10 things to consider at the start of a new year of ministry
Campus pastor, Sawyer Highlands Church
Harriet Tubman (1822–1913) knew God’s leading. She once said, “’Twant me, ’twas the Lord. I always told him, ‘I trust you. I don’t know where to go or what to do, but I expect you to lead me,’ and he always did.” She was a bold and audacious African-American abolitionist in the middle 1800s. She tackled injustice and made a difference that reverberated in history. How did she find her freedom from slavery, free hundreds of slaves and become a nurse and a spy and scout in the Civil War? She followed the Lord.
What could happen this new year if we followed the Lord like Harriet Tubman? The psalmist wrote, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). In what ways might God’s word lead us this year? Here are 10 things the Lord might have you consider as you approach the new year.
1. Celebrate victories
Celebrate what God has done over the past year. Maybe you saw people repent of sin, come to Christ or get baptized. Perhaps you planted a church, raised new leaders and sent out missionaries. That is praiseworthy. Thank the Lord and your people. Encourage them. Send thank you cards, gifts and texts. Celebrate what God has done this year.
Encourage personal reflection as you move into the New Year. Before communion, the Bible says to examine yourself (1 Cor. 11:28). I think before, and at a new year, we should examine ourselves too. If you want a book that helps you reflect, Crafting a Rule of Life, by Stephen Macchia, is a great resource. It offers insightful questions to help define who a person is as an individual and what God is calling him or her to do. Another fantastic and free resource is Donald Whitney’s 10 Questions to Ask at the Start of a New Year.
3. Assess ministries
The new year is a great time to assess your church’s health. Churches are dynamically different from all other organizations. God calls the church the body of Christ and a family of faith. All bodies and families go through ups and downs. How is your ministry doing these days? What areas of ministry can you improve? What are your needs this year? What are your strengths? What are your mission, vision and goals this year?
To know where God wants you to go, you must assess where you are. Converge is there to help. You are not alone. Reach out to Converge this year to talk through how they can help you and your ministry thrive.
4. Plan a retreat
Take your staff or self on spiritual retreats. You can’t give what you don’t have. Schedule time to meet with God, journal, rest and pray. Luke 5:16 tells us Jesus frequently got away to pray. If it was necessary for Jesus, it is necessary for us. Look at your calendar. When can you seek the Lord individually or corporately in the coming year?
One of the great things about a new year is you can offer new opportunities to start new habits. God’s word is better than anything and everything you and your people will read this year (2 Tim. 3:16-17). There are many wonderful reading plans to equip our people to begin the habit of Bible reading. Regardless of which plan you choose, an organized approach helps people read their Bibles. If you fail to plan, your plans will fail.
6. Devote time to prayer
The Bible says we are to pray continually (1 Thess. 5:17). One way to equip our people to pray is to take them through 21 Days of Prayer. At the beginning of the three weeks, at our church, we invite people to put prayer requests on sticky notes all over during the service. Then, for the next 21 days, we meet from 6-7 a.m. to pray together for those requests and more. For those who can’t make that time, we send out a prayer sheet with some helpful instructions on prayer. One year we had a prayer workshop. Some churches do sermon series on prayer, teach a Sunday school class on prayer or have small groups work through a book on prayer.
7. Try exposition
Plan to preach and teach through a whole book of the Bible this year in addition to preaching topically. There is nothing wrong with topical preaching. I do it. Most Christmas and Easter messages are topical. However, there are many benefits to preaching exegetically: It gets your people in their Bibles, it offers them God’s word on Sunday morning over pet issues, and it takes the pressure off you to have to think of the next topic to capture people’s attention. Tackle a book of the Bible this year to help your people grasp the word.
8. Address stewardship
Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21). After Christmas, people tend to be cash strapped. The average U.S. household has about $8,400 in credit card debt. Consumer debt in America is approaching an all-time high of $14 trillion, according to Debt.org. In the new year, Americans will see their credit card statements, and many will barely hold on until they get their tax return. The new year is a perfect time to start a Financial Peace University class or explore the topic of financial stewardship. It can be an outreach to the community and a ministry to your people at the same time. In our church, we have had people come to Christ through a ministry like this.
Think missionally — locally and globally — this new year. The church is the body of Christ on earth (1 Cor. 12:27). We have an opportunity to bless our communities. I love the phrase: We are better together. What can you, as a church, do to impact your community that you can’t do individually this year? How might you minister in such a way that if your ministry were to close its doors this year, the community would miss you? Think locally. Think globally as well. Jesus calls us to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:18-20). Converge has 183 missionaries in 36 countries. That is amazing! What would it take to double that? It is expensive and difficult to support one missionary by yourself. However, together we can pitch in and raise up more missionaries. The opportunities are plentiful, and the workers are few. Learn more about Converge International Ministries.
10. Revel in grace
Revel in the gospel this new year. The apostle Paul called the gospel of first importance (1 Cor. 15:3). Why? Because Christ is the only way to be saved (Acts 4:12). There is no other way to heaven or God (John 14:6). That reality should affect our priorities. Consider how you can grow in your understanding and appreciation of the good news of Jesus Christ this year.
If you’ve already made plans for January, start in February, the summer, fall or the next year. Looking back over this list, ’twasn’t a list or some strategy that we ultimately need this new year, it was and is God and his word. Let us follow him boldly, intentionally and expectantly. Thank you for serving. We are all the better for it.
Rob Nash, Campus pastor, Sawyer Highlands Church
Rob Nash is campus pastor of Sawyer Highlands Church in Sawyer, Michigan. He is the author of Last Words: Seven Sayings from the Heart of Christ on the Cross. Learn more about him at robertjnash.com.