2017 Word of the Year

Posted by Jerry Roth on

As noted by the online resource, Dictionary.com, “As 2017 comes to a close, it’s time for us to reflect on the words that impacted all of us this year …” Based on their analysis of “the year’s most meaningful events and lookup trends” they have selected the word Complicit.

In a spirit of personal reflection common at this time of year, I have been reviewing my church research and writing in an attempt to identify a word for 2017 that would encompass a key trend or best practice in our roles as leaders in our churches. After a couple of weeks of review and thought, I have selected the word Intentional.

A quick thesaurus check provided the following synonyms: planned, purposeful, deliberate, intended. These words seemed to relate to many of the key leadership challenges that we faced in 2017. Let’s review a few of the themes discussed in my 2017 CPL Blog postings and note a few excerpts on how they support the idea of acting intentionally.

A Pay Attention Moment

“We must be careful not to make the success of the past our only roadmap for the future.”

“Be intentional – As church leaders, we must establish regular practices that evaluate our current ministry outcomes and be willing to make changes in our ministry that reflect both the future that seems to be emerging and a future that we believe God is calling us to. Annual and strategic planning are critical leadership activities in response to a changing world.”

Intentional Discipleship - It's All About Relationships

“In a post-Christian context, we cannot rely solely on Sunday mornings to reach the lost. We can no longer “build it” and expect them “to come.” Remind your church members that they can be more effective missionaries in their workplaces and neighborhoods than any pastor, because they have the relationships and therefore the voice. Equip believers to communicate the gospel message and share their faith rather than just encouraging them to invite people to church.”

“What they are highlighting is the amazing opportunity that we have to prepare our church members to be intentional disciples in all areas of their lives.”

Intentional Church Staff Development

“For parishes to remain vital and provide effective ministry, they will need to develop and implement intentional staff recruitment, development and retention practices that are attractive to existing and future parish staff.”

The Times Really Are A-Changin

“As church staff and leaders, we are called to respond to this challenge. We cannot sit back and assume that all will be well. Think Sears. It is time for our wisdom and creativity to emerge. We must take a hard look at how we are engaging our past, current and future members. As we evaluate and plan our ministry, we must shed what is not working while retaining the core of who we are as church. It is not a time for the meek, but for bold leadership that can accept the times they are a-changin and respond with welcoming and engaging ministry that will attract and build the faith communities that people are seeking.”

These are just a few examples of how church leaders are responding to the call to be intentional in 2017. These thoughts and actions are built upon a cycle of key action steps that all church leaders can follow. They include:

  1. Research – Encourage all church staff and leaders to look up from their daily accountabilities. Become aware of current church environment realities and best-practices emerging in response to those realities.
  2. Analyze – Establish regular opportunities for church staff and leaders to discuss and discern the meaning and implications of information developed through your research efforts.
  3. Plan – Develop annual and long-range (strategic) planning disciplines that reflect the learning from your research and analysis efforts. All planning must be guided by clearly defined intended outcomes for your church ministry.
  4. Implement – Focus ministry activities on achieving ministry outcomes as defined by your annual plan. Resources (budget, staffing, communications, space, etc.) must be allocated in alignment with your annual ministry plan.
  5. Evaluate – Review ministry outcomes (both quantitatively and qualitatively) with a spirit of honesty and learning. This may be the most important step in the cycle of intentional ministry.


One last thought. Acting intentionally does not diminish the power and influence of the Spirit in our ministry planning and development. Through prayer and quiet introspection, we must always remain open to the gift of wisdom shared through our relationship with God. As we approach the new year, I pray that we all follow the wisdom expressed by Micah (6:8):

You have been told, O mortal, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

May God bless your leadership role in 2018.


Jerry Roth

Research Analyst

The Center for Parish Leadership


to leave comment