With a little creative thinking and a fuller understanding of its biblical precedent, your church's New Year celebration can become an anticipated time of outreach, fellowship, and worship.
Many churches usher in the New Year with what is called a Watch-Night service. These services typically include fellowship activities, food, singing, prayer, and a message or devotional thought by the pastor or another church leader. Usually, this New Year's Eve service climaxes at midnight with a time of prayer. The idea is to "pray in" the New Year.
Here are some suggestions for your Watch-Night service.
Ask a specific group, ministry team, or committee to be responsible for planning the whole service
The more people involved in the process, the more likely they will attend and will personally invite others.
Observe the Lord's Supper
Serving Communion in a different way and in a different place can add to the uniqueness of the observance. Special services offer reinforcement to the truth of redemption by making the memorial supper the centerpiece of the service. Use some of the suggestions from the following article: Ten Creative Suggestions for Observing the Lord's Supper.
Include unique activities
- Invite a musical group or guest speaker.
- Show Christian or family-friendly videos.
- Serve unique foods (Ethnic foods, traditional New Year's foods, or host a men's chili cook-off).
- Plan games that will build fellowship.
Offer opportunity for personal reflection and spiritual edification
Since many people use the calendar change as a time to make changes in their lives, consider incorporating the idea of New Year's resolutions into the service. The following article by Don Whitney includes 31 questions you might use to help them: Questions for a New Year
Consider a time for personal testimonies
The end of a year is a good time for reflection on the blessings and struggles of the last 12 months. Encourage the congregation to share with their spiritual family the spiritual victories, answers to prayers, and blessings of the past year. Such sharing encourages a mindset of thanksgiving and praise and fulfills the biblical injunctions to pray for and to encourage one another.
'Pray-in' the new year.
Consider guided prayer times as well as small group prayer. The following articles will be helpful as you plan:
Whatever your church decides to do, be creative, be purposeful, and have some fun.
Biblical precedent for a New Year's celebration
The celebration that surrounds the beginning of a New Year is rooted in the history of Israel's exodus from Egypt. In Exodus 35-40, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai, he gave to the congregation of Israel God's instructions for constructing the tabernacle. After the people responded to Moses' appeal for materials and workers to build the tabernacle, God gave specific directions for its construction. Exodus 40:1 says "Then the Lord spoke to Moses: 'You are to set up the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, on the first day of the month'" (HCSB). Even though the Jewish calendar differs significantly from our modern calendar, "the first day of the month" is New Year's Day.
This dramatic event in Israel's history can help us understand the importance of getting the new year off to a good start by planning meaningful New Year's celebrations in our churches. Our collective experience teaches us that most of our church members will celebrate the new year in some form or fashion. Giving them the option of celebrating with their church family is a wonderful alternative to the secular celebrations that are often unhealthy and unwholesome.