I have realized something recently. In the world of “church”, like any other community, people are labeled… put into categories of sorts.
Pastors, children’s workers, youth leaders, worship team members, elders, committee members, food pantry workers, greeters, bus drivers, etc. We are, most often defined by our ministry.
How many times have you described a member of your church to another by telling them what she does in the church? “You know who I mean, she is blond and helps in the nursery, and her husband does bus ministry.”
I know I have done it… and people often know me by what I do in the church. “Your that girl who sings and plays trumpet on the worship team and you help with the youth, right?”
So what happens when we no longer are involved in the ministry that defines us? Have we become the dreaded “pew-warmers”? The proverbial 2nd rate athlete left to sit on the bench all game because they are simply thought to be not good enough?
I have also noticed that we tend to socialize within our ministries. It makes sense… and is not a bad thing. If you work with people every Sunday, or even more often as is usually the case with ministries like youth or music, you will become closer with those people. I would actually propose it to be a very good thing. The closer you are with those you minister with, the better attuned you are to each other and the more help you can provide your fellow workers.
So what happens when you “take a break” from ministry for a season? Are you destined to spend your pew-warming season floating on the outside of the “sphere”? To become a friendless, nameless entity punching in your time card at church? To go to events and feel alone in a swarm of do-ers?
I think this is a symptom of a bigger problem. Could it be that the old 80-20 church rule is actually the result of not reaching out to others who aren’t in our “sphere”? To clarify, the 80-20 rule is the idea that 80% of the work in church is done by 20% of the people in a church.
I will admit… I am guilty of not reaching out to really befriend those who weren’t in my sphere (The sphere of influence=those who are involved in ministry in a church). Not because I felt I was better or they were less, but I am creature who likes the easy road. I do so much better if I don’t have to go out of my way to do something. If I see you every week in church, then I can make plans with you while we are together. I am not the type of person who texts or calls on a regular basis… and that’s even with my best friend. I also tend to be forgetful about things like that… I like to think it’s because I am a creative genius… but uh… probably not. 🙂
I know this isn’t the answer to our volunteer crisis in our churches, but I think it could help. Since my hubby and I have been on our ministry break, I have felt “on the outside” and realized that I was new to a church and felt like I was on the outside, would I really want to become “on the inside” with those people who made me feel left out? I sat at a party tonight and looked around at the groups that were talking together. Parents of some youth in one area, a bunch of children’s workers in another, and some parents of small kids at a table. It’s natural, you spend time with those you have things in common with. It made me think though, do we do this in church? Do we shake hands and say superficial hellos to those we don’t know, and save our real social hour for our friends? Again, part of me screams, IT’s NATURAL… but is it what we are called to do week after week, year after year? Are we called to get closer and closer to our select few while ignoring the hurting woman who happened to sit next to us because we had to get to lunch with our BFFs?
What if we befriended the woman next to us that was hurting. Learned more than her name and how firm her handshake is. What if we talked to her, socialized with her, even for a few minutes? It could be she is hurting and feeling alone. Maybe she wants to be involved but doesn’t know how or where or what. What if you are the catalyst she needs to get involved? What if your friendly approach was just the boost she needed to sign up to work with the 2 yr olds (an area that always seems to need more people)? Isn’t that worth missing a few moments of lunch, or not getting to talk to someone you see all the time at worship practice?
What if the Lord put you beside her because you have exactly what she needs? What if she is going through something you have been through and your knowledge and experience is the one thing that will help her out of the quicksand she has been stuck in? Isn’t that worth missing a few moments of lunch?
I feel like I am in a unique situation being a pew-warmer for a season. So I am going to challenge myself to reach out to those who aren’t involved… those who are on the fringe of church society. The ones who are hurting, lost, needing Jesus. The ones sitting in our pews praying for God to rescue them. I am going to reach out… to be Jesus even to those inside my church’s four walls.