I love the New Year for the sense of freshness and potential it brings.
I write new year’s goals, and I take time to do personal inventory and planning for the year. (The Stewarding Life Planner is the resource I developed for myself and our staff along these lines. It is available here.)
But as a pastor, I love the new year for the freshness it brings not just to me, but to our church family collectively. This is one of the reasons I look forward to the first Sunday of the New Year when I present to our church family our new theme for the year.
This is a theme that I have typically chosen in June (sometimes July) and have spent months already developing it in staff training, calendar preparation, and, most importantly, sermon development from the passage on which it is based.
However, if you’re a pastor reading this in December and have not yet developed a theme for next year, it’s not too late.
Below are the considerations I work through in this process.
1. Get alone with God.
As I’ve mentioned, I do this in the mid-summer, often right after our Spiritual Leadership Conference. (As you’re looking toward next year’s calendar, you may want to schedule this into your summer or early fall.)
I have very few friends who have pastored the same church nearly thirty-three years or a mega church for nearly twenty-five years. I need counsel, but I especially need the mind of God. So I schedule some time away to get alone with God and seek His Word for direction. I find that it can be difficult to hear God’s direction for long-range planning in the midst of daily ministry noise. And choosing an annual theme for our entire church is not something I want to do flippantly or quickly.
The selection of this theme will create a spiritual emphasis that our church will preach, teach, sing, and focus on all year long. I believe it is vital then that I spend quantity, quality time with God in prayer and Scripture reading when choosing this theme.
2. Consider the spiritual emphasis need of your church.
Every church is at a different point of spiritual development, and what is a current need for our church may not be for another church. Your church is unique; the needs of your people are specific, and the desire of God for your church is specific.
Additionally, you may have a particular ministry focus that needs to be emphasized throughout the year such as soulwinning, building or construction, missions giving, family development, or spiritual maturity. Simply ask the Lord in prayer to lead you to the right emphasis in His Word.
3. Seek God’s Word for a scriptural theme.
You cannot go wrong having a theme that comes directly from the Scripture. Every theme for the Lancaster Baptist Church has been chosen directly from a passage of Scripture, which also becomes the theme verse. (Click here for a list of themes we’ve used over the past thirty-two years with the Scripture passage for each.)
You will know when God places the right theme on your heart. He will make it clear because He will first captivate you with the truth. God will desire to use you in teaching, preaching, promoting, and challenging His people with this theme all year long, so you can expect that He will do a great work in your life through it first.
4. Schedule major spiritual emphasis with your theme in mind.
After you have chosen your theme, you must begin seeking God’s leading in how to apply that theme to various aspects of the Christian life and the growth of your church family. (This is the primary reason I prefer to choose this theme months before the new year.)
For instance, you may choose to emphasize the family in a preaching series. How could you apply the new theme to family life? You will probably choose a season in your church year to emphasize giving and stewardship. How can you develop your theme in relation to giving? You may have a particular season when you re-emphasize soulwinning and outreach. How does the new theme tie to this?
You will be shocked at how God will quickly tie your seasonal focus to the theme that He has placed upon your heart. Develop your whole year with this new theme in mind.
From there, plan a time to present this theme to your church. We used to do this on Vision Night, but in recent years, we have expanded this to Vision Sunday, with both the morning and the evening services being saturated in the new theme.
Our church’s Vision Sunday for 2019 falls on January 6, and I’m so excited to share this year’s theme with our church family!
These services will be live streamed at lbclive.tv. The morning services will be at 8:30 and 11:00 PST, and the evening service will be at 5:00.