For most people, 2020 has been a terrible year.

 

It has been a catalogue of disappointment, frustration, loss, job insecurity, financial pressure, relational stress, sickness, and even death. On top of the normal life changes that would normally happen, there have been all these layers of exceptional pressure.

As the year comes to an end, there is a profound opportunity to give your neighbors and friends a chance to healthily process some of that pain, loss, and disappointment, and to do so in the context of a loving community.

Imagine creating a space where your neighbors can name some of the things that have been difficult about this past year, and then to meaningfully hand those things over to God.

This will help make room to take on what God wants to bring in the New Year. Indeed, it will be life-giving to take time to verbalize some of our hopes and dreams for 2021.

Here’s a way to do this: Invite neighbors to a simple ‘Year End’ gathering on New Year’s Eve.

You can do the invite verbally or in writing. We’re planning on hand-delivering a letter to every house on our block, as well as verbally inviting those we see in advance. We’ve posted that letter below for you to use as a starting point for how you can communicate in your context (we live in an urban and highly diverse area, hence some of our language).

December 2020

Dear Neighbor,

2020 has been an exceptionally challenging year for many people.

As we prepare for 2021, it seems like we as neighbors could pause and create a moment where we can acknowledge, and then release, some of the pain, loss, frustrations, and disappointments of this past year.

As we do that, room will be created to be open to consider our dreams and prayers for 2021. By doing these things as neighbors, hopefully each of us will feel less isolated and more part of a meaningful community.

To do this, we invite you to join us in a short (15 minutes or so) gathering as neighbors at 12pm on December 31st on our front lawn/ sidewalk area.

There, in engaging, meaningful, and at points fun ways, we will release the pain and losses of 2020, and ask for God’s blessing on 2021.

Obviously there are a wide variety of faith traditions here in our neighborhood, but we hope that this will prove to be a time that is emotionally, mentally, and spiritually meaningful for each of us.

And if you have children, please feel free to bring them, as what we do will be very visual and physical (hopefully including fire and helium balloons!), and easy for them to engage with.

Finally, doing this outdoors means everyone can feel safe and healthy, but obviously please bring masks and be generous in honoring social distancing.

Do let us know if you’ve any questions or suggestions!

We look forward to seeing you on New Year’s Eve at noon.

Your friends and neighbors,

Alex & Hannah Absalom

 

The Gathering

When you gather, there’ll be two parts to the time.

 

1. LETTING GO
  • Invite people to write down, or draw, on a piece of paper something that names or represents the losses of this past year.
  • When people are ready, give room for a few to share something from their list (if they’d like to do so).
  • Invite people to hold their list, and while everyone is quiet, to hand these things over to God, asking for His justice, healing, and future hope.
  • Pray a prayer out loud over what has been written or drawn, asking God to come close to us in our frustrations, disappointments, and grief.
  • People then take their paper and place it in a burning fire (set up in advance), to symbolize giving those things to God, and trusting Him for the right resolution in the right timing.

 

2. LOOKING FORWARD
  • Give everyone a card labeled, “My dream/ prayer for 2021”. At the bottom of the card you might add either a Bible verse or a Bible sentiment (consider your context in deciding). We like a phrase such as, “Blessed to be a blessing.”
  • Ask people to write or draw what they’re hoping for from the New Year. It could be one thing or a long list!
  • When everyone has finished, see if a few people want to share something from their list.
  • As we hold those cards, have someone pray over our hopes and dreams, asking God to bless us, and through us to bless many others, in more and better ways than we could possibly ask or imagine.
  • Suggest people take a photo of their card, so that they have a record of it and can continue to think and pray about it in the year ahead.
  • Have everyone tie their prayer card to a helium balloon.
  • Carefully holding the balloons, walk to an open space, and do a group countdown from 10. At zero, everyone releases the balloons! It would be fun to have someone ready to film this part/ taking some photos, to share later.
  • End with some food or drink as a way of wrapping up on a fun and neighborly high.

Next Steps

You will want to adjust exactly what you do to fit your personality and your place of mission. However, notice:
–  The way in which it is steered but not dominated by those leading.
–  The mixture of doing, reflecting, talking, and silence.
–  How the tone is very invitational, while still pointing towards God as the source of our hope. If your environment is more comfortable with Christian language, you could talk overtly about Jesus and the Christian hope. Make sure, though, that you don’t do a bait-and-switch between the invitation and the actual event!

 

ACTION LIST
  1. Decide a time and place for your gathering
  2. Create your letter and invite friends and neighbors
  3. Provide paper and pens for the ‘Letting Go’ part
  4. Create and print cards, with a hole already punched, for the ‘Looking Forward’ part
  5. Find a portable fire pit and wood/ charcoal
  6. Locate an inexpensive provider of helium balloons (we’ve found ours at a 99cents discount store)
  7. Provide colorful ribbon for attaching cards to balloons
  8. Make or buy treats for the end

While 2020 has been a year of great stress and pain, as followers of Jesus we are uniquely positioned to help our friends and neighbors make better sense of it, and to process it in healthy ways. Done well, these sorts of gatherings will create all sorts of interesting Gospel conversations.

In the comments below, please share your thoughts:

  1. What are you stirred to do?
  2. What would you add/ tweak/ subtract?
  3. How will you help your neighbors process the losses of 2020 in a spiritual way?

Reset Your Church for a Post-COVID Culture

Equip your ministry to make this critical shift

The world after coronavirus is going to be very different to the one we left – and nowhere more so than in church life.

Evangelism, community life, worship, gatherings, staff roles, finances, and much more will change – both for the better and for the worse. Yet it will also be a time of unprecedented opportunity for churches and leaders who are willing to think outside of the box, and make wise, strategic shifts.

With over 25 years of continuous experimentation and practice in missional disciple-making, we are seeing the Lord leading us to help leaders like you in processing this season.

Whether you’re looking for a one-off conversation, a longer-term coaching process, or a deeper engagement with your church, we would be honored to chat with you about how we might bring our wide range of proven tools, Biblical ecclesiology, inspiring stories, and encouraging friendship into your life.

If you’re interested, click here to send us a message and we can talk!

 

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