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New year: A time for brainstorming, goal setting

With the beginning of a new calendar year, it's New Year's resolution time. This is a perfect time for your church to take advantage of the universal goal-setting, fresh-start mindset.

While this time of year is ideal for personal goal-setting, it is also a time that your congregation and community will be most accepting of new ideas and goals. Take advantage of the can-do attitude with these tips:

Enhance brainstorming sessions.

Have you ever hosted a brainstorming session only to leave as clueless as you were when you came in? Tweak your approach. Think of brainstorming as a time to combine and enhance ideas rather than as a time to come up with ideas. Gather your programming team together, and ask each person to brainstorm on their own ahead of time and bring three ideas to the meeting. As the team members share their ideas, focus on how they can be combined or expanded to create the ideal program. When you hear a particularly good idea, ask others in the room how it could be made better. The combination of different personalities and experiences will round out each idea and give it the boost from good to great.

Collaborate on church goals.

Invite your congregation to submit their ideas on what the church should focus on in the new year via a suggestion box, email, social media, online forms and more. (For online forms, Wufoo offers an easy-to-use online form service many churches use to accept prayer requests. You can create your own form or adapt one of Wufoo's templates.) Although suggestions can be anonymous, encourage members to put their names on their ideas so you can go back to them for help in implementing it. Publicize the goals you choose to work on and meet several times a year to ensure the goals are being met.

Communicate your goals.

Once you've decided on your goals, you'll want to make sure you communicate them effectively. While you'll likely receive many great ideas, the key here is to pick only two or three to focus on in one year. Similarly, only communicate one at a time. You're communicating all types of information to your members on a regular basis, and you want to make sure you're not bombarding them with so much information that they tune you out.

While you can continually remind your congregation of the goals by publishing them in your bulletin or newsletter, consider communicating via storytelling. On a quarterly basis, share a story illustrating how your church is meeting a goal. For example, if your goal is to recruit and welcome more church members, have a member speak after a service about how they really connected with a recent visitor. If your goal is to create more opportunities for youth, have your youth minister relay a story from a recent trip on your blog. Most people will remember a compelling story more than facts and figures. Some churches have integrated "ministry moments" into their worship service. Delivered by lay persons, these can be effective ways of communicating to the masses.

Reach out to the community.

One of the most popular New Year's resolutions is to go back to church or attend church more regularly, so this is a great time to open your doors to the community. Set a specific time and day for an open house that includes both a service and a social gathering to show people what your church is all about. Have marketing materials available that people can take home. Tap members of your congregation to reach out to unfamiliar faces and take them on a personal tour. Also make sure your public website and social media page have thorough information about your church-service times, ministries, programming-for interested newcomers. And don't forget there are many people out there who'd like to help but don't know how. Consider connecting volunteers to opportunities at a service fair. Getting involved can be the important first step for a prospective new member to feel welcomed into your congregation.