A different option than New Year’s Resolutions

Are you among the 60% of people who make New Year’s resolutions?

Are you among the 8% of those who actually keep them?

One recent study shows that January 12 is the day most people give up their resolutions. So soon …

I talked with a friend earlier this week about the value of making small, seasonal commitments. Because they have an end date (and in less than a year), they aren’t as daunting as those long or indefinite commitments we make. They also allow us to consider our needs for a shorter period of time.

I’ve begun to see great value in re-assessing my life and commitments seasonally. In the church, we have natural rhythms and seasons for this. You might be most familiar with it if you’ve ever made a commitment for the season of Lent.

So I developed a tool to help you consider some seasonal rhythms and commitments. It provides a structure for you to consider (1) your current life & spiritual state, (2) your spiritual growth, especially focused on what we call “means of grace,” (3) your personal life and physical health, and (4) your relationships. My goal was to give you something useful for personal examination about where you are, along with some prompts for commitments you might make in the upcoming season.

This Season and Next

In the life of the church, our next season is the shortest of all of them. It also may be the season of the year when your life rhythms are most disrupted. Christmas is a 12-day season beginning on the evening of Christmas Eve and going through January 5. (Hence the song.) I think it may be the perfect first season for you to consider using this tool. That’s specifically because it’s such a short and unusual season. This is not the time to make 20 new commitments. But because of some of the unique opportunities that will come over these twelve days, this could be a great time for you to consider how you approach them with care.

Different seasons in the church are suited for different priorities. During Lent, a season of fasting, you’re likely to give up something for the season. Christmas is a season of feasting! So some of your choices may be different. As you consider any commitments for these twelve days, you might especially focus on worship, the section titled “works of mercy,” generosity and gratitude. If you’ll spend several of these days with people you don’t see often, it would be a good time for you to consider any commitments related to relationships––or related to those things that distract from relationship.

For me, commitments I’m making for this season include some final family accounting so we can make year-end decisions about giving, extra focus on thanksgiving in daily prayer, a commitment about words and notes of gratitude, and a commitment to stay off social media for those 12 days (if you see a post from me, it will be pre-scheduled).

I’m also putting this out now because the next season is quite a bit longer. That will be Epiphany season[note]Or the season after Epiphany, if you prefer[/note] which runs from January 6 through February 25––7 weeks. This gives you some time to consider longer commitments you might make during that season. Epiphany is a season of worship, focused on the revelation of Christ to the world. It comes right before the Lenten season of fasting. As you think ahead, some areas that would be especially good for your focus during Epiphany (Jan 6 – Feb 25):

  • Worship – perhaps an increased commitment to participation in corporate worship
  • Searching the Scriptures – perhaps a Bible reading plan focused on the gospels over those 7 weeks
  • Evangelism – a commitment to having a conversation about faith with a friend, relative, or neighbor, or a commitment to invite them to worship with you
  • Sabbath & Simplicity – establishing a different rhythm of life and different priorities in this new year

Those are only a few possibilities and suggestions as you plan and pray about how you’ll approach the season.

The Tool

I’m including below the seasonal rhythms and commitments tool I’ve developed. A few notes about it:

1 – I’m intending this as a guide for you. Do not try to make a commitment at every prompt. They’ll be far too many, and you’ll be set up for failure. These are all provided as prompts so you can choose the areas that are most important. I highly recommend only making one to three commitments per section unless you have confidence you can take on more. Especially for the 12 days of Christmas, focus on a few things you’d like to be intentional with this year.

2 – To make the best use of this, I recommend setting aside 30-60 minutes and praying as you work your way through.

3 – For success, I highly recommend you consider sharing your commitments with someone else for their support and accountability.

4 – This begins by asking which season you’re preparing for. If you’re following a different timeline than the church’s calendar, you can use the “other” space to list your own dates.

5 – Once you complete the form, it’s set up to immediately send you an email with your responses in both email and PDF format. I’d love to hear your comments or feedback. I want this to be as helpful as possible for you.

The form is embedded below. If it doesn’t show up in your email or browser, you can also access it here.

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