If your spiritual fitness plan for 2018 resembles your physical fitness plan, do you think the results will be any more favorable or less predictable? This is not a trick question, nor should it be a complicated one.

Every pastor and leader intends on growing each year, but not many have a reasonable plan for doing so. If you do not have a spiritual growth/discipleship plan, you are basically winging it.

If you want to grow more mature this year, you will need to get serious about reading your Bible consistently. LifeWay’s largest research project identified eight biblical factors that consistently show up in the life of a maturing believer, the top being Bible engagement. This conclusion was not based on anecdotal evidence, rather the result of asking 7,000 churches and 4,000 individuals about what helps them mature spiritually.

Here are a few suggestions on how to keep growing and reading your Bible throughout the year.

Find a realistic reading plan

The most common excuse for not reading the Bible is “I don’t have time.” Since you will unlikely be less busy in 2018 than you were in 2017, find a plan that will challenge you without overwhelming you.

Last year I used the F-260 reading plan by Replicate Ministries, which is based on five weekly readings of the Bible’s primary passages. For 2018, I have already started using the “Disciple’s Path: The Journey” reading plan created by my friend Matt Morris. It is available on the Youversion App and is my go-to plan for 2018. Here are four other Bible reading plans ranging from 90 days to 3 years. Last month I wrote a blog post specifically to pastors who often ask about balancing sermon preparation and devotional reading: How I Get More Out of the Bible by Reading It Less.

Read and grow with a friend

Spiritual growth takes places in community, not isolation. The success of our New Year’s resolutions is directly tied to who keeps us accountable.

One local pastor I work out with asked me to hold him accountable for a weight loss goal. This morning I recommended to him a calorie counting app. When I meet him at the gym next week, I will ask him how it is working for him.

Discipleship will never happen in isolation.

Read for the love of God

If your goal of spiritual maturity is information rather than transformation, you have set your sights too low.

I’m currently reading Tim Keller’s book, PRAYER: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. In today’s reading he said, “To understand the Scripture is not simply to get information about God. If attended to with trust and faith, the Bible is the way to actually hear God speaking and also to meet God himself.”

Jesus told us that loving God is the most important priority of our lives (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37-38; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27). Journaling has always been a helpful, rewarding way to respond to God’s Word, but to be honest I stink at sticking to it. This year I will attempt to journal inside my Bible for the first time by using Robby Gallaty’s brand new Disciple’s Study Bible. For for a little more money you can get it in leather touch.

Discipleship starts in your heart, not in your home or church. Many of our members will do what we do, so lead by example, then share with them both your successes and struggles. Church leaders can fake it and wing it as good as anyone, but the bill comes due eventually. Erosion is slow and subtle, but inevitable if we do not walk with God daily in His Word.

Pastors, let’s be careful not to open our mouths to speak for God before we’ve first opened our ears to hear from God. If we want to keep growing, our Bibles have to become more than ministry tools to us. ‪

This post originally appeared in LifewayPastors.com. Photo by StockSnap.com.