The Congregation and Ministry Support Group (CMSG) has put together a free planning program to help congregations reach out in their communities during the Christmas season with a message of how Christ was born to save us.

C13 (short for “Christmas 13”) materials include a planning calendar, text study and sermons, multiple worship folder templates, a Christmas for Kids model, outreach postcard templates, outreach training, a prospect management database, devotional material, in-home Bible study materials, and more. Congregations can also order personalized outreach postcards through the program.

Registration is open until Oct. 1; called workers and individual members of congregations are encouraged to sign up. Materials will be available online; registered participants will receive e-mailed weekly planning updates along with devotionals and ongoing encouragement.

The program has three goals, according to Rev. Jonathan Hein, director of the Commission on Congregational Counseling, one of the seven CMSG areas: to provide practical resources for congregations to make their work easier, to model cooperative planning among all areas of congregational ministry, and to provide training resources for laypeople.

“C13 hopes to give churches simple things they can do, not just Christmas Eve but week in and week out, which might allow them to proclaim the gospel to even more people than they already are,” says Hein, who is coordinating the program. “We hope to demonstrate how coordinated planning really makes everyone's job easier, and it makes our testimony about Christ that much more clear.”

He says the program also will stress ways for laypeople to get involved and provide training materials. “Thus, a program like this is designed to help pastors do the often time-consuming task of equipping the saints,” he says.

Hein says that besides promoting outreach resources, the program will highlight personal spiritual growth—another reason for laypeople to register for the program. “Advent provides a perfect time to encourage laypeople (who aren't yet doing so) to make family devotion a routine,” he says. “C13 not only offers the encouragement but resources for that.”

The last comprehensive ministry planning program produced by the CMSG was E12, preparing for Easter Sunday 2012. About 60 percent of congregations participated in the program and distributed about 540,000 cards into their area communities. Hein also noted that 21 churches which had not had an adult confirmation in the previous three years had an adult confirmand as a result of their Easter outreach efforts that year.

The Congregation and Ministry Support Group comprises seven different areas: Worship, Evangelism, Lutheran Schools, Adult Discipleship, Youth and Ministry, Special Ministries, and Congregational Counseling.

Learn more about the program, including how to register, online.