Annual Ministry Rhythm
When you gather as a pastoral staff to chart your annual ministry calendar, take a look at the natural peaks and valleys of each season of ministry to see if any patterns emerge. In our situation, we identified several natural rhythms that exist for people that live in our region and attend our church. We turned these major blocks of time on the calendar into "seasons of ministry" as follows:
- Season 1 = September to December
- Season 2 = January to March
- Season 3 = April to June
- Season 4 = July to August.
We then started to plot key items on our church calendar in order of priority, as determined by the principles of our common church culture.
We started with our "spiritual adventure series" because of the scope of involvement—it includes children, youth, adults, and seniors. We recognized that the beginning of season one and two were the most natural "launching" times for our church family. We also reserved an option to host a third series during season three if we felt it necessary to give special emphasis to a particular topic, such as a capital stewardship campaign. Our next order of importance was to plot our church-wide missional activity events, such as the annual Christmas drama production or Fathers' Day Car Show.
We then positioned our leadership training events to land at the beginning of each season of ministry, and made sure to include a church-wide connecting event at the beginning of each spiritual adventure series. Designing an annual rhythm of ministry based on the principles of a common church culture also serves to reinforce the value of community through small groups during the entire calendar year.
Spiritual Adventure Series
We have found that a sermon-based small group series that is offered at least twice each year significantly increases the level of spiritual formation in our church family, while also providing us with an effective strategy for people flow. A spiritual adventure series is where people of all ages (children, youth, adults, seniors) journey together over a specific period of time (usually 6–8 weeks) based on a common theme that is selected from the Bible.
During each series, we use a "Look, Learn, Live" model for experiential learning in community:
- Look. We corporately have a look at some biblical principles on Christian living during our Sunday morning worship services.
- Learn. We individually spend time reading the daily devotionals and recording our thoughts in a prayer journal.
- Live. We then gather together in small groups to share what we are learning and discuss ways to apply this truth to life.
During the rest of the year, each small group is free to choose what they want to study based upon the expressed need or interest of the group.
Making every effort to harness the power of alignment in your church will propel you forward in accomplishing your mission. Establishing a common church culture will help you define success for each participating member of your church family. Designing an annual ministry rhythm will help each ministry department determine their priorities, while giving space in the personal calendars of your church family for ministry outside the walls of your church. And launching some kind of spiritual adventure series at regularly appointed times during the year will greatly increase the number of people experiencing true community and engaging in an intentional process of spiritual growth.
When you combine all of these elements through the power of alignment, do not be surprised if you see your church "lift off" before your very eyes!
—Sandro Disabatino; copyright 2008 by the author and SmallGroups.com.