Every December, I take a look back at my year and begin to plan and pray about the coming year. What worked this year? What could have been better? What am I praying God does in the subsequent year?
Since December of 2015, I have taken to creating vision boards to visually represent my hopes and visions (that prayerfully line up with God’s vision and plan for my year) for the next year. In looking back at my very first vision board, 2016, I wrote that I wanted to successfully start the ministries the Lord placed on my heart and advance them within the church. You see, the idea to plant a literature ministry into my church home had been on my heart for a while; I loved to read yet hadn’t truly explored all that the Christian fiction and Christian study genres had to offer, and I wanted to dive into the genre with other people in my age range and in my church family. I brought the idea to my pastor (and of course to my parents as I was only 16 at the time), and before I knew it, UIC’s Novel Idea was born and began in 2016.
The plan was to read a book over a two-month span, and at the beginning, we had a really large group. By ‘at the beginning’, I mean for the first two months. However, I think having such an academic and heavy read for the first book discouraged some people from coming back. I mean, even my mother told me that the first book made her feel dumb and was so much of a struggle that she didn’t feel compelled to read the book or to keep coming back (she did come back, though and is still a member; she’s supportive like that). Then, in reading The Shack next, we also lost a few parents. (Even though I really wanted the youth to be the primary book club members, that is not what happened. Most members are on average forty-years-old.) As we lost members, we had a mid-year reevaluation of the ministry and tried to target types of members that we could draw in.
So we changed our schedule and read Kirk Cousin’s book, Game Changer—you can probably guess who our audience was here, the men of the church. (And, yes, we actually do have some Washington Redskins fans at the church.) We read an Agatha Christie murder mystery to bring a different genre into the mix. However, we still only drew in our regular, core members.
One thing that I think was really impressed upon me as a leader in this situation of only having around 4 consistent members is that it doesn’t matter how big or how small the ministry is. I just need to keep doing His work and keep working with the people in front of me.
In looking back, I like the variety of the books that we had. I also really like how I organized the old schedule. (Not in terms of reading order; I don’t think I paid much attention to the order in which we read the books this year.) On the schedule, I included why we were reading the book and a focal point for our discussion that month. I don’t do that anymore, and I may have stopped because: 1) I read the books alongside everyone now (ie. I haven’t read the books well in advance of everyone else; I do however still read ahead a lot.) and 2) I typically plan the meetings a week in advance now rather than way, way in advance. (You know, college life and classes suck a lot of time out of your schedule—especially Agnes classes.) However, I plan to go back to giving a ‘Why’ to each book. Especially considering that we now have a bulletin board right outside the library where I advertise upcoming meetings and events as well as our reading schedule, I think posting a “Why Read This Book” section would be nice.