For many of us, the next few weeks signal the beginning of a new youth ministry year. For a lot of folks, August means the start of school. And hopefully, by this time, you've already started your Fall planning. (In fact many of you are already implementing your plans!) But as you plan and evaluate for your ministry, I wanted to challenge you to make sure that you give the same spirit of evaluation to yourself.
I want to briefly talk about taking some time to evaluate where you are personally.
How is your personal life going? How are you spiritually? How are you physically? What's the status of the important relationships in your life? Are you growing in your relationship with God? Are you improving as a leader? In short, are things going well? Or are they going not-so-well? It's important as Christ-followers that we are in the habit of taking stock of our lives to make sure we're living the full life that Christ has enabled us to live. It's much more vital, however, as leaders and teachers that we make sure we are growing in our faith and that there aren't areas of our lives that are hindering this growth. So, how do we begin to address these concerns?
The key to taking stock of our lives, of knowing what we need to address and shore-up, is looking at our lives through the lens of a key word: discipline.
Now, there are many of you who will want to click off this post right now. Don't! Discipline is a word that sends shivers up many of our spines. I have to admit myself that it is a concept I struggle with. I find myself, at times, very disciplined in some areas of my life and not disciplined in others. So, I am in this with you . . .
As we think about living effective, full lives, lives that make a Kingdom impact, we must consider how effective we are in certain areas. Our discipline in these areas is key to our effectiveness. So, what are these areas? Let's take a look:
How is your discipline in your spiritual life? Are you studying your Bible regularly? Knowing God's Word and applying it in your life is the key to growing in your spiritual maturity. Are you making time to read God's Word? How is your prayer life? Prayer is the language of our relationship with God. Are you connecting with God daily in meaningful prayer time? Are you having meaningful conversations with people about your faith? Do you regularly make time to serve others in God's name? All these are important aspects of your spiritual wellness. If you're not disciplined in this area, the rest of these areas will suffer.
The importance of physical discipline is hard to overstate! If you are not taking care of yourself physically, it's really hard to be focused on improving the other areas of your life. Do you need to change any habits regarding your sleep? Or how you eat? (Who among us couldn't improve here?) Are you exercising enough? Remember, the goal is not to look like "Ahnold," but to be healthy! What changes do you need to make to become more disciplined in your physical life?
This is one we don't often think we need to apply concepts of discipline to. But failing to think about our relationships in this way is failing to give our relationships enough credit. Think about the important relationships in your life. They probably include:
There could be more added to the list. But this list is a good start. Look at this list and visualize the people represented there. Then, ask yourself: What do I need to do to be more intentional in growing and/or maintaining each one of these relationships? Being disciplined in our relationships is the key to killing selfishness. When we begin to intentionally and specifically put other's needs above our own, we are being disciplined in our relationships.
Who do you lead? Because I bet you lead someone. Whether it's a staff of youth ministry associates, a youth group, or a group of 7th graders, you are a leader. And we can always be improving on our leadership. Think about your time with those whom you lead: what can you improve on? What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? What can you do to have more of a godly influence on those you are blessed to lead? How can you advance their interests through your position as a leader? How can you make them better?
This one is the hardest for many of us to get real excited about, but our diligence in our work is very much a part of who we are as Christ-followers. Our attitude, faithfulness, and integrity in how we conduct our work is a testimony to Christ in our lives. So, where do you need to improve in this area? Are you as efficient as you need to be? Are you as proficient as you could be? What steps can you take to become more disciplined in your work-life?
Hebrews 12:11 says this:
"No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."
Our goal should be to live as people who have disciplined their lives in order to have the most impact in this world for Christ's sake. It's a matter of stewardship, really.
What steps can you take today to become more disciplined in the areas mentioned?