Every year, the Christmas season offers the entire world the opportunity to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and reflect on God’s salvation plan for mankind. This important Christian event is closely followed by the New Year celebration. The hectic preparations that go into Church Watch night services and other vigils point to some great expectation on the part of most people.
Exchange of goodwill messages can be heard and seen all over the world as the year draws to a close and people are eagerly looking forward to be ushered into the New Year.
At this stage, many people focus their attention on what the New Year could have in store for them. This is a time when people, young and old, men and women, commit to reflecting on their achievements within the current year and thinking of brighter chances and opportunities in the coming year. Journalists who visit the markets during the Christmas season report of many traders who are excited about good patronage of their goods and services and good profit margins, while others are unhappy due to low sales, as compared to previous years. However, all parties have the same expectation: “Next year will be better than this year.”
On the streets, we see big Church notice boards which advertise Watch Night Services – sometimes termed “Crossover” –inviting worshipers and visitors to join their congregations to welcome the new year.
The messages on the internet and electronic media – Radio, Television, You tube, Facebook etc. – highlight great expectations for the New year.
At the beginning of the year, a good number of companies and organizations enter into a period of operational and management reflection and re-engineering of their products and services. Corporate entities engage their Management and Staff in performance evaluation processes, and develop new strategies to reposition their organizations at a higher level of performance on the business market.
At the personal level, we all seem to be motivated by the general excitement of the Christmas Season and the euphoria of the New Year celebration, to voice out our dreams and laudable plans for the new year. We look forward eagerly to experience breakthrough in our difficult situations and receive abundant blessings in the new year. The common wishes that people share among themselves as they exchange New Year greetings border mostly on good health and vitality, long life, marriage blessings, prosperity in business, peace, joy and happiness.
In Africa, our personal and family resolutions are well articulated verbally. We direct our children to study hard and excel in their studies. We also promise to be on better terms with our family members and neighbours.
At Church, we confess our sins to God and pray for forgiveness and a new life of deeper spiritual commitment to our Creator and His Word.
THE ISSUE OF COMMITMENT
Generally, January, the first month of the year, witnesses some level of seriousness with regard to our New Year Resolutions. At the workplace, the Time Sheet at the reception table paints a very good picture of staff punctuality at work. Church Prayer Meetings and Bible Study sessions are well patronized. The Choir and other Church singing groups record high attendance at rehearsals.
As we proceed farther to February and March, many of us start defaulting on the resolutions we have made. By June, half of the year, most of us have forgotten the beautiful changes we were bent on introducing into our lives. The once vivid image of a new life and the enthusiasm that accompanied our resolutions seem to fade into oblivion.
INGREDIENTS FOR EFFECTIVE PLANNING
The real and basic issues which we need to address have to do with the nature of documentation, level of commitment and consistency in following up on our plans and resolutions. It is unfortunate that most of us tend to keep the record of our beautiful resolutions to ourselves and trust our memory to remind us at regular times. The reality, however, is that we fill our memory with too many assignments of various degrees – urgent, important, less important, useful, less useful, necessary, unnecessary etc. – without engaging our hearts and brains to support our laudable plans.
To enable us realize our dreams and achieve our goals, we need to seriously document our plans in written form and in other practical ways – eg. using electronic and internet back-ups. In this exercise, the use of both soft and hard copiesis essential.
As Christians, we must also seek God’s help in committing ourselves to prayer, Bible Reading and obedience to His Word. As the Apostle Paul reminds us, we are fighting against “ the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms,” (Ephesians 6:12 NIV). Therefore, in our desire to live a fulfilled life, we must back our planning with deep spiritual commitment.
BEYOND THE ORAL TRADITION
As Africans, we have a lot to learn in the area of documentation of facts and events. Our ancestors tried as much as possible to pass down important traditional practices orally. As time elapsed, from one generation to another, the accuracy of the oral narrations posed some challenges, as people found it difficult to keep to the details of the original versions.
As a teenager in the Middle School, I was heading home after school one day, when an elderly man, a member of our external family, called me to his house . He gave me the following message as I stood in front of him.
“Boy, I want you to find time and come here to my house. I will tell you more about our family. I will narrate important details of our family history to you.” I replied, “Yes Sir “ out of courtesy for an elderly person. Having left the threshold of the house, I told myself, “These are the words of an old man who wants to take too much of my time to tell me unnecessary stories.” I did not go back to him. A couple of years later, the old man passed away. Today, when I remember the incident, I regret for missing such a great opportunity to document an important part of our family history.
BIBLICAL ROLE MODELS
A close look at some of the recordings in the Bible show the need for us to document important ideas and events in a devoted and systematic manner.
