You have influence.

Whether you're the senior pastor at a local church, or cleaning toilets at the Burger King on Warner Road and 48th Street, you have the power and potential to influence those around you. It doesn't mean you're ALWAYS influencing - but the opportunities are there.

For me, I want to take full advantage this year of those opportunities to influence. The reality is that what we're doing now is a chance to create change for the future. So this year, I'm inviting you to be intentional with me about being influential.

But like most things, it's not just going to happen. So here's the plan - five ways that you can be more influential in 2012:

1. Make room on your calendar. If you know me well enough, you know that I'm on a constant mission to simplify my life. With that comes the difficult task of cleaning up my calendar to make room for other things. Have any current commitments that it's time to move on from? Identify two or three areas to focus more on in 2012, then say goodbye to the rest. It may be difficult to leave those commitments behind, but in the end you will find more time to say yes to opportunities to volunteer, serve, and spend more time with the people and things that matter most.

2. Invest in someone younger than you. Whether you're 83 or 23, someone will fill your shoes one day. There are people within the "next generation" all around you who are hungry to learn and grow. Find someone younger than you to invest your time and attention in. It could be someone who just started out in your department at work, or a college student at your church who needs someone to disciple them. Set aside a weekly meeting over coffee to talk, listen, and encourage them in their current life stage.

3. Find a mentor. John Maxwell is famous for saying, "leaders are learners." No matter what stage of life you're currently swimming through, there is someone else who can influence YOU so that you have the potential to influence others. Whether it's a spiritual mentor, or someone to help you navigate some difficult business decisions - find someone who you respect and spend time learning from what they have to offer.

4. Call someone each week. Not an email. Not even a text message. Pick up the phone once a week and commit 10 minutes to calling someone. How is that new job? What do they need prayer for? A phone call can go a long way in a world that's lost that personal touch through technology. Just make sure they know you're calling because you care!

5. Schedule a regular "heart check-up." Our heart is the grid in which everything we do, say, think, and feel is expressed. Proverbs even describes the heart as the "wellspring of life." But busy schedules, stress, and emotional baggage tend to cloud our hearts, which then become an enemy of our influence. Set aside some time for yourself (and ONLY yourself) to do a heart check-up. Make sure your heart is in a healthy place - ready and willing to influence and be there for the people around you.

Where do you have the most opportunities to influence? Are you taking full advantage of those?

2012 could potentially be your most influential year yet. Take some time, make a plan, and get after it! You won't regret it.

• Colin Noonan is director of Youth Ministries at Mountain View Lutheran Church in Ahwatukee. You can follow his trail of influence on Twitter @cnoonan3, or keep the conversation going at

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