Someone writing in a notebook
Planning Your New Year title
A family playing with a sparkler

As the smell of pine fades and the rush of the holidays becomes quiet, the chilly air blows in a brand new year full of the promise of change. The countdown is on and we can’t help but feel the excitement of change that bubbles over in our New Year’s celebrations.

Change is one of those words that either thrills your soul or gives you hives. For most, welcoming change can be a very uncomfortable thing. Like the Israelites who wanted to go back into slavery rather than navigate the change in circumstances, we’d often much rather suffer where we are than embrace the unknown of change.

And yet, the new year forces its way in each and every year, demanding that we consider the change. My friend, may I challenge you to embrace it this year? Don’t let past doubts cloud your hope. Instead, use this opportunity to continue to grow and change to be more like Christ.

The new year is the perfect opportunity to assess the past, dream about the future, and establish a practical plan. In our family, this is an annual tradition everyone looks forward to. In fact, it’s our favorite celebration of the year!

Make It a Plan

For many years, we have planned our new year as a two-step process. Step one is on New Year’s Eve, and step two is the first week of the year.

On New Year’s Eve, we have a huge family celebration. We plan family games, food, and fun for the evening, with the central event being to pop a balloon each hour as we count down. Inside the balloon is a strip of paper with a Bible verse to read and a question to answer. We use these New Year’s Scripture printables to make it simple and easy. The questions are just a starting point for the discussions we will have in our family meeting the following week.

In early January, usually the first few days, we have a family meeting. During this meeting, we look at the questions from New Year’s Eve a little more closely and dig a little deeper, looking not just at the past year but dreaming up a plan for the future, including practical ideas to make it happen. I like doing this as early as possible before busy schedules take over again. There are two Bible studies we have used during this time: New Beginnings and The Best Family Ever.

A few years ago, we began a new tradition of taking a distraction-free trip into the mountains for New Year’s Eve. The trip starts with our celebration, and then we spend several days planning and strategizing together. It’s become such a precious time together. But again, this could totally be done at your own kitchen table, too.

Assess the Past

I love planning and strategizing. I usually want to skip straight to it, but it’s important to start by looking at the past. If you have little kids, it’s easiest to simply ask the questions and have an open discussion. If you have teens, consider giving them the questions in advance so they can think about them. Better yet, let them answer on sticky notes and pass in the answers for you to compile. This will give your teens the opportunity to be a little more transparent without the pressure of the whole family knowing who wrote it.

You can also write the questions on big sticky note paper and post them on your wall for a few days, allowing family members to walk by and write comments as they think of them.

Here are some of the things to consider:

  • What things went really well last year?
  • What things were a struggle?
  • What goals did we reach?
  • What goals still need work?
  • What have we been investing our time in?

Once we’ve considered all of the answers to these questions, it’s time to put the past in the past. We read Philippians 3:13–14 together as a family as we pray and ask God to help us put off the sin that weighs us down, pressing on toward Christ.

Typically, we do this part in less than an hour. If you have older kids and want to go to the next part right away, just take a quick break. For younger kids, I’d come back to the discussion another day.

Dream About the Future

This is my favorite part. I love setting goals and dreaming up all of the amazing things I want to accomplish. But first, we need the right perspective. If we plan on our own, we will fail. The biggest and most important thing to ask ourselves is—what is God’s purpose for me?

If we don’t start with this question, we will make all the plans from our own hearts and miss the incredible things that God has for us. Remember to spend some time as a family reviewing God’s purposes for your lives and asking Him to guide your plans.

Once we are clear on God’s purpose, there’s one more thing to consider: your unique family. Have an honest conversation about the season you are currently living in and how that will impact your goals and plans for the coming year. For example, if you are having a baby in the spring, perhaps traveling during that time should be postponed. If your budget is super tight because of a job loss, you’ll need to consider frugal or no-cost opportunities.