Moses instructed the people of Israel to record the commandments of God in a manner that would remind the present and future generations to obey them.
“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.
Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.
Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9 NIV).
In the book of Ezra, the leaders of Israel, inspite of the strong opposition of their political enemies, were able to use earlier written records to convince King Darius to respect some important commitments which the previous king of Persia, Cyrus, had made to support the building of the Temple of God in Jerusalem.
The written record of the good deeds of Mordecai, saved Esther and the Jews from serious persecution (The Book of Esther, Chapter 6).
Matthew devotes time to state systematically, the genealogy of our Lord Jesus Christ, starting from Abraham. The writer of Luke’s Gospel goes further to meticulously trace the genealogy of the newly-born King, Jesus, to the creation of the first man, Adam (Luke 3:23-38).
When the wise men approached King Herod, and sought for information concerning the birthplace of the Messiah, the chief priests and the teachers of the law stated, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for this is what the prophet has written…”(Matthew 2:5 NIV).
THE WAY FORWARD
Today, with the benefit of formal education and information communication technology, we have a great opportunity to document our stories for posterity.
Even with the advantage of school and advanced technology, we would need a certain frame of mind and discipline to develop, label and store information for easy retrieval. Sometimes, when I look at some of our family photos taken about 30 years ago, I find it difficult to remember the date, the event and the location. This is because I failed to label the photos with the needed data that would tell the story to our children, grandchildren and other people.
It takes commitment, consistency, continuity and steadfastness to pursue our plans until we achieve the intended results. We can benefit a lot from Paul’s admonition to the Corinthian Christians:
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of The Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in The Lord.” (I Corinthians 15:58 NKJV).
The younger generation of today has a unique opportunity to write down and record important information in more creative ways, using the online media – e-mail, WhatsApp, Facebook etc. However, with all these advantages in technology, we would still perform poorly, if we did not take the time and the effort to label information correctly for easier retrieval. In reality, the retrieval of documents from the internet becomes easier when we are able to label documents correctly with the right subject titles, dates and distinctive features. For example, labeling personal photos with the subject as “Photos” on e-mail – without providing specific details, would make it difficult to locate particular photos among many others stored over a long period of time.
In the light of the above, we all need to devote quality time and other resources to properly document and package our New Year Resolutions in a manner which would make it easier to work on them to accomplish our planned targets.
BEYOND THE NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS
Should our Resolutions focus on one year only? The Christmas Season and the euphoria of the New Year celebrations offer very unique opportunities for planning our lives. I believe that, based on this ideal platform, we can launch a broader and more-inclusive plan for the present, medium-term and long-term, to guide our life’s journey on the planet earth.
In the corporate world, well-meaning businesses and organizations devote quality time and other resources to review their operations at the close of their fiscal years and develop new plans aimed at repositioning their business entities at a higher level of achievement. Even business enterprises, such as supermarkets, which have record of high daily patronage and enviable profit margins, suspend their operations for some days – with notices such as “Sorry, No Sales, Stock Taking” – in order to review their performance and find more creative and innovative ways of repackaging and marketing their products and services, to attract more customers and gain an enviable share of the benchmark market sales.
In Ghana, many Churches – the Methodist Church Ghana, the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, Assemblies of God, Church of Pentecost, the Baptist Church, International Central Gospel Church, Light House Chapel International etc. – set aside time and other resources, periodically, to review their performance and develop new ways of doing God’s business in a more creative, efficient and effective manner.
In many cases, the executives and managers of the corporate bodies move to ideal venues – away from their business locations – where they would find ideal conditions and the right atmosphere to brainstorm and prepare their strategic plans.
Medium & Long Term Planning
These corporate plans usually have a longer time frame – beyond one year. Such strategic plans operate within short term, medium term and long term. It is common for businesses and organizations to locate their plans within three years and twenty years. In some cases, some companies and organizations ambitiously go far beyond twenty years, to ensure that, by the end of the target period, they would have assumed a brand new image with a new and unique culture. In all the short-term, medium and long term plans, the corporate institutions aim at achieving some major goals and objectives to ensure greater success in their operations, as they travel into the future. Using the SWOT (strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis, institutions develop plans which address internal and external challenges and take advantage of new opportunities – including the use of new information communication technology (ICT) – to reposition themselves for greater achievement.
In order for the various plans to succeed, companies and organizations break down their strategic goals and objectives to fit into their divisional and departmental planning processes. Management ensures that individual employees are given termly (eg. annual) performance contracts to work on. At set times, the performance of the employees is evaluated and weak performers are sanctioned or retrained, while high performers are given attractive incentives as reward.
