about to start the evening program filled with songs, games, magic, and more… all of the lights in building suddenly went out!

Unknown to us, there had been a power failure on our side of town, and a third of the entire city had lost all power.  No lights, no sound, no media.  That means that we were left with a lot of kids, a lot of time, and a new last minute program to come up with.

So what do you do with 300+ kids… all in one room… for an hour and a half… in the dark?  Well, after assuring all the kids that everything was going to be okay, we started the program.  Not the program we had planned for that night, but an impromptu program of repeat-after-me songs, a few jokes, and a presentation of the gospel.

Sometimes in ministry and in life, the plan doesn’t go as planned.

  •  The main ministry event you’ve meticulously planned for ends up being a flop…
  •  That important appointment you can’t afford to miss gets interrupted by an unexpected emergency…
  •  You just seem to be getting ahead financially when someone gets hurt and you acquire additional medical expenses…
  •  All these great plans for your future are prepared, but then something tragically happens, and it all seems to change overnight.

Whether it’s a one time event or a life altering moment, life has a way of changing our plans, doesn’t it?  Mark it down, it will happen.  And when it does, what are you going to do?  Here are a few suggestions:

1.  Keep Your Cool

That night when all the power went out, the kids followed my lead.  If I had been frantic and scared, they would have followed suit.  But because I stayed calm and reassured them that all was okay, we were able to continue with a half decent program, even in the dark.

As a parent, when something unplanned happens in your family, remember that your children will follow your lead.  If you stay calm, they’re much more likely to do the same.  But if you freak out, you might as well expect mayhem.

If you’re a ministry leader, remember that everything rises and falls on leadership.  Lead well.  Set the tone.  Don’t let one disrespectful kid in your class cause you to lose your cool and throw away the effectiveness of your entire class.

2.  Go with the Flow

Sometimes all you can do is roll with the punches and make the most of the moment regardless of the unexpected.

We could have thrown our hands up and sent all the kids home that night at VBS, but why waste an entire night of valuable influence just because we weren’t able to do things our own way. Flexibility in life will solve a lot of problems in a ministry, on the job, as well as in a family.

Learn to be in control by going with the flow rather than being a victim to your circumstances.

3.  Don’t Play the Blame Game

The easiest thing to do when something goes wrong is to look around for the closest person we can blame, because it’s never our fault, right?  I could have easily gotten up and ranted and raved to the kids about how lousy the power company is, and what would that have accomplished?

What do we honestly accomplish in ministry or in our family when we shift blame for the way things are?  The answer is – absolutely nothing.  In fact, we end up being the one who loses in the long run.  We lose the attention and respect of those we are trying to lead.

In the end, if you choose to play the blame game, nobody wins and everybody loses.

4.  Live and Learn

I certainly hope that the lights and power don’t go out again at VBS, but if they do, I guarantee you I’ll be a bit more prepared than I was the last time.

Sometimes the best thing you can do once “the unplanned” has passed is to step back and evaluate:

  •  Is there anything I could have done to prevent this from happening?
  •  What could I have done differently in the moment?
  •  What can I learn from this experience to better prepare me for the future?

Whether the unplanned is your own fault or something completely out of your control, make sure not to waste it without allowing it to make you better.

I know that as for me, I can honestly say I’m a better parent and stronger ministry leader today because of the times when the plan didn’t go as planned.  How about you?  I’m sure you have a story you could tell of your own.  Please leave a comment.  I’d love to hear it!