Ready for the new year? This is a natural time to reflect and plan. Over the years, I've experienced both the positive and the negative in doing an annual reflection.
So I encourage you to learn from my mistakes! Too much, too little? Alone...with others? Here are some thoughts to help you move toward God's plan for your new year.
It's that time of year to look back...and look forward! Annual reflections don't have to be boring or something to be avoided. I've experienced both. Now, in fact, as a new year approaches, my family and I enjoy it as a special opportunity.
We pause to reflect on God's work in and around us over the year and begin to look forward to what God's calls of the new year might be. It's a special time of sharing, prayer, and reflection where we have a chance to be the body of Christ as a family, celebrating the victories as well as "mourning with" in the difficult areas (Rom 12:15).
Want to try this? Whether personally, with a spouse or friend, or as a family, save yourself some effort and learn from my mistakes with some tips, ideas, and questions that will help you get a head start in trying this.
Why Do I Enjoy Annual Reflections?
Not for the personal results - although those are good - but the conversations we have as a family such as...
- Hearing how each shares and God uses this time are some of the highlights. Even with the younger in age share something special in our time.
- Getting more on the same page with each other.
- God inspiring us and beginning to speak to us about the new year through our time together and in preparing this.
Galatians 6:1-5 captures the themes to me that are so fruitful in these special annual reflections.
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, 5 for each one should carry their own load.
With others, we are offered the opportunity to consider sin in our life (or others), areas of temptation, walking with others in their challenges, cultivating a right view of ourselves in the grace of God (humility), and test ourselves (not compare ourselves to others).
How to Do an Annual Reflection
You can do this alone or with others. A couple thoughts to help you for a fun and inspiring time:
- Give out the questions beforehand, whether an hour, a day, or a week or more. This gives those who prefer to think ahead the time to consider it while those who are more spontaneous can just wait if they like.
- Choose a short list...or longer. The goal is not how much content, but the process that prompts for prayer, talking, and listening to each other.
- Remember, the main point is not getting it done or even going through it all but that it opens up conversations, prayer, and reflection towards God's past work...and His future work among us.
- Pray as you begin, setting aside and blessing the time for God's work.
- Remember to offer words of encouragement or prayer as moments come up.
- Don't be afraid to ask a question. Nothing speaks love well than a thoughtful question.
- Pray for the person (either after their sharing or at the end of everyone's sharing).
Ideas for Annual Reflection Questions
Whether you do this alone or with others, here are some ideas for questions, many inspired by various resources or authors. You can insert individual or couple for "family." A tip if it's your first time: it can be good to pick only a few or, if with others, let each person pick the three they want to do from the list.
- What was one thing you are thanking God for this past year (or most exciting/happy moment)? How about one thing that was not as well (or sad)?
- What was your favorite family (or individual) moment from this year (trip, home, game night, etc.)?
- What's one Bible verse (or passage) that was important to you this past year?
- What’s one way you took a step in following Jesus in the past year?
- Who did you help to take a step forward on the journey of faith and following Jesus? How?
- One thing we, as a family, did well is...
- Something I think did not go so well for our family is...
- What is your biggest time waster?
- What's your biggest skill or gift in the past year?
- For the next year:
- What is one way you could enjoy God more in the new year?
- What is one thing you feel God is calling you to change (a sin or habit)? How will you do that? Is there a way I/we can encourage or support you?
- What is the single most important thing you can do to improve the life of your family this year?
- What is the single most important thing you can do to improve the life of your church family this year?
You get the idea.
...and Don't Forget to Celebrate!!
We usually link this up with a celebration of some kind whether a meal out, some ice cream or hot chocolate, or a game night. Trust that God will bring up some great conversations, special moments of connection, and essential moments of support.
Your efforts in living for Christ may seem small but prayerfully live with a deep sense of His life in you for the next year...and in those around you. God's richest grace to you and yours in the new year!
When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. - Colossians 3:4