Entering the New Ministry Year
Following the Gregorian calendar, many churches within the western hemisphere of the Church operate according to a ministry year that ends near or within Summer and begins anew in September. This ministry year reflects that of an annual school calendar, in which sermon series’, vacations, and events often fall around the same time of year, some for more obvious reasons that others (Happy birthday, Jesus!). Have you noticed this in your own church or during your time serving in ministry? As this summer comes to end it also indicates that the new ministry year is about to begin. It’s likely that in the summer, though church still takes place, things have moved at a slower speed and along a different schedule. Perhaps your youth and young adult groups have taken a break and maybe your Sunday services have looked atypical in order to accommodate the rest that people take over summer. Nonetheless, the first weekends of September marking the new ministry year stand in unveiled sight and stir much anticipation.
It’s important to to process the change occurring in this liminal space where we find ourselves sitting between ‘what summer was and has been’ and the year ahead, the ‘next.’ What are some fruitful things that happened last year and had an impact on you? What are some ways you saw the Lord’s hand at work? How have you grown? What did God say to your church? What are some things that distinctly marked last year? I encourage you to ponder these questions and their answers. However in doing so, let them remain in the time and context that they were meant for. By this I mean that likely, things happened in the past that you’re holding onto: if so, let go of them. Whether those things are positive or negative, let go. If you feel hesitant to do this, know that it’s still important to appreciate such things as you release them, so as not to take them for granted. You can appreciate them by writing them down, pondering how they affected you, praying about them and bringing them into your dialogue with Jesus. Then, leave them where they belong. This may feel like a grieving process if the things you’ve been holding onto are positive or it may actually bear feelings of relief if the things you’ve been holding onto are in fact negative.
Come what may, with God, nothing is wasted.
In contrast to this, what are ways that you feel like the Lord has been preparing you for what is to come? Are there things you feel you’re supposed to bring into this new ministry year with you? These are critical questions to ask oneself when transitioning between any season to guarantee that in our complex orbit of self-awareness, self-regulation, emotional state of being, and the condition of our hearts, minds, and intuition, we are prepared to be present and to look toward what is ahead, considering how it will shape us.
In order to function best, we must steward the ‘things’ of our lives appropriately and with care—a significant part of which is done solely by carrying them only within the context and capacity within which they are meant for. These ’things’ are different for everyone. They could be feelings, opportunities, hurts, priorities, obligations, responsibilities, relationships, lessons we’ve learned—this list goes on. In Matthew 9, John’s disciples approach Jesus to ask him a question about what they think concerns fasting but Jesus replies in a way that foreshadows his death and resurrection. Jesus communicates this parable through the use of a couple different metaphors but I want to bring your attention to the one in verse 17 concerning the wineskins. In it, Jesus says, “Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved” (ESV). I consider how much the “wine” referred to in this verse represents the ‘things’ in our lives and how the “wineskins” represent the contexts and capacity in which we are to take care of them. This verse illustrates the results of when we steward these things improperly wherein the wine is spilled and the wineskins are destroyed and conversely, when we steward these things appropriately in their given context and capacity wherein the wine and wineskins are “preserved.” When we hold onto things we’re not supposed to, allowing them to affect us when they are not meant to, we ultimately end up deteriorating like the spilled wine and destroyed wineskins. Their effect causes us to miss out on the things we are actually supposed to focus on. We miss out on what Jesus has in store for us. However, when we deal with our things by processing them and understanding that reconciliation may actually look like loosening our grip on those things and letting them go, we are able to focus on the other things Jesus has in store for us in their given context and capacity—a result of which both the things of the former season and those of the new neither end up being neglected but rather, when stewarded properly, are preserved. Perhaps there are things from this summer, or even before, that require being left where they are, in the context and capacity of summer, so as not to be dragged into the new ministry year. Part of preparing for the new things ahead is stewarding the old things. Many of the things in our lives are meant for a given season and others are not, I’m not to say which and how many of those are and are not however, I invite you to consider this idea and ask Jesus for the discernment of what things you need to let go of—what old wine you must leave in the old wineskins—and what fresh wineskins you must prepare for the new wine that is to be pressed in this upcoming ministry year.