Thanksgiving is still a few weeks away, but my social media feed is filled with pictures of friends setting up Christmas trees, throwing away their pumpkins, and crossing off the details on their holiday shopping lists. It would be hypocritical of me to act like I’m not thinking ahead as well. I just finished ordering Christmas cards for work, sent the calendar invitation to my team for Christmas brunch, and possibly had my eye on a new Christmas sweatshirt that says, “Merry and Bright.”
Planning is part of what leaders do. It’s a little in their DNA. My 2023 calendar is already set in many ways, and in my world, 2024 is already being considered. Leaders should always be thinking of the future and in the language of our organization, charting what’s next.
Believe it or not, the Bible actually has a lot to say about people who planned for the future. Whether they were preparing a feast, constructing a building, or looking ahead to the second coming of Jesus, the people of God understood that vision and planning were the first steps in completing their assignment. I love the words of Jesus in John 14:1-3 when He told His disciples, “Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, so that where I am you may be also.” Jesus is preparing an eternal dwelling place for you and me. That’s some long-range planning I can get excited about!
And while I know that James warns in James 4 that our lives are like a vapor and we should live daily as the Lord wills, planning is as essential as listening to Christmas music. So, as you pull out the ornaments and untangle the lights, consider your ministry plans for the new year. The more you plan now, the less stressed you’ll be when you turn over the calendar to 2023. As a helpful guide, here are some things to consider:
Plan Bible studies for the New Year.
You are probably finished with fall Bible studies, but it’s not too late to let the women in your church know what you have planned next year. Make a checklist of things you can do now, such as securing rooms through your church’s calendar system, purchasing study books ahead of time, and enlisting any volunteers you might need. If you offer childcare, don’t wait until the last minute to spring this on your preschool ministry. Can’t decide what to study next year? Check out the Lifeway Women’s digital catalog filled with all kinds of resources.
Communication is key.
If you want more women involved next year, consider how the message is getting to them. What are the normal avenues for communication in your church? Worship guides, pre-roll slides before services, email newsletters, and social media are all various ways you can make sure your message is heard. Don’t forget that women probably need to hear about something at least seven times before it begins to sink in. Communication is a process, and it can take several weeks or months to get the message across. Remove old signage from the fall and replace it now with a calendar of what’s coming in the spring. Women are busy, so give them plenty of time to mark their calendars.
Plan spring events.
You probably won’t have all the details in place, but now is a good time to consider the spring calendar and secure dates for any special events you want to plan. Whether it’s hosting a worship night or going on a retreat, it’s time to make sure you have places secured for the new year. It’s also a great time to check out the Lifeway Women events happening in 2023. If there’s one in your area, make sure women are aware of what’s being offered or plan a destination getaway to see your favorite Bible teachers. There‘s even an Alaskan cruise with Steven Curtis Chapman that’s worth checking out!
Secure team meetings.
If your ministry team is already in place, go ahead and plan for your monthly meetings. Or maybe it’s time to enlist some new team members. Now is a good time to make the invitation and let them pray over the holidays about their involvement. Consider ways you want to train your team in the coming year, whether that’s attending a Lifeway training event, watching a webinar, or going through a book together. This is also a great time to celebrate your team, so consider a small get-together to thank them for what they’ve done in the past year. Small gifts, such as a Scripture journal or baked goods, are simple ways you can thank your team and encourage them to be involved next year.
Take time to purge.
There’s usually a bit of a lag after Christmas and before the New Year kicks off, so consider if this is a good time to purge a few things that might be lingering from past studies or events. Donate unused Bible studies to someone who can use them. Throw away those artificial flowers that have been lingering around since 1999. If you’re a leader who finds it hard to throw things away, bring a buddy who is good at purging out the old and can be brutally honest about decorations that are taking up space in a church closet.
Above all, prepare your heart as you wind down this year and prepare for the next. Set aside time to reflect on God’s faithfulness and goodness from the past year. And don’t lose sight of the reason we celebrate this time of year.
Kelly is the Manager of Magazines/Devotional Publishing and Women’s Ministry Training for Lifeway Christian Resources. She is the author of Ministry to Women: The Essential Guide to Leading Women in the Local Church and contributor to the Lifeway Women’s Bible, as well as the Lifeway Women Advent and Easter studies. In addition, she is the co-host of the MARKED podcast for Lifeway Women. She has a Master of Theology degree from Gateway Seminary and is currently pursuing her Doctorate in Ministry degree.