What can I say about this year, that hasn’t already been said?
This year has been one we’ll always remember, even though it’s one we’d all rather forget. Maybe that’s why I’m in such a hurry to move on to next year.
Of course, this year hasn’t been all bad. We’ve had some things to celebrate in our church, but if I’m being honest I’d be perfectly happy never having a year like this one again.
How many of you feel the same way?
Pastoring is hard enough without having to deal with a global pandemic alongside a very contentious election.
So, let’s get ready to move forward to a brand new year that’s hopefully filled with more ups than downs.
One of the things that I find helpful to do around this time every year is start asking some questions that will help prepare me for the new year.
The first set of questions I ask to help me evaluate the effectiveness of the ministries in our church and the second set of questions help me evaluate my own effectiveness.
Let’s start with the church questions.
1. What are we currently doing that is producing fruit?
What ministries have been effective? Where is spiritual growth happening? Create a list of these ministries and the fruit they have produced over the past year.
2. What are we currently doing that is not producing fruit?
What ministries have not been effective? Where has spiritual growth not been happening? Create a list of these ministries and the time and resources the church is putting into them.
Now, the most important part of this exercise is your ability to be honest with yourself. Something that pastors often struggle with. Pastors have this unique ability to find the positive in everything. That’s a good trait to have sometimes, but it’s not helpful when asking these questions.
If the church has been paying a student pastor for the past three years to disciple the same 8 students, you can probably do better than that. It’s not being fruitful.
If you do a vacation bible school every year, just like every other church in your community, and you have more kids that week than all year long, yet none of those families ever start attending your church, is it really worth it?
If your Sunday school attendance has dropped year after year, maybe it’s time to try small groups or at least switch out your Sunday school teachers.
The goal of these questions is for your church to find out what is working and what’s not so that you can stop doing what’s not working, and start doing more of the things that are producing fruit.
Now, for the second part of the exercise, we turn our focus away from the church and on to ourselves.
We need to ask ourselves these questions.
1. What do I need to stop doing?
What am I spending time doing that’s not producing fruit? The best way to do this is to write down everything you do over the course of a month, and then place those things in order from most to least fruitful. Chances are you can probably eliminate 20% of the things that you’re currently doing, because they’re just not that beneficial.
2. What do I need to start doing?
Once you eliminate the things that haven’t been producing fruit, you can then spend time creating a list of new things to start doing. You may have never been active on social media before, but this year has highlighted the need for you to be more involved in producing social media content. You may feel like the men are becoming disengaged at your church, so you want to start doing a small group just for men next year. You get the idea.
Again, it’s very important that you’re honest with yourself during this process. Just because you enjoy doing something doesn’t mean it’s the most effective use of your time and vice versa.
If you’ll do this each year, you’ll find you’re more fruitful because you’re consistently pruning the vines that aren’t producing fruit, so that the vines that are producing end up being even more fruitful.