Every time a new year comes around, I have mixed emotions. While I’m excited about what the future holds, sometimes I’m a little bummed about what I didn’t accomplish in the previous year. Sure, I meant to lose weight, save more, and spend time with family. I just didn’t plan very well and day-to-day life got in the way.

I remember in high school driving an old beat up Oldsmobile Cutlass. It was nothing to look at, but it gave me independence, and that was all I wanted. Late one late summer evening, my car stalled on the exit ramp a few miles from home. I wasn’t sure what the problem was, so I sheepishly called my dad. After we towed it home and had a chance to look it over, it appeared I had run it completely out of oil! I knew how to check and change the oil. I even knew it had a slow leak. I simply put off checking the level and adding oil as needed. The results were devastating: no car, no independence. I wanted to drive that car as long as I could, but I failed to plan how I was going to keep it on the road.

I think the same is true for the students in your small group. Maybe you have a general idea about how they could grow in their faith journey this year, but what is your plan for getting them there? Who does it involve? What are the steps? I know that a faith journey is not a simple straight line from point A to point B, but if you don’t know the destination, how are you going to get there? Perhaps they need to learn to trust God more. Perhaps they want to explore a bit deeper into prayer. Maybe reading the Bible consistently is the goal, or shifting the focus from themselves to others. Whatever the goal, make a plan. Here are some initial steps.

1. Have a conversation with your small group or individuals. Decide on a goal each person wants to achieve, and write it down.

2. Find a way to measure it. If their goal is to shift their focus to other people, count how many times they were able to serve that week. (Just having a conversation about what counts as “serving” might be helpful.)

3. Keep the timeline reasonable. Deciding to work on one area for an entire year is too long (Jon Acuff wrote a great post about this. Check it out here). You want the flexibility to adjust and change, so don’t get stuck trying to make something work.

4. Include their parents. While students may not be generally excited about this, their parents are with them way more than you are and therefore have more influence. Coach the parents not to push them like they do with their homework, but to be aware and available to talk if the student would like to.

These steps should put you well on your way to some progress with spiritual development. Live by grace and not the law, and remember to check the oil in your car.

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