Holidays in Ministry

I remember coming home from Palm Sunday service in April, with a full and exhausted heart. I shuffled through the front door of my college house, hands full of overflowing tote bags, into what was an equally full kitchen. I remember being greeted with a dozen high-pitched welcomes and rapid-fire questions that I’d grown to expect (and now miss): How was church? Were you teaching? How’d it go?

The conversation quickly shifted back to the previous topic: the sweetness that everyone had experienced at their Palm Sunday services. Friends talked about how they’d cried when the children skipped down the aisles, waving palm branches. They commented on how moving the presentation of the story had been, how tangible the Spirit was during worship, and how relevant the sermons had been. Partaking in communion during holidays usually carries a different weight.

I just listened, laughing to myself. That hadn’t quite been my experience…

I don’t know what our palm processional looked like because I was in the back, consoling a crying toddler and convincing my middle schoolers that waving palms was still cool. I found myself in the middle of a palm branch duel between brothers, being smacked by the branches as I threatened to take them away. I ran, in my heels, to find extra palms (or, let’s be real, probably a stick from the parking lot) because, inevitably, someone didn’t get one.

For everything that’s moving, beautiful, and meaningful in a church service, there’s someone behind it who’s making it happen.

I’m specifically talking about ministry-related events here, but the principle extends further: at stores, restaurants, events – whatever it is that we’re experiencing, there’s someone on the other end who is doing all they can to make it happen.

That isn’t to say they don’t love their job. It isn’t to say that people are bitter about what they’re missing or that they are dying to be appreciated (if they are, maybe it’s time to give them a break). This isn’t a complaint about spending my Palm Sunday morning playing games with pre-teens; believe me when I say I loved every bit of it. My Christmas Eve will be spent as the liaison between the middle schoolers who we’re letting plan the program and the kids they’ll be directing in it. But I’m pretty sure I’m living the dream here. I’m choosing to have youth group on my birthday because I love what I do. 

I love my students more than I ever thought possible. I love watching them fall in love with Jesus. I love watching them play stupid games, care about re-decorating their youth room, or hanging out with each other after service. How can this not be the best job in the world?

It’s not a complaint.

It’s just a reminder not to forget.

Don’t forget the people who are working behind the scenes. Don’t forget that the things you enjoy, the things that are causing you to meet Jesus – they don’t just happen.

For every beautiful children’s program, there’s a tired, overworked (and probably really happy) children’s director. For every craft or candle that gets passed out, for every giving tree tag that you pull off, there’s someone behind the cutting, glueing, and assembling. For every moving sermon and powerful worship set, there’s a pastor, worship pastor, and any number of people running the AV system. For every service that is made reverent and special by the removal of your kids, there’s someone whose missing service to watch and teach them. They’re probably missing the holiday, or at the very least, the church service, with their family.

It’s lesson planning, lots of Dollar Tree runs, papers all over the bedroom floor, too many questions and decisions, weekend work days, justification for buying reusable tote bags every time you stop at the grocery, and too many hugs, laughs, and sweet moments to count.

It’s a whole lot of the faithfulness of the Lord. And a whole lot more of His grace.

If you’re in ministry, I hope that you love what you do. I hope that it feels like the very gift that it is.

We wouldn’t trade it for the world.

And, we love hearing that you find what we’re doing meaningful and moving. Just don’t forget that we didn’t experience it like you did. Be gracious in the way you speak and be cognizant of the subconscious reality of making those in the background feel like they’re missing out. We may not talk about the sermon, the program, the worship, or the processional, but it’s encouraging to hear that you met the Lord in it.

We’d also love to talk about our students, the craziness of the morning, or that we met Jesus too, if you’d like to listen. Sometimes, all we need is someone to get as excited about memory verses, new technology, or an injury-free event as we are.

With another busy, holiday season, where things in ministry tend to pick up instead of slow down, remember to be kind. Encouragement, gratitude, and just simple noticing goes further than you might think.

There’s a lot that goes into the 5 minute video that you’ll see on Sunday morning. Someone is making a last minute sprint into the grocery to pick up items for communion. The handouts that you’re getting, the graphic on the screen, and the quietness of a service sans children – yep, someone is behind all of that.

Managing the program. Putting together the videos. Troubleshooting the unforeseen challenges. Teaching students about what it means to love Jesus. Sometimes it feels rewarding, sometimes it feels thankless. Sometimes we come through that door on cloud nine, amazed at the works of the Lord, and sometimes we come ready for sweatpants and a nap, unsure if we’re making a difference.

Holidays, when your life is ministry, can look quite different. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

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