Church Resolutions for a New Year
The holidays are here and we are counting down the days to a brand new year. A new year is a beautiful gift; a chance to turn over a new leaf, to forge a new trail, to make important changes. We are all familiar with the practice of making new year’s resolutions in our personal lives, but this is also a good opportunity for our churches. As church and ministry leaders, what resolutions are we making as we get ready for the coming year?
Productivity experts encourage us to think through the changes we’d like to see and take the time to write down our goals for the new year. Many rely on the SMART method, with the acronym to remind us that our goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. But before we begin crafting specific goals, we would be wise to take a step back and take stock of our current situation. God may be calling us continue building and doing more of what we’ve done in the past year. Or God may call us to change direction. Before you join with your leadership team to set congregational goals for the new year, find some quality time for prayerful reflection and discernment. Ask God what areas and practices should continue and grow, and which areas are in need of change. Here are some questions to get you started.
How well does your church welcome the community? Does your community see your doors as wide open, or have you erected barriers that keep people out? Do church members want to bring their friends, or are there reasons they don’t feel comfortable inviting their friends? Jesus beckons all to come. Recommit to the radical invitation of Jesus.
Whose voice is heard in your congregation? Do you hear from a wide variety of people in your worship services and other corporate gatherings, or are there groups of people who are left out? Think about all of the different types of people who can be represented even in one worship service. Strive to incorporate people of different ages, races, genders, education levels, social classes, etc. All Christians have been called to preach the gospel. Recommit to be a community that hears the voices of all God’s people.
Do you find space to acknowledge and honor the full range of life experiences? Think about all of the life stages that might be represented in your pews on any given Sunday. Some people have bustling family lives, while others live alone. Some have jobs that keep them occupied, while others are retired or unemployed, either voluntarily or involuntarily. Some are happily coupled while others are in unhappy marriages, divorced, or longing to find a loving partner. Some are busy, while others wish they had more to do. Do you celebrate milestones that include a wide variety of members? Do you honor all different types of life events? Recommit to verbally acknowledging and honoring the variety of life stages present.
Are you cultivating leaders? Do members have a wide variety of opportunities to take on leadership roles? Are they empowered to teach and preach, to share musical and artistic gifts, to dream up new outreach ideas, and are they given the tools to implement those ideas? Recommit to being a church that is continually growing and empowering new leaders.
Does your congregation aggressively protect the vulnerable? What are you doing to look after the orphans and widows who come through your doors? How are children protected? Who are the weaker among you—physically, financially, socially? Do you have practices and policies that keep these people safe? Recommit to being a place of safety and refuge.
Is the gospel at the center of your faith community? Are you focused on teaching Jesus in everything you do? Paul’s words to the earliest churches are just as instructive for us today: “I passed on to you as most important what I also received: Christ died for our sins in line with the scriptures, he was buried, and he rose on the third day in line with the scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4). Are you focused on celebrating and sharing the life and love of Jesus Christ in as many ways and places as possible, or are you becoming distracted by many competing cares and concerns? Recommit to being a Christ-centered community in all the various ways that is manifested.
Have you dared to dream big dreams? Can you envision the future energized by a sense of holy imagination? Remember that God is able to do immeasurably more than all you could ask or imagine. Recommit to being a dreaming community, because nothing is impossible with God.
Finally, are you known for your love? Is your congregation committed to speaking lovingly to each other and about each other, no matter how difficult, frustrating, or overwhelming the subject matter? Recommit to being a loving community.
Reflect on your current practices. Listen for the leading of the Spirit. Then prayerfully set goals for the future. The church we see in the Bible never ran like a well-oiled machine. On the contrary, it was a ragtag bunch who believed passionately in the risen Savior and courageously loved their neighbors. Their new year’s resolutions probably looked something like this:
And over all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. The peace of Christ must control your hearts—a peace into which you were called in one body. And be thankful people. The word of Christ must live in you richly. Teach and warn each other with all wisdom by singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Whatever you do, whether in speech or action, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus and give thanks to God the Father through him. (Col. 3:14-17)
May the Lord bless us as we prayerfully and courageously enter into a new year—led, empowered and energized by the Spirit of God.