Breaking Through the “Wilderness” with 2021 Worship Series

September 17, 2020 | | GNJ News, The Relay

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.-– Isaiah 43:19

Making “a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” can be difficult but add in the support of others and the burden doesn’t seem so heavy. The Breakthrough Worship Series is the support system for both clergy and laity to develop engaging worship and move their congregation forward on the path to vitality.

Designed to provide easy-to-use best practices and worship tools, the 2021 Breakthrough Worship Series will allow congregations to refine their worship, stay visually creative and save time for other ministries.

“There is so much to be gained by bouncing ideas off of others, sparking your own creativity,” said Rev. Ronell Howard of Christ Church in Piscataway who has both contributed to the writing of the Breakthrough series and regularly depends on it for her own sermons. She is one of about 50 GNJ leaders and pastors who have contributed to the Breakthrough Series.

Within each of the eight four- to six-week series, there are liturgies, creative graphics and videos, song and hymn suggestions, sermon starter materials, prayers, discussion questions and more—each consistently carrying the same theme throughout. Also included are mission and engagement ideas to help engage with the community, serve people and be more outward.

“This is an excellent resource. It has given me the opportunity to think outside the box and do something different,” said Rev. Elouise Hill-Challenger of Galilee UMC, who enjoys customizing each series so that it addresses her own context that appeals to her congregation.

“I like to make my sermons fun. I jump rope. I play tug of war. There are so many different ways to live life. It’s not about holding the Gospel hostage,” said Hill-Challenger who likes the flexibility that the Breakthrough series provides.

The goal is to save pastors 10 hours each week to prepare the sermon and lead the congregation. The goal is for leaders in churches to continue to learn, grow and serve well. As pastors and church leaders partner together to do God’s work, the breakthrough to a brighter day will come.

Another benefit is that the sermons in the Breakthrough series connect directly with a companion small group discussion resource. The small group can meet after church or later in the week.

“It’s extraordinarily helpful while we’re all managing so many things. It helps to relieve the burden and anxiety,” said Howard, who mentioned that as her church works toward developing small groups, this series has been valuable to clergy and laity alike. She said it allows her to hand off the responsibility to laity with confidence, empowering them to lead on their own.

From Deck the Halls and Courageous to Summer of Love and God With Us, the new Breakthrough Worship Series will carry clergy and laity from Advent 2020 to Advent 2021. The first in the series is scheduled to be released on by October 1.

See details below, and stay tuned for upcoming workshops related to these programs:
Deck the Halls: Decorating Your Life with What Matters: As we get out the Christmas lights, ornaments and tinsel to decorate our homes this year, it might be hard for some of us to feel the holiday cheer. We have truly been through a lot this year! In this season, as we prepare to celebrate the arrival of Jesus, we can prepare by decorating our lives with what matters: the hope, peace, joy and love of God. Designed for Advent 2020.

Courageous: Our world often tells us that being courageous is about strength, bravery and heroic acts. This series explores what courage looks like in the New Testament and expands our understanding of courage. Together, we will learn how courage can help us raise up other people, transform our communities and face new and challenging situations. Designed for January 2021.

PurpleTheory: This Lenten series explores a different spiritual discipline each week, starting with self-examination on Ash Wednesday, then prayer, meditating on scriptures, fasting, confession, worship, silence and gratitude. Analagous to the popular OrangeTheory fitness program that focuses on a healthy balance of intense workout and restorative recovery, PurpleTheory will help you get spiritually fit with a good blend of challenge by stepping outside your comfort zone and recovery practices that allow you to heal. Designed for Lent 2021.

I See You: God creates, knows, loves and sees all of us in our full humanity. But as people, we can fall into the habit of assuming everyone is the same or everyone is like us. While we share a common humanity, these assumptions can be harmful and prevent us from truly seeing other people and listening to their perspectives. By looking at Biblical stories, this series will help us learn how to listen to, respect, affirm and act for and with others. In doing so, we can also come to know God even more fully. Designed for April-May 2021.

Summer of Love: We invite you to be part of a summer of love – no, not the 1960s version! 1 John 4:8 says, “Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” But what does that mean? Through this series, we will look at four different ways we can love God and the people around us by following the example and teaching of Jesus. Embrace your inner Hippie! Designed for Summer 2021.

Living Faith: John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, insisted that Christian faith was more than just a set of beliefs or a feeling. Faith changes our lives and results in faithful action in the world. The New Testament letter of James gives the same message. This series will look at Wesley’s General Rules in connection with readings from James to show how our faith can come to life in all that we say and do. (Note: This series follows the epistolary readings from the Revised Common Lectionary for Sept. 5- Sept. 26, 2021 [Year B]). Designed for September 2021.

All In: When we face important decisions and opportunities in our lives, we often weigh the pros and cons. We often find reasons to avoid making changes and to keep doing things the same old way. But there comes a time when we must decide…are we going to play it safe or go all in? John 3:16 tells us that God loved us so much that he gave his only Son for us, “so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” God’s love for us is “all in!” In turn, when we put all our trust in God, our lives can be freed for unimaginable wonder. This series will explore what it means to be “all in” for God with all of our being and all that we have. Designed for October/November 2021.

God With Us: In the season of Advent, we prepare to welcome Jesus, the Messiah in God Is With Us. This year, as we await our Lord, we will put ourselves in the place of the first people who awaited and celebrated Jesus’ birth. Through their stories, we will learn what it meant for God to be with them, and we will open our eyes to experience God with us, too. Designed for Advent 2021.

For details, visit www.gnjumc.org/breakthrough/2021-worship-series/.