Today’s question comes from a Rev who saw that some church members were present at church but missing from the worship services. Here’s her dilemma:
Our congregation is involved in many ministries which are supported by lots of wonderful “get things done” people. I thank God for them and for their energy for the church’s mission.
However, last Sunday after worship I discovered that several active members came to church but did not come into the worship service because they were attending to other duties. Specifically, some were preparing the fabulous after-church coffee fellowship and others were setting up beds for hosting the homeless.
I can’t decide:
Is this precisely what Jesus would be doing alongside them?
Should I encourage them to put worship ahead of other church work?
What would you do?
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The Matriarchs have some ideas:
Dear Puzzled Rev,
I know two men who have ushered almost every Sunday in their church but have not heard a sermon/sung a hymn in over 20 years. They stand in the narthex to greet people both coming and going, and they only enter the sanctuary to receive the morning offering. They have no idea what they are missing: spiritual nourishment, theological education, worship, prayer, community. If I sound harsh, it’s because they are members of my extended family. They have forgotten – in their service to the church – what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
“Good Church People” are not necessarily “Faithful Christians.”
While many of us practice our faith by serving, we are also called to stop what we are doing (honor Sabbath time) to worship our Creator. It reminds us that God is God and we are not – no matter how much we try to keep the world spinning. The Mary and Martha story in Luke speaks to this, if you need a reference. And while we so appreciate the people who work hard to create a safe place for the homeless and a lovely coffee hour, it’s easy to forget that our service is not about us. Worship is that reminder.
Peace and Merry Christmas!
A Church for Starving Artists
We’ve encountered similar times when busy folks have chosen to set up or prepare for something worthwhile and meaningful during worship.
We waited a bit, so that no one would feel embarrassed, and our governing body talked together about the importance of making time and space for worship.
We concluded that we would schedule nothing other than worship during worship—no blood drive appointments, no picture directory photo shoots…nothing but worship, and encouraged folks to consider their own scheduling of important, mission-related tasks, to include worship as a priority not to be messed with. I think it works, most of the time.
Sometimes the things that keep people out of worship are personal: it’s the time of year a loved one died, or hymns make them cry and they don’t like to do that, or they’re having a bad moment with God but don’t want to give up on their faith, so they are working it out in service. Especially as Christmas approaches, they may be avoiding emotional triggers by keeping busy. My instinct would be to see if it happens again, then make an invitational query from a pastoral, rather than priestly, perspective. “We miss you in worship. Do you need some help with getting the beds ready so you will have time to be with us?” Let us know what happens!
Blessings to you,
RevGals Executive Director
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Thank you, Jan, Jennifer and Martha!
Your turn, dear reader. Please share your experiences &/or advice in the comments.
Do you have a question or dilemma that could use a new perspective? Send it to AskTheMatriarch (at) gmail (dot) com.
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