Each year at Lancaster Baptist Church, on the first Sunday of January, we reveal to our church family a new scriptural theme for the coming year.
This theme flows out of much prayer and preparation that has taken place for six or seven months in advance of the new year. Usually by June or July, I’ve chosen the theme for the following year. In August, I share the theme with our staff. And then in January, I present the theme to our church family.
Annual church themes, however, like personal New Year’s resolutions, can easily fall by the wayside after the first few weeks of the year. My heart is that our theme would flow into every aspect of our church life for the coming twelve months. Our revival, our giving, our campus development, our conferences—all of ministry—somehow aligns with this theme.
In fact, over the years, these themes have become spiritual signposts of our church’s faith journey. Members who have been at Lancaster Baptist for a few years or more can connect their own growth to the memory of these themes.
If there is a theme that you plan to introduce to your church in January that is drawn from a scriptural truth God has laid on your heart, maintaining a focus on it throughout the year can be spiritually beneficial to your church family.
Here are five ideas of how you can incorporate your annual church theme into the life of your church:
1. Through Preaching
Our theme for 2017 has been “By Grace,” taken from 2 Corinthians 9:8. Over this past year, many of our sermon series have been themed around how God’s grace works in our lives. Titles have included “Begin with Grace,” “A Gracious Steward,” “The Grace-Filled Family,” “Portraits of Grace,” and “Be Strong in Grace.” Even this month as I preached through the Christmas story for the thirty-second time in the same church, we’re looked specifically at “The Grace of Christmas” and saw how God manifested His grace through coming. Not every sermon series is based on the church theme, but it is one great way to maintain an emphasis on that theme.
2. Through Teaching
For the first three months of each year, all of our adult Bible classes on Sundays teach through a unified curriculum, based on the new theme. This allows us to, as a church family, explore how this theme applied to our lives will impact each area of our Christian walk.
3. Through Special Services
Usually, our annual January revival and our fall missions conference carry the same theme as our annual church theme. Spiritual Leadership Conference in June is built around the same theme as well.
4. Through Giving
Each spring, our church family gives a special offering toward ongoing ministry through campus development. This is preceded by asking the Lord to work in our hearts through a preaching emphasis on stewardship and home fellowships for prayer. All of this is themed around the church’s annual theme.
5. Through Outreach
Because the purpose of the local church is the Great Commission of Christ, any spiritual growth or focus in our lives is never just about us as individual Christians. It is about reaching the world—including our own community—with the gospel. We have applied each biblical theme that we have studied to the impact it has on our witness as Christians—all year long as well as during special moments of outreach for our church family.
Hopefully these thoughts are a help to you as you look toward the coming year. Listed below are the annual themes we’ve used over the past thirty-one years. Perhaps these could be a help to you as you pray for direction for your church over the coming year.
|1987||Looking Toward Heaven in ’87||Colossians 3:2|
|1988||Through the Gate in ’88||Luke 13:24|
|1989||Building a Strong Foundation||I Corinthians 3:11|
|1990||I Love My Church||Ephesians 5:25|
|1991||Stake Your Claim||Isaiah 54:2|
|1992||Press toward the Mark||Philippians 3:14|
|1993||A Heart for God||Psalm 57:7|
|1994||In His Steps||I Peter 2:21|
|1995||Together We Strive||Philippians 1:27|
|1996||He Is Able||Ephesians 3:20|
|1997||Look to Jesus||Hebrews 12:1|
|1998||From the Heart||Ephesians 6:6|
|1999||Let God Arise||Psalm 68:1|
|2000||Seek the Lord||Isaiah 55:6|
|2001||Together With God||I Corinthians 3:9|
|2002||By Faith||II Corinthians 5:7|
|2003||Streams in the Desert||Isaiah 35:6|
|2004||He is Greater||I John 4:4|
|2005||Grow in Grace||II Peter 3:18|
|2006||All Things Through Christ||Philippians 4:13|
|2007||For the Faith||Philippians 1:27|
|2008||Consider Christ||Hebrews 12:3|
|2009||Making a Difference||Jude 22|
|2010||By His Spirit||Zechariah 4:6|
|2011||Together We Strive||Philippians 1:27|
|2012||Rooted in Christ||Colossians 2:7|
|2013||Launch Out Into the Deep||Luke 5:4|
|2014||Renew||2 Corinthians 4:16|
|2015||I Will Build||Matthew 16:19|
|2016||Continue||2 Timothy 3:14|
|2017||By Grace||2 Corinthians 9:8|