We’re just a few weeks away from the start of another year. December is a busy time for churches. Your plate is full of holiday worship services, parties, service opportunities, concerts, etc.
But as important as the holiday events are for your church, it’s also a critical time of review as you make plans. So this article is just a reminder of what not to forget in the busyness of December. Make sure you do these five things before diving into 2024.
Review Attendance and Giving Trends
Numbers are your friend. You should never fear knowing the truth about the health of your ministry. The end of the year is a great time to review key numbers for your church. Attendance and giving aren’t necessarily the most important descriptors of church health, but they do matter.
Your church probably looks at overall attendance and giving numbers already. But don’t stop there. Take some time to break those figures down by month so you understand the rhythms of your ministry (such as how weather and season impact both).
If you have access to attendance and giving by age and ethnic group, that can help you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your ministry. If you don’t have access to this data, the end of 2023 is a great time to brainstorm some ways to gather that information in 2024.
It’s also helpful to look at trends toward per capita giving. When you divide your giving by attendance, it helps you understand the giving health of your church, independent of attendance trends.
Survey Your Congregation For Feedback
You probably already realize that you can learn a lot about your church’s ministry priorities from listening to the people you lead. Experienced church leaders have understood this for years. But the larger your church grows, the more difficult it will be to listen to a broad spectrum of your congregation.
So, as you grow, you start needing to be more creative in how you listen. Consider sending out a survey and/or hosting a focus group this month (or early next month). Ask questions about issues that are important to them. Find out what their needs are. Try to understand how they see the ministry of your church.
Doing this can give your church ideas for sermon topics, new ministries you can start, and areas where you may want to refine the operations of your church.
Try to get both quantitative (surveys) and qualitative (listening sessions) data. Quantitative data gives you a broad understanding of what your congregation thinks. Qualitative will help understand the intensity of their opinions. Adding both together will give you a more complete picture.
By the way, consider taking a quick look at what your church believes, too. (This may be easier than you think.) A properly worded survey with just a few questions about doctrinal issues your church finds important can help give you a glimpse into your church’s discipleship needs. Ask these questions over several years, and you’ll begin to see important trends in your church’s discipleship health.
Review Your Technology Needs
Technology changes quickly. That means your needs will probably change quickly, too. At the end of the year, look at both hardware and software, including all the technology you depend upon for your weekend worship service(s) and the hardware and software you use throughout the week to manage the day-to-day needs of the church.
If you’ve never done this, make an exhaustive list of all your tech equipment. Include the model, serial number, and (if possible) the date purchased. This will help you define a schedule for upgrading the equipment.
Spend some time talking to staff members about the software they use. Ask whether they’ve noticed any slowdowns in their workflows related to the software. Because slow workflow costs your church money, consider making necessary upgrades.
Revisit Church Security Procedures
In the wake of several high-profile tragedies in churches in recent years, it’s important churches think through security procedures on at least an annual basis. You always want to stay a step ahead of security risks.
You want to have a written plan for how your congregation will respond to a fire, a medical emergency, severe weather, an active shooter situation, and a missing child scenario. While difficult to think about, these situations could happen during a weekend worship service (or other event throughout the week).
Look at your written procedures and make sure nothing is outdated. Ensure all the positions described in the procedures are staffed. Check that all the contact information within your plans is updated. Clarify that all evacuation routes still work.
Thank Your Volunteers!
Your volunteers are a critical part of your ministry. Your church couldn’t operate without them. Spend some time before the end of the year letting your volunteers know just what they mean to you and your ministry.
Send thank-you cards (or Christmas cards with a thank-you note!) to your volunteers. Be as specific as possible about how they’ve helped your ministry. Let them know you see them and their work for your church!
Consider hosting a Christmas party where you can feed them a nice meal and say thank you in person.
You can also send out a simple gift. Your gift doesn’t need to be expensive; it just needs to be meaningful. Your volunteers don’t expect (nor want) you to break the bank. They want to know that you see their work and you appreciate it.
No matter how you decide to say thank you, tie their service to your mission. Let them know that no matter how much of their work is behind the scenes, it has helped you reach your community.
Make the most of your last few weeks of the year to go into 2024, ready for whatever God puts before you!
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