I have two grandsons that are 10 weeks apart in age. These cousins are constantly measuring themselves against each other to see who is taller. They both want to be the tallest one, but of course they don’t have any control over their height.
Thankfully, spiritual growth is not like physical growth. We do have some control over our spiritual maturity. Although only the Holy Spirit can bring about spiritual transformation in our lives, He won’t do it without our obedient cooperation.
As this year ends, it’s a good time to look at where we’ve been and evaluate our current condition. Then we can set some goals and plan for spiritual growth to take us purposefully into the new year.
Why We Should Plan for Spiritual Growth
You may think this sounds a bit too analytical to be “spiritual.” But Scripture is full of directives for us to be purposeful in our spiritual growth and discipleship. For instance, Paul told Timothy to “train” himself for godliness (1 Timothy 4:7-8). Planning and goal setting doesn’t mean God is not in it.
Haphazard discipleship will always yield haphazard results. But purposeful discipleship, guided by God, will yield spiritual growth and deeper intimacy with God.
I’ve personally done this for several years now. First, I do a spiritual year-end review. I evaluate my progress – or lack of progress – and think about where I wanted to be. Then I set some goals and strategies to get there.
I’ve developed a couple of resources to help with this process. I’d love to share them with you!
Look Back and Evaluate
Before we can plot a course ahead, we need to know where we are. We can start by asking ourselves some general questions about our current spiritual health and the quality of our relationship with God and others. Questions like these:
- What did I learn about God?
- In what ways did my faith grow?
- How did I purposefully cultivate my relationship with God?
- Was I disciplined in Bible study?
- Was I vitally connected to my local church?
- In what ways did I serve and minister to others?
- Do I have relationships that are strained or need to be repaired?
Use this evaluation form to help with this process:
Set Goals for the New Year
After we get a good idea of where we are, we can purposefully plan for spiritual growth in the new year. It is not “unspiritual” to set goals and develop strategies to meet those goals. In fact, it’s being good stewards of God’s calling on our lives.
Word of Caution: It’s easy to set unrealistic goals or to try to tackle too much in one year. We want to experience some success in our discipleship. So, check our “5 Tips for Setting Spiritual Growth Goals” for some direction.
The “Spiritual Goals Worksheet” is a great planning tool. It includes tips for goal-setting and lists many specific disciplines under broader categories like “Bible intake.”
A Glimpse at My Goal-Setting
These resources are just tools. Spiritual growth is not a science. Each year I meet some goals and fall short of others. But, the missed goals give me a good starting place for the new year.
One area where I really struggle is Scripture memory. I know it’s important for my spiritual health, but I’d always been very sporadic with the discipline because it takes time, purposeful effort, and determination. (Why bother with memorizing Scripture when we have such easy access to God’s Word? See “Why I Tackle Scripture Memory & How I Do It.”)
A few years ago, God prompted me to memorize part of Philippians 4 to prepare for a conference where I would be teaching from that chapter. I worked hard and memorized Philippians 4:4-13 by the end of January.
Memorizing the passages blessed me by solidifying God’s truth in my heart and mind. So, I committed to memorize the rest of Philippians by the end of that year. I did not reach that goal, but I did make progress. And through what I did memorize, God ministered to me in new ways. The truths of Philippians came alive for me like never before.
So, for the next year I recommitted to finish memorizing the book of Philippians. And I did it! What had originally been a 12-month goal turned into a 20-month goal. And that’s okay! Again, the evaluation and goal-setting are just tools to keep us moving forward.
What about you? What is the number one area in which you’d like to grow spiritually in the year ahead?