Pastor Brenda and I have been taking a look at the work we do, attempting to determine what our priorities are (based on how we spend our time) verses what our priorities should be. One of the things we’ve found is that we spend time doing things that members and friends of the church could be doing, freeing us to do work that we are especially trained to do.
We started doing this examination because I will be on sabbatical from late August to late November and, while Pastor Brenda will move to full-time during those three months, we will need people to pick up some work or the work won’t get done.
Now, it’s okay for some work to not get done. It’s okay for some ministries to end. We can’t do everything and we don’t have to keep doing things just because we have been doing them. The reason to continue doing something – or to start doing something – as a church community is because we have a sense of call about it. Let me offer three examples of what I’m talking about.
We don’t have to have a choir. I offer this example because I can’t imagine Niles Discovery Church without a choir, but we don’t have to have it. We continue our choir because it is vital, people are engaged, and it serves our mission. In this case, I think it especially serves that part of our mission encapsulated in the word “grow.” In other words, we do it because people in our community have a passion for it and it serves our mission.
One of the newer ministries of our church, started this year, was started because Beth Armstrong wanted to be involved in some intergenerational service projects through the church. So she started some. This is exactly the sort of thing our bylaws are designed to encourage. While she could have come to the Cabinet to get this work recognized as a church ministry, Beth worked with the Ministry of Christian Education Team to get this ministry off the ground. Now this project is spinning off on its own and you can help support it by signing up for individual projects (the next one is on May 7: a work party at the Oakland Peace Center) or by letting Beth know that you’d like to help her do the coordinating. Like the choir, this is happening because people want to do it and it fulfills part of our mission (in this case, the part of our mission encapsulated in the word “serve”).
My third example is the Tri-City Youth Chorus. Members of the Ministry of Christian Education Team wanted a music program for the tweens in our church and realized that there are probably families in the wider community who would like the same thing for their kids. It took several months to organize and launch this program, effort that was well spent. The Tri-City Youth Chorus has managed to support itself since it started last fall. (We had expected the program would run a deficit for a while and had identified a designated fund to support the effort while it got going. We haven’t needed any of these funds so far.) People had a passion for this and it fulfills part of our mission (especially the “grow” and “serve” parts, but also the “welcome”).
There are plenty of other examples. As I write the first draft of this column, a new group is putting together some plots in the LEAF community garden across Niles Blvd. from the church building. A cadre of people faithfully teach Sunday School for our children. You get the picture.
I really think it is this simple: We are called as a church to do something if there are people with a passion for it in our community and if it fulfills part of our mission. If we don’t have the passion for it or If it doesn’t fulfill part of our mission, we should stop doing it.
So, Pastor Brenda and I are creating a list of ministry opportunities that we see in the life of the church. We have published and will regularly update this lest (especially if you send us suggestions) on our newsblog (j.mp/ndcminops). And when we have bulletin boards, we will post this list there, too.
Now, I hope you won’t volunteer for any of these ministry opportunities. You read that right. I hop you won’t volunteer. I do, however, hope that if there is anything on this list that connects with your gifts and passions, you will recognize it is a call. And I hope you will follow that call.
In a blog I read recently, the author says that church folk shouldn’t volunteer out of the goodness of their hearts. Church folk need to respond to the goodness of God’s heart, to respond to God’s call to service for the sake of God’s kin-dom. “Call me a follower. Call me a member of the Body of Christ. Call me a disciple. Just don’t call me a volunteer.”
My suspicion is that there will be ministry opportunities we list that won’t get filled. And that means that those ministries won’t happen. That is okay. God only calls us to ministries where we have gifts and passion, and those gifts and passions intersect with God’s mission. You are the gifts the church has and if no one is called to a ministry, then the church isn’t called to it either.
Oh, and if there’s a ministry that you’re called to that’s not on the list, let’s add it. That’s how new ministries start.