For the patient waiting to hear back from the doctor, one word, “Positive” or “Negative,” will alter the trajectory of her future. For the lover kneeling down on one knee, one word, “Yes” or “No,” holds a multitude of hopes and dreams. For the couple reading an email from the bank, one word, “Approved” or “Denied,” will shape their days and nights for many years to come.
One word can change your life.
That’s the title and the premise of a book written by Jon Gordon, Dan Britton, and Jimmy Page. I read this self-help book a few years ago at the recommendation of a layperson. Although it is not an explicitly religious text, this book dramatically changed my life and ministry. Gordon, Britton, and Page claim it will take approximately forty-seven minutes to read the book cover to cover. An hour later (I’m a slow reader), the authors convinced me of the power of a single word.
As an alternative to New Year’s Resolutions, the book encourages readers to select a word as a focus for the year. When I first read this book, I was serving as a youth pastor, and I saw an opportunity to create a process of spiritual discernment for my students as they began a new year. I thought: “If one word can change your life, then one Word from God can change your life forever.” Here is the process that we used to create a three-week series that was very effective:
Week #1 – Seek (Prayer) [Matthew 6:33]
We had each of the students answer some reflection questions about their life and their relationship with God to help them starting thinking about where to start in choosing a word. For example:
- Where is God at work in your life right now?
- What are the areas of your life where the Holy Spirit is nudging you?
- What character traits would like you like to grow and develop?
Week #2 – Search (Scriptures) [2 Timothy 3:16-17]
We set up OneWord stations where students could spend time learn more about their words and discussing it with others in community. For example:
- Prayer Room – sacred space for prayer and reflection on potential words.
- Bible room – reference resources to study potential words.
- Peer Room – coffeehouse discussion table to bounce ideas off their peers.
- Mentor Room – wise counsel sessions with one of our adult mentors.
Week #3 – Share (Community) [1 Corinthians 12:12,27]
We bought canvases and paint and let students create a piece of art to communicate their OneWord. The first year, we were nervous about whether or not the students (especially the middle school boys) would engage with this exercise…they loved it!
The most powerful thing about the canvases—and really the whole OneWord process—was that the process was so personal and communal. Although everyone was participating in the same exercises, no OneWord was the same. Each student was able to express their word in a way that was unique to them.
Now, serving as the Pastor of Discipleship & Lead Pastor of Modern Worship at our church, we are gearing up for a sermon series in January based on the process of OneWord. We have Sunday school classes, small groups, and other teams that have embraced the OneWord vision, ready to partner with our youth ministry in this discernment process.
So, if you are considering a class, sermon series, small group focus, youth or children’s program, or just something to do with your family as you start the new year, I would highly recommend OneWord — it just might change your life forever.