Pew-Warming

Teach me Lord, to reach out to others as I reach up to you.

Teach me Lord, to reach out to others as I reach up to you.

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.

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5 thoughts on “Pew-Warming

  1. Ohhhh… I have many thoughts on this, not the least of which is the problem with the other side of the coin, those who join ministries not because they’re called, but either with the aim of making friends with/attracting the attention of those already in that group, or because all their friends do it. That’s not JUST an institutional church problem (see: why I suffered through chorus each year, trying to be a fish climbing a tree) but I have definitely seen it in many congregations.

    I also think there is the “problem of invitation…” People who don’t know me aren’t likely to ask me to join with them in ministry. And I’m shy at heart… so lots of people don’t know me. And the invitations I’m likely to accept – because they’re the ones I’m likely to get – are the ones from people I already know, which furthers the whole “not meeting new people” thing!!

  2. There is definetly lots more to it… On many sides. I just know for me… I dont want to sit, but since I have to be obdient for this season and SIT, my perspective is changing. I see so many people who come in to church every Sunday, make no meaningful contact with others and even with God and then leave. That makes me sad… and I am sure it breaks the Lord’s heart. I want to be the change I want to see, so I want to do my part in encouraging others to get involved. In the area in which they are suited and called to!!!

  3. I also think if you were to get involved, even in a ministry that your wonderful, lovely friend is in, you would still be able to meet others in that ministry… and that would be good!!

  4. Awesome Dana. It really is amazing, when we are willing to see, what we could not see from a previous position. Yes, there are many who ‘get left out’. Maybe that’s why it’s designed to be body ministry! 🙂 Enjoy your selah and glean what you can in the process!

  5. Just got to read through some of your posts finally. There is such truth in this! Relationships with people with whom your work side-by-side with in ministry are intrinsic in nature and, of course, a good thing. But we should never miss the opportunity to minister outside of our sphere of influence. I often feel so limited, because I’m up on the platform before service and much of the end as well – which limits the time I get to talk to people. And of that time left over, much of that is spent finishing up service things. But then there are those chance happenings…

    For instance, the other day I ran into an elderly lady who attends our church. She’s not someone I would bump into at church nor a person with whom I would have anything in common with (ministry-wise, that is). So when I ran into her, I had a choice to make. My day was slammed with a ton of things I had to get done, but I made a choice to take the time to reach out. A half hour later, and she had not only “shot the breeze” with me, but had opened up in sharing some things that she was struggling with and needed prayer for. What an honor!!

    That being said, it’s so easy for us to be unavailable to those we don’t know. You have it so right – we have to take the time and make the effort to sieze those opportunities when they come across our path. We have to be intentional.

    Thanks for sharing this.

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