By Eddie Pipkin

December 18th, 2017

I thought I would share my Christmas wish list this year (since it’s not too late to get my Christmas wishes delivered if you choose “express” delivery NOW—hahaha).  Just kidding about the express delivery, because I definitely don’t need anymore stuff to fill up my stocking, but having spent the year thinking about ministry and how we lead it, I do have some wishes you ministry leaders can help me fulfill in the new year soon to begin.  In fact, I’m offering up 12 ministry Christmas wishes, one for each of the 12 Days of Christmas!  Ho-ho-hope you enjoy:

Wish #1: That we would talk about millennials (and other “young adults”) less, and talk to them more. Enough with committees and strategy groups sitting around tables and formulating plans for what “those millennials and gen xers” need.  Let’s just put them in charge of some stuff.  Let’s invite them to be in control for a bit.  What do they think?  What are their priorities?  Let’s make them partners (and even leaders who can teach us a thing or two with new passion) rather than just customers to whom we are marketing.

Wish #2: That we would get out into our communities more often.  Let’s take a day off from our property once a month to get out into the neighborhood!  Let’s talk to people beyond our walls.  Let’s invite community leaders to share what gaps we can fill in making the community stronger.  Let’s do more prayer walks; attend more community forums; invite more community leaders to come to our facility and share their priorities; help out with more community events; support more community outreach that isn’t owned by us.

Wish #3: That we would stop taking people’s financial support for granted.  Let’s explain clearly how those financial gifts are used.  Let’s be completely transparent about our budgets, making information readily available and inviting questions and curiosity.  Let’s remind people how important their support is to us (not just try to make them feel guilty for not supporting our priorities at the level we feel is appropriate).  Let’s tell more stories about how the ways they serve and the generosity they share makes a real difference.

Wish #4: That we would get the basics right on our web sites.  Oh, this is one of those wishes that seems so simple when we state it out loud (like can’t we all just get eat a little healthier?) but is in reality one of those unobtainable miracle wishes (like all I really want for Christmas is world peace!).  If we could just make sure that none of our web pages are six months out of date and that we all had a working events calendar, I could lay my head down on the pillow and sleep with the sugar plums a’dancin’.

Wish #5: That we would help everybody learn how simple it is to use a smartphone for posting to social media.  This is, for me, one of the most puzzling gaps in ministry communications.  With millions of people walking around posting their life events on social media, we struggle to make that happen for the church community.  My wish is that we can help people see the power of taking a couple of pictures or shooting a little video at every event and taking a minute to post those up on social media outlets and websites.  My wish is that more people will feel connected to our ministries than ever (even when they aren’t physically in attendance).

Wish #6: That we would stop pursuing “fauxthenticity.”  There’s a big difference between authenticity and fauxthenticity.  The first is embracing the unique characteristics of the community where we serve and celebrating that identity, giving people a comfortable place to feel safe and valued, to share without judgment and let God work in ways that feel natural and unscripted.  The second is a guy or gal in distressed jeans and a brick wall backdrop using manipulative emotional interactions and hipster-speak to lead us to carefully scripted responses (apologies if this is your actual authentic community, and I just ridiculed it).  Find the heart of your community and live that out.  Don’t live out somebody else’s concept of what is authentic.

Wish #7: That we would get outside more.  I am wishing for more walking meetings, outside meetings, nature retreats, worship in the wild, outbound adventures, environmental missions, and fire pit gatherings.  The more we are outside together, the more peace we find, the more humility we embrace, and the more the vastness of God’s spirit is revealed.  This is also a great opportunity to tap into a growing “get outside” movement in society at large.  (And turn your phone off for a while once you get there!)

Wish #8: That we would give people a clear discipleship path.  I wish that more churches would be more strategic in establishing a clear pathway for disciples to learn about discipleship.  And once they have a framework in place for helping folks on this journey, I wish they would make it easier for them to find out what the pathway is and get started on it.  And I wish they would provide living, breathing people to help guide the way.

Wish #9: That we would recommend a good book.  Statistics show that more and more reading is shifting from books to social media feeds.  Of course, we know that spiritual growth comes from deep dives into ideas (see wish #10), and so we should be about the business of doing more quality reading ourselves, as well as recommending good reads for our teams and congregants.  “What are you reading right now?” should be a question we ask one another.  (You can answer and leave me a solid recommendation in the comments section!)

Wish #10: That we would pray more.  We talk about praying a lot, but what a change it would make if 2018 became the Year of Prayer.  What if we began and ended every meeting with, not just those perfunctory prayers for guidance that we pray, but sincere, specific prayer that deals explicitly with the issues at hand.  What if we set up prayer teams for our leaders?  What if we stopped in the middle of conversations with hurting people to pray for them right then and there?  How might the wisdom and comfort of God be revealed if we really did “pray without ceasing”?

Wish #11: That churches would start doing more ecumenical things together. That means denominations thinking more as community partners and less as competitors. Joint worship services and fellowship events would be a great way to build goodwill and cross-denominational relationships.  Praying for one another would boost a healthy spirituality, celebrate the presence of the Holy Spirit, and multiply the effectiveness of gifts, talents, and passions to impact the zip codes in which we live.

Wish #12: That we would stop reducing everything to lists.  They are fun.  They are handy.  They are a great way to organize a blog (several ideas, pithily arranged and delineated, just enough of a snack to leave a reader satisfied without feeling bloated).  But for people of faith, there is a real danger in reducing everything to easily digested bites.  The work of faith is difficult and requires diligence and perseverance.  As leaders, we shouldn’t flinch at helping our congregations eat their vegetables and develop a demanding fitness routine (spiritual fitness that is).

Imagine the 2018 we are gong to have when all of my wishes come true!  (I’ve worked so hard to be on the “nice” list this year.)  What wishes for ministry would you add?  Which of my wishes seem bogus?  Share what’s on your heart as you think about your work in the last year and where the successes and challenges have been revealed?  We’d love to hear from you in the comments section, we hope you are taking some time off to recharge with family and friends over the next couple of weeks, and we wish you the peace of Christ and the joy of the season.  Merry Christmas!