Christmas is once again upon us. For many leaders this special season of celebration is prime-time for strategic ministry opportunities, special events and family gatherings. However, somewhere in the midst of all this hustle and bustle, I invite and encourage you to take some time for intentional reflection.
Reflection is a critical practice for leaders. It requires slowing down to listen to God, to others and to oneself. It fosters learning, stimulates growth, encourages celebration, calls for course corrections, invites grieving, identifies priorities and renews focus and energy.
This month’s To The Point is a re-post of a popular article designed to provide you, your family or your team with a template for year-end reflection. A couple of years ago, I created a reflection exercise for the Arrow team. The rough outline of what we did as a team follows below but you can easily modify the template for personal, family or team reflection.
All you need is an hour of unhurried time and a journal. Here’s what we did:
1. Look Back and Remember – Reflection is often difficult because we simply can’t remember what’s happened over a longer time-frame. So, we tried to help recall some of the year’s events by starting back at New Year’s Eve and privately reflecting on some questions to help bring back our memories.
Here are some of the questions: What were you doing last New Year’s Eve? Who were you with? What were you hoping for in the year ahead? What challenges were before you? What was going on in the lives of the people close to you?
Then, we slowly moved forward month by month. Markers like birthdays, anniversaries, vacations, holidays, school events or significant responsibilities act as prompters of other things that were going on. Simple questions help bring greater recall. Ask questions for each month like: What was going on? What was important?
2. Intentional Reflection – With memories jogged, the next step is intentional, prayerful reflection. We gave each person time and space to privately journal responses to the following handout questions about the past year:
- What’s been hardest?
- What surprised you most?
- What are you thankful for?
- Where did you fail? What did you learn?
- What’s been disappointing?
- Who or what do you need to grieve?
- Where have you been stretched? Where have you grown? What have you learned?
- What have you been encouraged by? What should you celebrate?
- Where do you see blessings from waiting? From struggle?
- Who or what have you invested in?
- How have you seen God at work? What have your learned about Him?
- What’s on God’s heart for you this next year?
- What are your big priorities for the year ahead?
3. Processing and Sharing – With lots of thoughts stirring, each person was invited to share their responses to their choice of any two of the questions. This helps people externalize their internal processing. It can also be a very special community-building time.
Then, we reflected on whether there were any follow-up or next steps flowing from the reflection time. A note of thanks to be written? Forgiveness to be extended or sought? Something that needs to be left behind. A “page” that needs to be turned? New priorities that need to be established?
4. Prayer – Worshipful prayers of thanksgiving and prayers for the journey ahead concluded this reflection time.
In the busyness this special season or early in 2016, I encourage you to set aside sixty minutes for a time of reflection. Whether done individually, as a family or as a team, you will be richer for investing the time in the process.
To the Point,
P.S. Most ministry leaders and pastors are in overdrive in the lead-up to Christmas. They are preparing for special services and outreach events, reaching out to care for the hurting and under-resourced, ministering to others while trying to be present for their families, raising needed funds for future ministry, and the list goes on. Please seek out and take opportunity to pray for, encourage and support these servant-leaders where you can!