Similarly, we, as individuals, can capitalize on the favourable atmosphere of the Christmas season and the New Year celebrations, to develop longer term plans for our life’s journey here on earth, as we prepare for our Home in Heaven.
SETTING GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
In preparing our short-term, medium-term and long-term plans, we could focus on key performance areas of our lives, as individuals or as a family. We could plan around key performance areas such as the following:
FIVE-YEAR PERSONAL GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT PLAN
- Maintaining Personal Daily Devotion or Quiet Time.
- Reading the Bible.
- Recording Key Learnings.
- Memorizing Bible Verses.
- Living according to the Word of God and becoming role models.
- Special Project: Reading the entire Bible within one year
- Group Worship: Joining Other Christians to worship together at Church.
- Regular Church Attendance.
- Joining Church Groups for Service and deeper Fellowship.
- Punctuality at Christian Meetings.
- Christian Giving
- Paying Tithe Regularly.
- Contributing Financially to support Church Work and other Christian Ministries.
- Evangelism Outreach
Group: Active Participation in Church Evangelism Outreach Programmes.
- Number of persons to witness to daily, weekly etc.
- Record (written) of Persons to follow up.
- Special Project: Helping to establish Boys & Girls Brigade. Assisting Sunday School Department etc.
FIVE-YEAR FAMILY GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT PLAN
a) Family Spiritual Life
- Family Devotion.
- Church Attendance.
- Christian Service.
- Participating in Marriage Enrichment Seminars &Workshops.
b) Financial Management
- Monthly Budget Planning
- Investment – purchase of land/laying of foundation of a new house/moving into a new house (with timelines – start date, end date).
c) Children’s Education
- Family bonding, Trust and Support.
- School Attendance.
- Homework – Parents’ Support.
- Proper use of ICT (computer, phone) for Research.
- Attendance at P.T.A Meetings.
- Showing Interest in Children’s academic and social life.
- Showing interest in general school life.
- Social Responsibility.
- Interaction with External Family Members.
- Interaction with Neighbours.
- Participation in Neighbourhood/Community programmes.
- Assistance to the Poor and Needy.
- Family Health & Wellness
- Adolescent &Children’s Sports.
- Adult (husband & wife) Keep Fit Exercises.
- Healthy Diet.
- Basic Survival Skills for Children/Youth
- Road Safety Guidelines.
- Helping Children to learn Swimming.
- Emergency Fire Fighting Skills etc.
- Personal Security & Safety Guidelines.
- Developing and maintaining interest in hobbies such as Gardening, Reading, Art & Designing, Cooking, Football, Tennis etc.
- Family Holiday & Recreation
- Scheduling time to go out for family recreation, for a change and relaxation and to appreciate God’s wonderful Handiwork in creation (natural monuments) around us – the ocean, sandy beaches, lakes, waterfalls, mountains, forests, savannah, flowers, different types of animals(in zoos) etc.
SUPPORT TEAM – PEER REVIEW
Many plans and resolutions start well but in the course of time, they lose momentum. We may start with a lot of interest and vim, but without the needed support from other parties, we may slide into inaction. If care is not taken, our great plans would, at best, remain a dream and our beautiful resolutions would vanish into thin air by the end of the year.
In order to sustain such important projects, it is important to solicit the help of a couple of people who would encourage us, as we work on our goals and objectives. Such people could be friends, work colleagues, family members or Church members, who would show serious interest in the accomplishment of our planned targets and timelines.
This support group could meet with you at regular times to pray and review the progress you are making. It is also possible to back up the physical meetings with sharing of information on WhatsApp and other online media. With such support, there is a greater chance of working consistently on your short-term, medium-term and long-term plans to achieve the intended goals and objectives.
We can review our Medium or Long Term plans periodically – quarterly, half-yearly and yearly. The Christmas and New Year season could be an ideal period to review our Personal and Family Goals and Objectives. At this time, we could revisit and review our plans, taking note of our accomplishments and areas of poor performance and making the needed changes. With this periodic review, we could gain fresh insight and new energies to re-engage our medium or long term planning processes, with excitement.
We need to celebrate our yearly or mid-term achievements, as we review our performance. This would encourage us to put in more effort to reach the end of our goal. It is important to thank The Lord as some of our goals and objectives are accomplished along our journey towards our big target.
What a great time it would be for individuals and families who have followed through, with the needed sacrifice and discipline and prayer, to hit the end of their medium-term or long-terms plans! It would certainly be a time of great celebration and thanksgiving to God.
May The Lord guide and bless us in all our planning, so that we make good use of the great and unique potentials He has endowed us with, to accomplish the mission He has entrusted to us.
John S. Quaisie
By John S. Quaisie, Bethel Methodist Church, West Adenta