By Eddie Pipkin

Joy of the season to you all!  And here’s hoping you are taking a few days off, lounging about, bloated with baked goodies, enjoying friends and family (and not fishing too many newly gifted drones out of too many trees).  And I definitely hope you are not working.  But since you have apparently decided to catch up on email, I am honoring that decision by adding a little fun to the blog by reimagining a classic holiday tune for you: “The 12 Days of Christmas,” with all-new, whimsical ministry-focused lyrics, and maybe — just maybe — a few potential resolutions worked in along the way for application in 2019.

The history of the song “The 12 Days of Christmas” makes for an interesting read.  Originally penned in 1780, it exists in a number of variations based on region, and it has been recorded in dozens (if not hundreds) of versions – if you’re like me, you’ll fondly remember the muppets and John Denver.)  The “12 Days” lends itself particularly well to creative manipulation – there’s even a Christmas workout, good luck! – and parodies galore. There is also a Christmas Price Index, which is an accounting (since the mid-60s) of what it would cost to purchase all of the gifts mentioned in the song – this year’s haul would be $39,094.93.

And, of course, from the perspective of the liturgical calendar, the 12 days of Christmas start on Christmas and continue through Epiphany, meaning the timing is right to sing this song now!

So, here for your entertainment and potential enlightenment, is my ministry version:

On the first day of Christmas, my true love sent to me . . .

  • A clearly articulated vision for ministry.

On the second day of Christmas, my true love sent to me . . .

  • 2 well-run meetings based on a clear/understandable agenda.

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me . . .

  • 3 new ideas for connecting with the surrounding community.

And to save a little time and space, we’ll skip to the 12th day:

On the 12th day of Christmas, my true love (who is obviously Jesus) sent to me . . .

  • 12 empowered volunteers.
  • 11 currently updated web pages.
  • 10 interactive social media strategies.
  • 9 hospitality initiatives that made people feel more like part of the congregational family.
  • 8 creative uses of physical spaces.
  • 7 ways to reinforce the Sunday message with opportunities for participation, response, and deeper study.
  • 6 ways of providing feedback on your ministries, so people can raise issues and share ideas as easily as possible.
  • 5 golden retrievers (used in that awesome new pets-visiting-shut-ins ministry you started as part of your initiative to practice entrepreneurial ministry by giving a green light to people with passionate outreach ideas that align with your clearly articulated vision from back on day 1).
  • 4 calling (or texting or emailing) moments during the day just to catch up with folks.
  • 3 new community engagement ideas.
  • 2 well-run meetings.
  • [BIG FINISH] And a clearly-articulated mi – ni – stry – vi – sion!

That would be quite a gift list.  To be in possession of all of these things would be to check off many of the boxes for what it takes to make successful ministry.  They are topics we write about and train congregations in throughout the year.  If you’re looking for a ministry resolution for 2019, perusing that list would be a good place to start.

Here are some ideas for how to approach a get-‘er’-done strategy for positive momentum in the new year:

  • Start small to think big! Pick one thing off the list above (or the list of your own needs and priorities) and work that one problem with fervor until you’re seeing progress, and then you can move onto something else.  Rather than being overwhelmed by the many options for improvement, pick something manageable and tackle it.
  • Divvy up the resolutions! Give a different resolution (target area for improvement) to each of your team leaders.  They can solicit help from others on the team as they need it, but they will have ownership for showing progress in their assigned area.  This distributes the workload, sets the tone for some friendly competition, and creates a natural format to inspire one another.
  • Pick a “non-resolution.” For yourself or your team, as you are reviewing the many places you could choose to focus your efforts, pick one area on which to officially give yourself a pass for 2019.  Just agree to push worrying about that one area back for at least a year and make it one less thing to worry about or fret over in your meetings.
  • Let someone else pick for you. Here’s a great idea!  If you lead a staff or a group of volunteers, begin 2019 by asking them to get together to pick one resolution FOR YOU for the coming year.  What one thing would they identify for you to concentrate on that would most empower them or relieve them of stress?  By using this strategy, you are giving them a gift – you are listening to their priorities and responding in a meaningful way – and they are probably very good judges of identifying the greatest need and the greatest potential impact of your focused energies.  This is a bold idea (which is another benefit of it – it identifies you as a bold thinker and expresses your confidence in your ministry partners).

Do you do resolutions (personally or as a ministry leader)?  Share some stories of the way intentional focus in the new year has resulted in change and success (or how it has stalled out).  Were there ways in which you would have changed my song lyrics for “The 12 Days of Ministry”?  Write your own for your own context (this is another great staff exercise, using a whimsical approach to identify priorities and opportunities for the coming year).

Happy 2019!  We wish you blessings and success!