Remember that seasons come and go. We want to be realistic and make sure that our plans take our current season into consideration, but we also want to be thankful for whatever God has given us right now, remembering that He is only and always good (see Romans 8:28–32). In years where we are facing particularly hard things, we always take a moment to remind ourselves of this truth.

Once you are clear on your purpose and your season, it’s time to divide and conquer. I divide the discussion into four parts: spiritual, emotional, academic, and physical. You can categorize everything in life into these four categories. Typically, we put up four big sticky note papers on the wall and brainstorm together. If there’s time, we do this over a few days while playing games and doing fun things together.

Some questions to ponder when making spiritual goals:

  • Are there any spiritual disciplines that need attention in my life? (Examples: quiet time, prayer, church attendance)
  • How does God want me to serve in my local church this year?
  • What does God want me to do with my money this year? (Yes, even kids need to answer this!)

Some questions to ponder when making emotional goals:

  • Am I treating my family the way God asks me to?
  • How are my friendships? What areas need improvement?
  • How am I doing with self-control?
  • How am I handling situations that I don’t like?

Some questions to ponder when making academic goals:

  • What new things do I want to learn this year?
  • What is my attitude toward learning?
  • What things should I learn in order to do what God is calling me to do?

Some questions to ponder when making physical goals:

  • Am I physically able to do what God has called me to? If not, is there anything I can do to improve my physical ability?
  • Are there any changes I want to make to my diet?
  • How am I doing with self-care? Are there any changes I need to make?

Once you’ve pondered the questions, write your goals down. We simply fold a piece of paper in half lengthwise and then widthwise to create four sections. Record no more than two goals in each section. I know that seems like it won’t cover everything, but trust me: you won’t get more than that much done well!

I encourage my kids to take one goal at a time and tackle it. So our next step is to put our goals in rank order by most important. Once you’ve accomplished your first goal, you can move down the list.

Establish a Plan

The last step in this process is to make it practical. You and I both know that our good intentions can easily be a wash by February. The best way to make sure your family follows through with your goals for the year is to make them super practical. We literally put them on the calendar.

A woman looking up
“And yet, the new year forces its way in each and every year, demanding that we consider the change. My friend, may I challenge you to embrace it this year? Don’t let past doubts cloud your hope. Instead, use this opportunity to continue to grow and change to be more like Christ.”

For example, if you decide that you want to do more family game nights, put them on the calendar right now. I know things might change, but if you put it on the calendar, you are far more likely to find a way to fit it in.

If you decide you want to learn to sew, put it on the calendar. Figure out what day of the week and even what block of time you will use to accomplish this goal.

I love using timers for things like this. For example, I have reminders set in my phone to help me remember to fill my supplements every Saturday night so I can take the necessary vitamins daily.

Every year we conclude our family planning meeting by making a bucket list. After all of the heavy lifting we did while searching our souls for ways to improve, everyone welcomes this light-hearted ending. We start by writing down everything we can think of and then narrow it down to one item a month. We look for things that just aren’t in the budget that year or things that are a priority and narrow the list accordingly.

Just like your other goals, you’ll want to put your bucket list items on the calendar now! We also like to create a final list to hang in our family room.

A Final Word About Planning for Your New Year

The purpose of planning is to keep us on course. If we have no plan, we will never be on track because we don’t even know where we hope to go! Be encouraged that it’s not your job to make every single detail of life happen. That’s God’s job. We are only called to obey faithfully.

Don’t let your plan consume you. A plan is not a law book that binds you at all costs. Let it flex with you when life throws you a curveball. Don’t look back at failed plans with a hopeless heart. Remember that God is only and always good. While our plans will never be perfect, His are always just right!

Kim Sorgius author

im Sorgius is dedicated to helping your family GROW in faith through practical tools and Bible-based resources, so you can be Not Consumed by life’s everyday struggles. Author of Not Consumed Blog and popular kid’s devotional Bible studies, Kim has a master’s degree in curriculum design coupled with over two decades of experience working with kids and teens. Above all, her most treasured job is mother and homeschool teacher of four amazing kiddos.