Starting the Year Poised for Growth


Christmas and New Year’s are just behind us and Lent is on its way!  Consequently, there is plenty to do. But thanks to the generosity of a lot of great mentors, here are some things I’ve found helpful to do in the first quarter that reap dividends throughout the year.

Goal Setting with Staff and Leaders

Focus is essential to fruitfulness. Discrete and measurable goals help facilitate such focus. Ask staff and key church leaders to develop five goals for the new year. Each goal should explicitly connect to your mission statement. Each goal should also have some quantitative measure of success. Then, for each goal, ask each leader to break down the goal into five to ten critical tasks. Each task should have a completion date. This will help them and you monitor progress. Finally, sit down with them to finalize the goals and plans.

“Behind-the-scenes” tasks are critical for an effective year in ministry. Get a start now on these key catalysts so that you will end the year amazed at how Christ is using your church to reach new people.

You may be wondering why this would be done early in the year. Isn’t that too late? My experience is that many of us are just too busy in the fall with budgets, lay leadership recruitment, fall program wrap-up, and Christmas to give goal setting meaningful thought. I recommend doing it early in the year, after the budget is finalized, but the main thing is that you do it sometime each year.

Lay Leadership Success

Great leaders are not identified, vetted, tested and trained overnight. The first quarter is a time to provide training to new leaders while also developing future leaders. For example, work with each group to select a vice chair to also receive training. This is your opportunity to get them in the loop and to evaluate them for future leadership potential. Do they come to meetings? Do they engage and initiate action? Do they volunteer for tasks? Do they follow through? These are all great clues to identify someone God may be raising up for leadership.

Stewardship Planning

I’ve learned not to wait until the fall to do stewardship planning. It is better to begin planning in the spring even if the stewardship campaign is in the fall. Recruit a team leader. Choose an approach. Ask your team leader to recruit a team from a list of people with a demonstrated commitment to giving. Recruit a guest speaker if needed. Make a timeline. Having all of this finished before summer will make the fall program season so much easier. It will also allow you and others to get creative about how you might use multimedia, social media, interviews, etc., to enrich the campaign. If you wait until the last minute, invariably you will do a rerun of last year’s effort. It takes time to pray it through carefully while also looking for creative ways to enhance this critical spiritual experience.

Sermon Planning

We strategically plan sermon series campaigns to coincide with times of the year when people are most likely to visit a church. When school begins again in August and January are two great examples of times when you should consider doing what Adam Hamilton calls a “fishing expedition” type sermon series. It is designed to attract non-religious or nominally religious people to church by addressing a universal concern or issue that all people face. These types of series attract visitors because they are perceived as highly relevant and “non-churchy.” Your task is to use these opportunities to address the topic in a helpful manner while also sharing the gospel and how the gospel provides answers to the issue at hand. Examples might include a marriage series, finances, parenting or tough questions.

But sermon planning early in the year is not for the upcoming year. It is for the following year! Why plan them now for 2015? To advertise these series effectively while limiting costs takes time. Having time to plan effective use of advertising on Facebook or Twitter also takes time. When you plan in advance, you have time to create organic buzz, use social media platforms, access conventional advertising outlets while also giving musicians and other worship leaders time to plan skits, props, special music, and videos. More time usually translates into a better worship experience.

I am convinced that these “behind-the-scenes” tasks are critical for an effective year in ministry. Get a start now on these key catalysts so that you will end the year amazed at how Christ is using your church to reach new people. In my experience, lack of fruitfulness is not so much a reflection on the Spirit as it is on how wisely we invest our time and effort as leaders of the church.

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About Author

Wade Griffith is pastor of Grace United Methodist Church, formerly Liberty Crossing UMC, in Birmingham, Alabama.

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Discovering God’s Future for Your Church

Discovering God’s Future for Your Church is a turn-key tool kit to help your congregation discern and implement God’s vision for its future. The resource guides your church in discovering clues to your vision in your history and culture, your current congregational strengths and weaknesses, and the needs of your surrounding community. The tool kit features videos, leader’s guides, discussion exercises, planning tools, handouts, diagrams, worksheets, and more. Learn more and watch an introductory video now.