In a few days, 2021 will be in the history books. We will march, or meander, into the long-anticipated new year.

The way we start 2022 will influence our leadership and our institutions. Experienced leaders recognize that having clear objectives for the future is one of the primary tools for measuring your success. This is the reason we commonly set goals.

The goal-setting process usually begins by reviewing past accomplishments. How many people joined our church? Did the offerings increase or decrease? Do we have more volunteers now than we did a year ago? We look back on what we achieved and then set the bar higher going forward.

But these are unusual times. Can anything that happened during the past 18-20 months possibly prepare us for the next 12 months? We probably need to ask different questions as we cross the threshold into this new year.

A question that is particularly relevant for the current moment is, “What did we learn last year?” Before we congratulate ourselves for what we accomplished, let’s cull the lessons we can glean from 2021’s extraordinary experiences. The membership may have increased or decreased. Do we know why? If financial contributions ticked upward during one of the most economically volatile periods in recent years, what could that tell you about your congregation?

Before you set new goals for the year, it may be helpful to sit with a group of high schoolers to ask what they think about church after months of virtual Sunday School. You could discover insights that help you reimagine disciple-making in your community. Spend a few hours with small groups of lay leaders or new members to discern the new ministry opportunities that might be emerging in your church.

Before you relaunch the 2019 slate of programs, ask what you are learning about what people need from the church right now. As Jesus taught us when he asked a man “Do you want to be whole?”, starting with the right question can make all the difference in the world. 


In praise of questions

By David L. Odom

Before you go…

When I recently reread Philippians 3:10, where the Apostle Paul writes, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection…” two words, “I want,” leaped off the page. Paul knew what he wanted. Have you taken the time to ask for what you want?

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a leader with more than enough to do. And someone is going to ask you to do more. Before you give them an answer, give yourself permission to ask what you want to do. You can’t do everything, so I hope that while you are asking good questions to keep your ministry on track, you’ll ask yourself this one very important question: “What do I want?” The right question makes a difference.

You can always reach me and the Alban Weekly team at Happy New Year to you and yours!

Prince Rivers

Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity

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