I suspect that many of us are spending more time reflecting on ministry, thinking about church, and considering the future than we have in some time. Here are more of the ministry-related things I’ve learned in the past weeks:
- I don’t know enough of my neighbors. I confess we’ve gotten to know the neighbors right around us, but not far beyond those homes. Now, we see many neighbors walking past our home. We need to extend our witness.
- I waste a lot of time trying to multi-task. I’m usually working on more than one thing at the same time, but I’m realizing that this approach does weaken my concentration on any singular task. Slowing down a bit has caused me to evaluate how much I actually get done.
- I don’t manage my time as well as I thought I did. It seems like I’m busier than ever these days, but I’ve also learned during this crisis that I can get a lot more done via wise scheduling, focused meetings, and good technology. I need to maintain these habits.
- I miss singing God’s praises with His people. I’m not a singer, so this one has surprised me. I’m looking forward to the time when we can gather again and lift our voices together in person – even if we’re singing six feet apart.
- I sometimes rush too quickly through my Bible study. I really am quite busy these days, but I seem to have had more time to invest more deeply in my study of the Scriptures. There’s no reason why I can’t do that beyond this crisis.
- I miss traveling, but I’ve been reminded of my responsibility to minister at home. I’ve traveled a lot for many years, and I wondered how I’d adjust to being grounded. I’ve enjoyed being at home much more, and it’s been good to focus ministry locally.
- I take my blessings for granted. Pam and I are still healthy. I still have a job. Sheltering in place for us means staying in a house that’s bigger than we need. We can afford to support local restaurants by getting take-out meals. We can do ministry via technology without threat of persecution. All of these blessings were in place before COVID-19—it’s just that I took them for granted.
- What we do in ministry really does matter. We know that truth, but I’ve been reminded of it when death seems to be just hanging in the air. The words we speak lead to eternal life.
What have you been learning?
What have I been learning? I think that a better way of putting it is what am I learning. First, I am learning a lot of new skills, for example, how to host a zoom meeting, how to put together powerpoint slides, how to lead an online gathering, and how to preach to an online gathering. I am learning the importance of keeping the format of online gatherings short and simple; of preaching short, concise messages; of maintaining contact with church members outside of online gatherings;, and of offering them encouragement.I am confirming my belief that many of the worship practices which are a part of the ecclesiastical tradition to which I belong are not essential. I am also learning a lot of new hymns and songs.
I may not miss in-person gatherings as much as some do because I am already accustomed to worshiping at home as well as in a church sanctuary and a variety of non-traditional settings–private houses, storefronts, banquet rooms, gymnasiums, conference rooms, and outdoors. The BBC Songs of Praise video series on Youtube features large gatherings and massed voices for those who miss them. While I appreciate such gatherings, I am finding that I prefer worship in a smaller, more intimate gathering.
As someone who has been involved in music ministry over the years and understands the dynamics of congregational singing, I must point out that a congregation whose members are standing six or more feet apart will not sound like a congregation whose members are standing closer together. One of the churches in which I am involved, the members of the congregation who are few in number sit scattered around a near empty sanctuary. When they sing, they do not sound at all like the congregation of the other church in which I am involved. It has more members and they sit fairly close to each other except in the front pews. This church also has a choir and a music director who lead the congregational singing.