We Make Time For What Matters Most
As our churches gear up for fall ministries, I have heard several pastors’ wives share that they are understaffed. They’ve been hoping and praying. They’ve been asking for volunteers, but they still don't know if they'll get enough people to keep their children's programs running. The structure is in place, and there is even willing leadership. But, they wait and wonder “Will we have enough workers?” The possibility of having to cancel or suspend programming and outreach to children is common in churches – large and small. The bigger the church, the more staffing is needed. The smaller the church, the willing workers are already doing double duty.
Choosing what is best for our personal schedules is hard enough, but how do we choose what is best for a church ministry. When do we pull the plug on a ministry and when do we move forward in faith? How do we encourage others to make wise choices when they have so many demands on their time? When should we press on and seek volunteers and when should we let it go and allow God to raise up workers? We probably need a little bit of both - recruit and refrain - but first and foremost, we need to turn our ministry gaps over to God in prayer.
Secondly, we need to intentionally talk with key leadership to get their perspective on the situation. Is this ministry a ‘must do’ in the life of the church, or should we consider taking a season off? When deadlines approach and our spirits get heavy, it is so tempting to allow our emotions to dictate our attitude - either throwing up our hands in defeat or berating others for not stepping up. Open lines of communication are key to healthy ministry and relationships. Living within a spirit of teamwork, even when facing the unknowns, helps us all to keep discouragement at bay as we seek God’s best together.
Next, we need to accept the reality that, quite often, ministry isn’t about what we want to do, but what needs to be done. When we have our heart set on a particular program or a great idea, we can get stuck. Sometimes, God allows us to hit a dead end because we need to take time to stop and re-evaluate what matters most and how He wants us to get it done.
This week, I read Romans 12:2 out of the Living Bible and it gave me a different perspective. It said, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but be a new and different person with a fresh newness in all you do and think.” Now, likely you recognize this verse more when the phrases include “Do not conform any longer…be transformed…renewing of your mind.” There is so much encouragement and depth in that verse, but I was inspired with this phrase - “A fresh newness in all you do and think.” Not only do we need to be transformed in our personal lives, but I think it’s not too much of a stretch to say that we need to ask God for 'a fresh newness' as we approach ministries in our churches as well. Are we stuck in a rut? Was it good for a season – maybe even a long season – but is it working now?
If your church is like mine, you know where the gaps are, the weak areas and the 'unfilled' positions. There are likely dozens of things that could be done to improve the ministry, if only the manpower and interest could be increased. It’s never hard to point out the negatives, but it takes a fresh perspective to open our eyes to what God is already doing in our midst. What can we praise Him for? Who can we say ‘thank you’ to for their faithful perseverance? Where are the bright spots?
Sometimes all we need to gain a ‘fresh newness’ in ministry and appreciation for our church is to stop looking at what we don’t have or even what the other churches around us do have. Rather, our attention needs to be focused on what God has given us – the building, the people, the community. Then, we can see more clearly as God opens our eyes to where He is leading us and what we need to be making time for.
“Now may the God of peace…equip you [and your church] with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:20-21