3 Lessons from 2013

 —  December 31, 2013 — 2 Comments



It’s that time again.  Every tabloid, television special, and post on the internet wants to take a look back at 2013. They want to announce their list of the “best” and “worst.”  We are bombarded with images, thoughts and opinions on what we were supposed to love and hate in the past year.

I look back at 2013, and in all honesty, it is not twerking or Duck Dynasty that affected me the most. I did not “like” the last year and that had nothing to do with pop culture. This was a painful year for me of stretching and trials. 2013 was a year when I “chose” Jesus more than I “felt” Him. Still, I had a mentor who gave me some really good advice long ago. She told me to ask the Lord in every situation, “Lord what are you teaching me?”  So before I run into the coming year I must look back and reminisce about the lessons I have learned.

Here are my top three:

1.  Jesus Wants & Requires My Obedience:

Faithfulness. That’s it. Every day He longs that I will choose Him again.  This year I have had a some friends and acquaintances who made the decision that following Christ costs too much.  In my own life I have realized this year that it “costs” everything that has the word me or mine involved in it.  More than anything I can “do” for Him, He  just wants me to be His.  Everything else is secondary.


2.  My ideas of success are different than God’s:

I wanted to climb the “ministry” ladder. I thought it would include notoriety and value. If you had asked me if I thought this, I would have said, “No way, my identity is in Christ, and I only do what I do for Him.”  However, in the secret places in my heart I also thought that the “blessings” that came from serving Him might include more Twitter followers.  When I show up and am faithful to what He has put right in front of me for today, loving Him most and others second, He calls that “success.”


3.  I adore my family & often underestimate them:

I am beyond blessed to have the spouse that I do. He has more integrity than almost anyone else I know.  He challenges me to grow closer to the Lord and be spurred on in all I am called to do.  My running joke in parenting a college student along with a 6th, a 7th and an 8th grader is that I live with a youth group.  I fear they will walk away from the Lord and make poor choices that will wreck their lives. The Lord has made it clear He is working in each of their lives as well.  In the midst of difficulty this has also become a year when we seek Him together, and that has made it all worth it. He reminded me that none of these people belong to me, and He will not let them go.

So here we are on the edge of the “new year,”  as you look back what did Jesus teach you?



Kurt Johnston’s New Year’s Eve message from Saddleback Church on Vimeo.

Here’s part 2 of the video message from our New Year’s weekend adult services at Saddleback. Kurt Johnston, our Student Ministries pastor.


Steve Adams New Year’s Message from Saddleback Church on Vimeo.

Here’s part 1 of the video message we created for the family services at Saddleback Church on New Year’s Weekend. This was the first of 3 parts to the talk that weekend – this is Steve Adams, the children’s pastor at Saddleback Church.


Tomorrow morning I’ll be taking the High School team from Saddleback up to Disneyland’s Grand Californian Hotel. We ‘ll enjoy an afternoon together in their amazing lodge-like lobby with epic Christmas decorations and soak in the season together. It is a day we’ve done for the past 3 years – I call it the State of HSM address.

The State of HSM address is a really great moment, and while I have already posted on it in the past (more on that here), I wanted to focus on one key element that is standing out to me more this year than ever before: reflecting on the past.

This year, I’m spending extra time reflecting and celebrating what God has done this past year. Here’s why:

The past is past
When you look back – you might only think about the good things – but honestly, everything in the past can be valuable. Take some time and reflect on the things you’re happy to leave in the past. It will be a healthy time to forgive and move on from the mistakes you’ve made, and a great time to overlook the faults and problems of others during the past 12 months.

The past helps us see progress from where we’ve been
When you look back you can see what worked along with what didn’t work. What new ideas or innovations did you experiment with in your youth ministry this past year that really made a big difference?

The past show us weaknesses we need to address in the future
When you spend time analyzing and mulling over the past – you’ll begin to see gaps in your philosophy, programs or strategy as you move forward. The past will shine light on your opportunities in the future. Take the time to fully vet the past – it just might be the key to your future, too.

So as you end 2010, y encouragement would be to spend some time reflecting on the past year in youth ministry. Maybe make a list of the failures, successes and efforts of the past year. Reflect on student’s lives that were changed and leaders who ended the year in a much different place. Not all of it will be positive, but it will all be helpful as you head into the future.


Simply Youth Ministry is running a sale on the 1-Minute Bible by Doug Fields. It is a devotional Bible that is great to get students in the Word each day. Might be a good tool to give out to your students in a New Year’s message with a “Starting Out the New Year Right” kind of message. Check it out if you’re interested!

You’ve committed yourself to more Bible reading plans than you care to admit and you’re 187 chapters behind in your latest attempt. If this sounds familiar, then the One Minute Bible for Students is what you need to get back and stay on track. Do the math. There are 1400 minutes in a day. It will take you One Minuteto read a passage of Scripture. “Hey, that’s doable!” Additionally, veteran youth pastor Doug Fields has contributed some great insights to help you apply these short, one minute Scripture readings to your every day life.