The year that is coming to a close was an interesting one from many perspectives. Personally it was one of the most consequential and fulfilling years of my whole life. And though there were some grave disappointments and set backs, I would say I enjoyed 2013 as much as any and more than most.
Here are some of the highlights.
Discipleship and Evangelization
Evangelization is about reaching out to the un-churched with the life-changing message of Jesus Christ. Discipleship is about growing members as increasingly committed students of Christ. The problem with a lot of churches is that they think you can’t do both. In fact, you have to do both, or your church becomes a consumer exchange. At Nativity, 2013 saw our parishioners step up to the plate on both counts. The number of people who got into a Small Group, signed up for the daily devotional, stepped up to serve in Ministry or go on Mission was impressive and unexpected. So too, was the increase in people who made invitations to their un-churched friends…and the numbers of un-churched people who actually showed up. All these indices point to solid church health and growth.
This year brought several of my favorite series ever including “rebuilt,” “comparison trap,” “breathing room,” “Responsibility-Ability” and “Christmas is Coming.” Each one was challenging as well as fun to do and each helped move the congregation forward in specific ways.
We have been working on a Master Campus Plan for a long time, in fact what seems like forever. But in 2013, thanks to our parish leaders, this plan began to take shape in specific and exciting ways. Because of the work accomplished this year, we are well prepared to share our plans with the parish and include everyone in the conversation in 2014.
Financial Health/ Staff Growth
2013 brought the finances of the parish to a stronger and more robust place, thanks to the continued stewardship of our members. This is extremely important because you can’t do ministry without money. Our financial health has, in turn, funded an expansion in our staff, because that’s the investment we want to make to grow our ministry.
Of course the biggest news in my life in 2013 was the launching of the books, Rebuilt and Tools for Rebuilding together with my co-author and associate Tom Corcoran. Rebuilt was given birth on February 25 and Tools on November 25, pretty much framing the whole year. In between, and much to our surprise, came a storm of invitations to speak around the country. We were happy to accept as many engagements as we could, as long as the travel didn’t interfere with our weekend responsibilities. The responses that we received, like the sales themselves, have been extremely gratifying. Rebuilt is a solid best seller nationally and Tools looks like it could be headed in that direction. More gratifying than the sales is the impact and the influence both books are experiencing in so many parishes.
Another unexpected consequence of the books has been the onslaught of visitors from other parishes, mostly just to see if we’re for real. The highlight of this development was our Matter Conference at the beginning of November, our first ever.
We sold out, with 650 people hosted by 100 volunteer ministers. It was so much fun and it accomplished so much good. As one participant noted “Now I know I’m not alone and there is hope for my parish.”
Each year the highlight of the year is the celebration of our parish’s feast day, also known as Christmas. This year we filled the Cow Palace twice, for what must be one of the largest celebrations in the State. The spirit and joy were also in abundance and the experience was simply transforming. Our 350 ministers made it happen.
Thanks to all our staff and volunteer ministers who made 2013 a year worth celebrating.