FRESH IDEAS: Celebrate the New Year at church

INDIANAPOLIS (BP)--Here are three exciting, fresh ideas to bring in the New Year at your church.

RESOLUTIONARY PRAYER MARATHON

Pray in the New Year with a marathon from 6 a.m. to midnight New Year's Eve. Designate multiple prayer sites around the church building so several groups can pray simultaneously, and ask every group in your church to pray together for one hour.

Create a huge chart listing the 18 hours, and let every adult and youth Sunday School class or small group choose a prayer hour. Then ask every other church group to choose a time: church committees, ushers, drama team, A/V team, every different choir or band or praise team, deacons, band, staff, daycare workers, mother's day out teachers, Upward coaches, mission group leaders, etc. Some overlap may occur, but those people can simply choose one or stop by both groups. Doesn't this sound exciting?

Send an e-mail or snail mail to group leaders, confirming their prayer hour and assigned room. Include a copy of the registration and recommitment page they'll receive at the marathon. Each group begins with a Scripture and spends at least the first half hour in prayer seeking God's wisdom and direction for the coming year. Groups spend the closing minutes discussing their goals and recommitments for next year. As they leave, they turn in an attendance sheet for their prayer group, with a list of their New Year "resolutions" for effectively serving God and reaching people next year. For example, a Bible class could set monthly growth goals or specific outreach plans.

The entire church could be invited to return for midnight prayer led by the pastor and a big New Year celebration and snacks.

NEW YEAR MUSIC MARATHON

Sing in the New Year! Recruit 12 capable coordinators to enlist musicians and sound techs for a full hour of Christian music, and then advertise a 12-hour music marathon to bring in the New Year. Begin at noon New Year's Eve and have continuous Christian music until midnight.

Who will sing all this Christian music? Include as many different ensembles, soloists, choirs and musicians as possible. Give an open invitation to your church members to participate individually or by forming a group. Ask everyone who sang in church last year to sing a song. Invite every choir or ensemble in your church, and form new temporary groups to prepare a song or two for the event, such as senior adults, various Bible classes, singles, children, committees, teens, women's Bible class, men's ball team, staff, deacons and wives, a youth band, ushers, and so on. Instrumentalists -- even children -- can offer a Christian song on the program. Include a wide variety of music styles, with every song pointing the listener to God.

To avoid dead time, arrange two platform areas on opposite sides of the stage. A congenial master of ceremonies for each hour could be planned, but should keep chatter and introductions to a minimum and focus the time on praising God. Each half hour may begin with a Scripture or a brief salvation testimony.

The music marathon's audience is God. Each song is given as an offering of praise for His love and the blessing of a New Year. Whether there is one person or hundreds in the pews, the music is an offering to Him alone. Some musicians may invite congregational participation. Listeners are welcome to come and go as they wish, so make personal invitations and exterior signs. Print a "Sing in the New Year" music marathon schedule and distribute it in worship the previous Sunday. Use a sign-in sheet at the door, and assure that guests receive a warm welcome and an invitation to Sunday worship along with their printed program.

The pastor may enjoy introducing the first singer and closing the marathon. Conclude with a final midnight praise song and New Year celebration.

A SCRIPTURAL BEGINNING FOR THE NEW YEAR

It's a life-changing project: Bring in 2011 by reading the New Testament or the entire Bible aloud as a church. It takes about 24 hours to read the New Testament, or you could read the entire Bible in about 72 hours.

When our church read through the Bible, readers ranged from eight to 80 years of age. Just picture it -- there were brand new Christians, long-time believers, teens, children, single adults, students home on break, newlyweds, and senior adults. Some families or committees read together. Youth took some early morning hours during their New Year lock-in.

Create a huge sign-up chart with shifts to cover the time needed for your project. For example, if your church is reading the New Testament aloud, you could begin at noon Dec. 31 and end at noon Jan. 1. If readers complete the New Testament before the 24-hour period, continue by reading Psalms or Proverbs.

Ask every church member or attendee to take a reading shift. Encourage church staff, deacons, teachers and committee leaders to take the lead in participation. Consider using a free online sign-up site for e-registration, too.

Use the church worship area, chapel, or other nice room, and place sign-in pages outside for readers and guests. Set up a microphone and a large print Bible, with a book-tab to show readers where to begin. Make an audio of the reading to share with homebound members.

Print simple instructions for readers. They should state their name and the book of the Bible where they begin reading. When their time is up, they should stop reading at the end of a chapter and step aside for the next reader. If you've purchased a Bible for the reading, they can sign by where they began reading as a long-lasting reminder. Readers should not fret about speed or pronunciation, but just enjoy reading God's Word.

Church members and guests from the community are welcome to come and listen to God's Word anytime during the marathon. Use printed invitations, newspaper advertisement and exterior signs to invite them. A volunteer host can welcome listeners, sign them in, give them a church brochure and personal invitation to Sunday worship, then quietly direct them inside. The reader keeps reading, and silently prays that God will speak to listeners through His Word. What a great way to start the New Year!


Diana Davis is the author of "Fresh Ideas" (B&H Publishing). Her husband is Indiana Baptist Convention's Executive Director. Visit her website, KeepOnShining.com

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