2021 is here. What now?
2020 was insane. It seemed like every time we got a handle on how to do ministry in this new normal, something would change, and we’d have to pivot for the 43rd time that day. If I never hear the phrase “unprecedented times” again, it will be too soon.
If you’re like most pastors, you’re worn out and not sure how to proceed in 2021. Hopefully you have a sense of the great harvest that’s on the horizon; times of struggle have a way of producing great fruit. But how should you plan for this next year? If you’re struggling to come up with a plan for 2021, read on for a month-by-month plan that will position your ministry to make an impact in the coming year.
January-February: Rest Up & Pray Up
Take the month of January to rest and re-charge your batteries, both physical and spiritual. If you want to make sure that you and your congregation are ready when the opportunity presents itself, take a moment to rest. Normally, the beginning of a new year is a season of new starts and vision casting and the excitement of that blank calendar, but since 2020 was so crazy, give yourself permission to take some time to acknowledge what was lost last year, grieve and lament, and then encourage your people. Thank God for bringing you through the ups and downs and trials and tribulations, worship together with an emphasis on gratitude and magnifying God, and find moments of pause and rest as a congregation.
While you’re resting, turn your focus to prayer. As a staff and leadership team, be praying for God to open the doors for how your church can specifically work within your community to engage with those outside your church. Spend this month in concentrated, dedicated prayer, asking God for 3 things: 1) Opportunities 2) Resources and 3) Favor. Pray for opportunities to build community, meet needs, and spark joy in your local community. Ask God to supply all the resources you need according to His riches in glory. Pray that God gives you supernatural favor with the leaders in your community and the people you’re hoping to reach. And pray for your congregation to be receptive and ready to move. Plan a series of outreach events in the community, on your campus, and online. Your events should build community, meet needs, and bring joy to your neighborhood. Plan to capitalize on the normalizing of daily life once widespread vaccination happens sometime in May/June. Work with local leaders to see how you can help them navigate outstanding needs and challenges.
In February, rally your congregation to a month of prayer. Set aside a time each day to pray together for specific prompts focusing on different needs. Perhaps the first week is prayer for healing, health, first responders, healthcare workers, etc… The second week could be for wisdom for state and local leaders, decision makers, etc.. The third week could be prayers for those who are struggling financially, mentally, and physically. The final week, pray for revival, renewal, and the moving of the Holy Spirit in your community.
March – April: Catch and Release
Hopefully, during the month of February, a love for your community will either be born or will have deepened in your congregation. It’s hard not to love those for whom you persistently pray. During the months of March and April, take every opportunity to share your plans and vision for reaching your community. Explain why it’s important to reach out, and when you think you’ve said it enough, say it again. Use easy-to-remember phrasing that will stick in your congregant’s minds so that they catch the vision and begin to release love, compassion, and joy in their own spheres of influence.
Release your plans for reaching out into your community and build excitement within your congregation for the opportunities that are coming up. Rally your congregation to action and build teams that will bring God’s vision for your church to life.
May – December: Unleash the People
Depending on infection and vaccination rates in your area, it’s possible that by May or June of 2021, we may be reaching herd immunity and life will be returning to normal (or something resembling normal). It’s at this point that you should be executing your first outreach events. I love a good party, so personally, I think your church should plan something that celebrates and thanks first responders and front-line workers. Maybe you offer childcare services and a gift card to a local restaurant so front-line workers can have a night out with their significant other. Depending on what things are looking like at the time, you could have a community carnival or picnic with games. Focus on things that build community and relationships or meet needs. Perhaps you do a backpack drive or cancel medical debt. Remember that back in February you prayed for God to send the resources, so think big. We serve the God with every resource at His disposal.
Keep these events running through the end of 2021. Plan a big Halloween Trunk or Treat carnival and an epic Christmas celebration. Work with your city to be a central sponsor for any events they may plan. Reach out to schools and community groups. Be active and be active often!
The goal, of course, is to build relationships and draw people who are far from Jesus near to Him. By caring for those around you, your church will demonstrate what love looks like. 2020 turned everyone’s life upside down, and more than ever, our world is looking for answers to the existential crisis our lives became. If you make yourself available, you’ll have an amazing opportunity to share that Jesus is the answer.
Because you’ve prayed and sought the Lord’s blessing and favor, I believe you’ll see an incredible harvest in 2021. Seize the opportunity to build disciples, growing both your existing congregation and new believers in knowledge and spiritual maturity. This last step is critical. By capitalizing on this opportunity to develop dedicated disciples of Jesus in your church, you’ll not only affect generational changes in your community, but you’ll begin developing the people who will lead your church in 10-15 years.
2021 is the year of opportunity. Let’s seize it!
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