The sanctuary always seems a bit bare in the new year.
The Christmas greenery has been taken down and stowed away. The Advent Wreath is gone, the Christmas banners have been taken down. After all the celebration of Advent and Christmas, the sanctuary seems bare. Like a newborn baby. Or, a clean slate.
It’s over. The joy, the activity, the hubbub, the carols, the food, the “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays,” the candlelight services, the kids and grandkids visiting – it’s over. And mid-January is setting in.
A new year lies before you, with some amount of wonder and anticipation. You have an idea of what your church could accomplish in the next twelve months, and you’re ready to get started. So where to begin?
And not the kind of intercessory prayer where we ask God for help, but the kind of deep listening prayer where we let God speak to us. The pastor should pray, lay leaders should pray. Why not involve the whole congregation in a special prayer emphasis in the first weeks of the year?
Ask the important questions of each other in your congregation. What is our calling as a church? Where do we feel that God has gifted this particular congregation? Where do we feel the most excitement or the potential for new ministry? Bounce ideas off each other and see where the Spirit leads.
The Holy Spirit
The Spirit pleads with us, with sighs and groans too deep for words. The Spirit often speaks to us in ways that words cannot contain – art, music, emotion, dance. “Listen” to the Holy Spirit’s calling through non-verbal means.
In all three ways, ask your church this question: what would bring a new excitement to your church this year? I have a friend whose church is adding new families with children to their number. Sunday mornings are livelier as children and Sunday School leaders squeeze into the available space. On their agenda this year: enhancing and expanding Sunday School areas to accommodate the influx of children. They don’t want to risk slowing the growth they are experiencing. What a wonderful problem to have!
Spirit-filled excitement (and by Spirit, I mean Holy Spirit of course!) is what the church is all about – it’s an ace up our sleeves. “The same Spirit who inspired the prophets and apostles” is “everywhere the giver and renewer of life” and is “creating and renewing the church of Jesus Christ.” Aim for that sense of Spirit-filled excitement, and you’ll find the Spirit coming alongside you and your church.