I love the beginning of the school year. It’s a chance to start fresh, begin a new routine, and set new goals for my group. I love this time of year because it’s filled with so much potential. And now that the new school year is almost here, I’ve been wondering, How can I make this new school year extra awesome? How can I start off strong?
To help me get off to a great start with my group, here are 4 questions I ask myself at the beginning of every school year. Maybe they’ll help you, too!
1. WHAT ONE THING DO I WANT MY GROUP TO LEARN THIS YEAR?
I ask myself this question before the start of every school year. I think about my girls. I think about their strengths and weaknesses, their struggles, and their stories. I think about how they’ve grown over the years and I talk to God about what He might want to do next in their lives.
There are always a million possible answers to this question. But I try to focus my energies on one area where I want to help my girls grow during the year. Maybe it’s developing better spiritual habits, cultivating a heart of service, working on relationships, or learning how to deal with doubt and hard questions. Choosing just one thing to focus on throughout the year helps me think strategically about mentoring my girls. And it keeps me from becoming overwhelmed. So I ask God for guidance, I chat with my girls about how they want to grow and be challenged. I trust my intuition and then I narrow my focus.
2. SHOULD WE START A NEW TRADITION?
My girls and I love celebrating little traditions. Going apple-picking every fall, showing up to their dance recitals every spring, watching terrible movies in the theater on opening night… we’ve got a handful of fun traditions already. But, every year, we like to brainstorm some new traditions that we want to start. This year, I think we might start two: an annual summer road trip, and an annual small group Thanksgiving dinner!
3. HOW CAN I SHOW THEM HOW MUCH I LOVE THEM?
Every year, I like to think of creative ways to love on my girls. Maybe it’s a fun new way to celebrate their birthdays. Maybe it’s a particularly meaningful Christmas present, a handwritten note, or one-on-one time. Or maybe it’s just a new habit, rhythm, or discipline that I build into my schedule to help me prioritize showing each of them how much I care.
4. WHAT DO I WANT THEM TO TAKE WITH THEM AT THE END OF THE YEAR?
A smart guy named Reggie Joiner likes to say, “Think with the end in mind.” So, at the start of every school year, I’m already thinking about the end of that school year. When June rolls around, what do I want my girls to walk away with? Is it something intangible, like that one thing I want them to learn? Is it something physical, like a photo album of small group memories, or a box of notes we write for each other throughout the year? Or is it an achievement, like a big list of Bible verses they’ve memorized, a book we’ve read together, or something we’ve done together to make a difference in the world or help someone in need?
Those are the four questions I ask myself every school year. How about you? How do you prepare for a new year of ministry with your few?