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November Activate Post: How [not] to make a fresh start in January


Google “how to make a fresh start in January,” and you will see plenty of articles suggesting how to start the new year off right. Suggestions include giving your house a deep clean, taking up a new hobby, or scheduling that doctor’s visit you have been putting off. One list I came across suggested that you start the new year by updating your DVR or Hulu queue!

Seasonally, January is a time that is made for fresh starts. It’s a natural time after the holidays to create new schedules, engage in healthier eating patterns, and contemplate dreams of what the future could hold.

As a church, we understand the natural rhythms of our culture. We can provide a spiritual perspective to the fleeting alternatives the culture suggests for making a fresh start.

As a new season begins, we can be intentional about how to become more Christ-like. We can search our hearts to know and understand how we are doing as disciples of Jesus Christ. I know of no better means of discipleship than serving on mission.

Something happens in the hearts of a congregation on January 2nd. It’s as if the sleeping giant awakens, and the search for something more significant emerges. The outreach activities that normally dot the landscape of November and December have come and gone. The family time, parties, and nights spent around a fireplace watching movies have passed. We reset ourselves to get back to normal life. Kids go back to school, and everybody has a new resolve for organization, healthier eating habits, and exercise. But deep down in our hearts, there is a hope that this year our walk with God will be more real, more transformative, and deeper than before. The same is true for your congregation.

It could be tempting, as a mission leadership team, to put activities on hold until after the holidays. But consider what could happen if you use these next two months to cast vision and be prepared for January 2nd. You have the opportunity to create a mission heart in people that beats the entire year. Make plans now for January service opportunities. Have a list of your short-term trips ready to be revealed in January so people can pray about which trip they will participate in. Cast a vison for what God is doing in your church and around the world, and communicate to your congregation how each person can be a part of it.

I know it is temptating in the midst of this busy Thanksgiving and Christmas season to have a wait-until-January-to-plan mode. But a little planning now will set you up for greater success in connecting with your congregation’s heart to make a new start in 2020. And being used of God in transforming lives is a much more fulfilling option than organizing your silverware drawer!

Rhonda Dahlin serves as the director of church culture.