Thinking Out Loud

December 9, 2016

When the Lord’s Work is on the Back Burner: Clergy Edition

Filed under: Christianity, Church, ministry — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:33 am

Because of the nature of the work that occupies more than half of my week, I am acutely aware of the tendency of the laity to neglect their volunteer responsibilities at the church until the very last possible minute. Thus, this topic is one of my frequent go-to rants.

Examples include:

  • The Sunday School teacher who needs some gifts for her twelve students but this only dawns on her very late in the evening on Saturday when the shopping options in her town basically consist of the little store located at the gas station.
  • The soloist who is scheduled to sing on Sunday morning, and arrives at the Christian bookstore at 4:45 — they close at 5:00 — to see what music soundtracks are in stock; then needing to go home and actually learn the song by morning.

We wrote about that sort of thing once this year already.

The thing is, I very much believe in empowerment of the laity. While I believe paid church staff should be in charge of purchasing, I don’t think the staff should be doing everything or controlling everything.

But this year, I was caught off guard when it was clergy not laity who I felt had neglected their responsibilities. Because I don’t know the people in question, I feel I can tell their stories.

  • The pastor who, with just days left to December 25th, feels he needs to do a church mailing and is desperately seeking Christmas letterhead, matching mailing envelopes and matching offering envelopes.
  • The pastor who, the next day, decides that the Christmas Eve service should include a candlelight ceremony.
  • The pastor who, the day after that, is also looking for candles.

img 021316See…here’s the thing. Although you might not know this unless you read every day, I write from Canada and we only have so many domestic sources for church supplies; they tend to sell out; and importing things at this late stage isn’t always an option. Unlike the USA where the distributors of such things are also the originators or the manufacturers, here in The North purchasing — which means importing — covers reasonably estimated needs and not much more. Retailers adopt the same mentality. (Granted, Christmas occurring on a Sunday does shake things up a bit.)  Meanwhile:

  • I told Letterhead Guy about a Christian bookstore on his route that tends to hoard things like church bulletins in the hope the store might have something unclaimed. (Most stores don’t like to keep seasonal stuff lying around for ten months until the next Christmas rush occurs.)
  • I told the first Candlelight Guy about someone who had purchased a very large surplus of candles, but unfortunately that didn’t work out. Oddly enough, I realized later that in the little village where he’s holding the service, the largest industry is a candle company. Surely he knew that, right?
  • With the second Candle Guy, I had a better offer. He needed 125 candles. I found a supplier who would have an extra two boxes of 250 arriving in a day or two. He simply needed to buy next year’s supply this year, and if he would commit, I could even arrange free shipping. It was a good price, too. Mysteriously, he called back to pass on the offer. He wanted 125, not 250.

So here’s the thing. As much as I try to be polite and cordial and offer suggestions, I find it worse when it’s a member of the clergy who is trying to organize Christmas services with just two weeks to go. I might find it in my heart to forgive someone who has a 8:30 to 5:00 job the rest of the week, or is struggling to raise a houseful of children.

The clergy, on the other hand are professionals. They need to have a big-picture view of the church calendar and what is coming up more than just a fortnight ahead.

So to all, I wish to reveal this vital, breaking news: In 2017 the date for Christmas is December 25th. That’s right. It’s already been announced. That information is actually published ahead of time for the convenience of people who need to know.

It’s been a pleasure being snarky with you.

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2 Comments »

  1. If this gets your goad then maybe go a little deeper with it. Why does it irk you that some folks are just not solid organizers? And is there a Biblical requirement for elders (teachers and preachers) to have some sort of gift of administration? Church is not a business, it is a people. Approach these administratively challenged people from that standpoint – how is their decision affecting the relationships of believers at the church? Is there something else that can be done to cultivate what they had hoped to achieve by a candle-light service or by using Christmas themed stationary?

    Comment by Keith A. Wadley — December 9, 2016 @ 9:11 am

    • The personal thing is multi-faceted: (a) I prefer to be a bearer of good news than to have to tell people distributors are sold out of an item, (b) Many of these are people I have not served before; they’ve already tried elsewhere, been told “No” (c) It uses up time and energy at a busy time of year (d) It’s possible the candlelight thing is an afterthought which betrays that not a lot of forethought has gone into a service they had a whole year to prepare for.

      Are they administratively challenged? Perhaps. Paul wasn’t sure if or who he’d baptized; he obviously didn’t keep records. It’s not a sin.

      I’m big on offering creative alternatives to churches for a host of things; oftentimes from a cost-saving perspective, too. But it is a busy time of year and my creative juices tend to get sidestepped in the run up to Dec. 25th.

      Thanks for a good comment. (Forgive me for not always replying to previous comments.)

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — December 9, 2016 @ 9:19 am


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