When You’re Starting on Empty: How to Start a New Year with Little To Give

As the calendar turns, and a new year unfolds before us, leaders will often find themselves sorting through an inbox of messages around goal setting, how to cast the perfect vision for the new year and five quick steps to a ‘successful’ impact. These are not bad and are often helpful in sparking passion, precision–and most importantly, purpose into one’s plans. 

But what if you are starting the year in a spot that is more from a weary and questioning posture than a hopeful and expectant one? The responsibilities of guiding, inspiring, and nurturing others can be overwhelming, especially when faced with personal doubts, discouragement, and hesitancy about the path ahead. 

If you’re starting this year on empty, take heart—you’re in good company. There are steps you can take to refuel, reevaluate, and renew your sense of purpose in ministry.

1. Look Where God is Working:

To overcome the challenges of a new year, start by shifting your focus from your own uncertainties to where God is already at work. Take time to pray and look for places where God is blessing and bringing about new life. It could be a small discipleship group engaged in evangelism and sharing the gospel, or maybe a next-gen ministry connecting generations and investing in developing disciples. Think about where you’ve seen God’s impact, both in your personal life and ministry. Often, God is working in specific areas, and we can be too busy to notice.

2. Reflect on God’s Faithfulness:

In moments of doubt, it’s crucial to look back and remember God’s faithfulness. Reflect on the ways He has provided, guided, and sustained you through previous challenges. Growth happens more in our challenges than in our victories. Remind yourself of the difficult steps you resiliently took forward, and journal through the specific lessons that you learned. We all have leadership lessons that we can tuck in our pockets from failures or how we should have done things differently. But more than that, what lessons did you learn about God’s heart, care, and faithfulness? These lessons are invaluable and will be built upon in the days ahead. This reflection not only builds your faith, but also equips you with the strength to face the uncertainties that lie ahead.

3. Make a Commitment to Healthy Rhythms:

If you are starting from a place of burnout, the healthiest step you can take is in your own self-leadership. Ministry leaders are often so busy caring for others, making decisions, and moving things forward, that they neglect their own well-being. This year, commit to establishing and maintaining healthy rhythms in your life. Prioritize silence and solitude, set boundaries around your work hours and family life, and ensure that you are spending time in the Word and community–not just for your position but for nurturing your relationship with your Heavenly Father. 

4. Embrace Something New:

To take your leadership to the next level, consider doing something new. Hire a coach or mentor who can provide guidance and support tailored to your specific needs. Sign up for a Church Equip course that will help you grow in an area you haven’t studied before or will help refresh new perspectives and old truths you may have forgotten. Another great step would be to join our online community, Church Answers Central, which connects you to incredible leaders all across the globe for ministry insights and encouragement. Learning and digging deeper can bring fresh perspectives and renewed enthusiasm to your ministry.

You Are Not Alone

Reflecting on the conversations of this past year, it’s evident that many leaders, including myself, have felt the weight and impact of the challenges in recent times.

Remember, the journey of ministry doesn’t have to be a solitary one. By turning to God, reflecting on His faithfulness, establishing healthy rhythms, and embracing new opportunities for personal and professional growth, you can enter the new year well-prepared to lead with faith and purpose. 

May this upcoming year become a season of transformation, not only for you, but also for the people you serve.

Posted on January 5, 2024

Jacki C. King is a respected and beloved Bible teacher, author, and dedicated ministry leader. Her passion involves guiding women toward a deep love for Jesus and His Word, encouraging them to embrace their mission in their homes, workplaces, and communities. She is the author of "The Calling of Eve: How Women of the Bible Inspire the Women of the Church" (Tyndale 2022). A proud native Texan, Jacki serves alongside her husband Josh, who serves as Lead Pastor of their local church, and their three boys. She holds a bachelor's degree in Biblical Studies and Ministry to Women from Criswell College, and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Connect with Jacki on Twitter and Instagram at @JackiCKing
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