For the past six years I have practiced the rhythm of asking the Lord to give me a word for the upcoming year. Usually in late November or early December I begin praying and seeking His direction about a word that He has for me that will help me grow spiritually and serve more effectively. In the years that I have practiced listening for the word God was giving me, I have grown in my awareness of hearing the Spirit of God speak into my life.

As I was deliberately praying and anticipating a word for this year, I sensed that the word God was giving me for 2021 was “new.” If I’m being totally honest, I was somewhat disappointed when that seemed to be the word and resisted embracing it. But I could not ignore that new was the word that kept resurfacing during my time with the Lord. After I accepted that new was indeed the word that the Lord was giving me, I began to process how God would use it personally and in ministry opportunities.

My first tangible sense of how God was using the word “new” in my life occurred on the morning of New Year’s Day. I woke up anticipating clouds and rain but instead, I saw this beautiful sunrise from my patio. I immediately thought of the truth of Lamentations 3 and was reminded that His mercies are new every morning. Later that day during my time in the Word, I looked up other passages that focused on the word new. I was deeply impacted by the words in Isaiah 43:19, where God says, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness  and streams in the wasteland.As I pondered those words, I started thinking about ways God would do a “new thing” in me and how those changes would impact the way I ministered to others.

My challenge and encouragement for each of us as leaders in the new year, is that we will lean hard into the new thing that God wants to do in our lives and ministries.

As we begin 2021, there is still a palpable sense of uncertainty. The events in Washington DC last week underscore the tenuous condition and the disunity in our nation and among believers. The pandemic is still very much a reality, people continue to grapple with job losses, and families are struggling to find balance in ever-changing environments. As pastors and leaders, we need to be people of discernment, honesty, and transparency. We need to believe and speak to the fact that God is doing a new thing in our lives and in His Church. Now more than ever, it’s critical that we shepherd and guide the people in our congregations to a deeper trust in God through the integrity of our lives which flows from an intimate relationship with the Father.

What steps can we take to embrace the truth that God wants to do a new thing in our personal lives and in the life of the Church?


As leaders we are wired to act. We understand the importance of mission and vision and strategy. But as we consider the uncertainty of the times, we need to posture ourselves with humility and a renewed willingness to listen to the voice of God. He speaks through His Word and Spirit and will help us through these challenging days. We need to stay close to Him if we’re going to be able to perceive how He is working.


There are people in our congregations who have insights and a different perspective that can help us gain a clearer picture of next steps. Choose trusted individuals to share their perceptions with you and help you discern the needs of your congregation.


Leaders aren’t perfect (our congregations already know that!) and honestly and humbly sharing how God is working in your life, and what He is teaching you, will create community and freedom for people to be honest with one another to share how God is at work in their lives.

When I read the words in Isaiah 43:19, I am encouraged that God is intimately involved in the world He has created. While the historical context of this verse is the nation of Israel, the principle of God making all things new is unchanging. He is a God of transformation and He desires that we experience His presence and power in our lives. From Genesis to Revelation, we read that He wants to make us new, so that individually and corporately we are strong and able to impact our culture with the true and ongoing message of the Gospel.

I am excited about the journey of this year into the new thing that God wants to do in and through me for His glory and His Kingdom.  May we all see the new thing that He is doing so that the Gospel may go forward with truth, grace and power.

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Deb Hinkel

Deb Hinkel

Director of Spiritual Formation at Hershey Free
Deb Hinkel is the Director of Spiritual Formation and Family Ministry at Hershey Free Church. She joined the church’s staff in 2015 after spending fourteen years as an assistant professor in the Church and Ministry Leadership department at Lancaster Bible College. Deb holds a Master of Arts degree in Ministry from Lancaster Bible College; and prior to her work there, she spent fifteen years in church ministry, developing programs in Christian education, children’s ministry, and women’s ministry.
Deb Hinkel

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  1. Tim Ryan Tim Ryan on January 14, 2021 at 3:50 pm

    Thank you Deb! If I’m not mistaken, I recall that you’ve shared the word God has given you in prior years. I admire the ability God has cultivated in your heart to discern a single word from Him to guide and center your life and work in and through Him each year. It is an encouragement to me to be more deliberate about my own spiritual listening habits.

  2. Avatar David Hansen on January 13, 2021 at 8:41 am


    Thanks for sharing your insights with us! I’m only sorry I didn’t have you as a professor when I was at Messiah!

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