Starting Strong: Developing Habits that Ground You During the Year
by Alex Hardt, Youth and Young Adult Pastor
Between 2007 to 2014 those who identify as Christians went from 78% to 71% according to Fuller Youth Institute. That is not the percentage of those who go to church but claim that religious affiliation. “Those who study demographics believe the decline in overall church attendance is linked with young people’s religious practices, or lack thereof.” – Growing Young Book by Kara Powell
As the summer comes to an end and school is gearing up our routines or lack of routines are about to massively change. For parents and students that means that we have to be intentional about waking up at a certain time, packing lunches, establishing routines, figuring out the sports/activities calendars, planning for holidays, figuring out where to be and when. In all the chaos it can be easy to lose our faith or to shelf our faith. We think to ourselves, “Aww no big deal I’ll get to it when my schedule dies down or I’ll squeeze it in between practices”. This mentality causes many to slowly drift away from their faith or to make their faith secondary. Let’s flip the script this year and start off strong by developing spiritual habits.
Spiritual habits are the decisions, behaviors, and rhythms that help us grow spiritually over time. If you’re like most people, the first things that pop into your head when you hear “spiritual habits” are probably . . .
Reading the Bible….praying…going to church.
Sure, reading, praying, and going to church are important spiritual habits. But they’re not the only spiritual habits that matter. Let’s look at a few ways of growing in our faith that will help us start the year off strong. Now obviously I’m not advocating you start all these today, but that you work towards incorporating each of these disciplines as well as others into your routine.
SPEND TIME W/GOD (Discipleship // 2 Timothy 3:16, 1 Chronicles 16:29)
Wow that’s obvious right? It’s so obvious that it’s usually the only one we can name. It’s a big part of the picture but not the whole picture. Spending time with God means opening the Bible on your own, having conversations with God, and discovering how to best connect with God on our own. What does this look like more practically?
- Open the Bible daily (a physical Bible, a devotional, an app)
- Memorize Scripture: We are good at memorizing movie quotes, Queen lyrics, and memes but memorizing scripture takes a little more work. Start with one verse to focus on for this week.
- Prayer: For some of us having conversations with God comes naturally, for others of us we need to work at it a bit more. Watch how others pray, prayers online, ask someone to show you how to pray.
- Worship Regularly: Worship often is associated with being at church, but it could also be listening to praise music, fasting, and being still with God. It’s about expressing our reverence and adoration for God.
- Rest: It’s hard to disconnect but escaping the busyness of life with God is refreshing and a command.
SPEND TIME W/OTHERS (Fellowship // Acts 2:42)
Engaging in healthy community is a spiritual habit! Yup! It’s more than just hanging out with Christians. This spiritual habit is about intentionally connecting with…well, everyone. Jesus called us to be in healthy relationships with followers and non-followers of Christ. I love that Jesus discipled His followers in real life, in the context of relationships that were real, and messy, and challenging, and well, not perfect.
- Life Groups: Here students, adults, and young adults grow closer to their peers, have leaders pouring into them, and form community with people from all different walks of life.
- Intentional Connections: Find opportunities to have some of Christian friends connect in with your friends outside the church at get togethers, pool parties, dinners, and sporting events. Who knows how God might work though these social settings to bring your friends to Christ?
- Use our Gifts: When we use our gifts, we acknowledge that the things we’ve been given weren’t given to us by chance. They were part of God’s design. Serving others and being served by others helps us grow closer in Christ as well.
SPEND TIME IN SERVICE (Mission // Colossians 3:23-24)
It’s no secret that Jesus was always using His gifts to serve others, to make God known, and help those inside/outside of the Church. We are uniquely created, wonderfully made, and distinctly gifted by God. Those gifts given to us by God allow us the capacity to influence the world around us.
- Share our Story: It’s about talking about God and His place in our story with others. It reminds us of His faithfulness and helps us to take ownership of our faith “Sharing your story is the spiritual habit of making faith a regular, every day, go-to topic of conversation in our lives.”- https://stuffyoucanuse.org/4-habits-help-teenagers-grow-spiritually/
- Serve: Service requires humility. We humble ourselves before God, and take on the posture of a servant, putting God and others ahead of ourselves. Serve on a ministry team. Volunteer in the community.