The RevGals do a Friday Five, but this one is my own on the eve of the eve of my parish’s Ministry Faire this Sunday. Completely unsolicited, here ya go people of SSSJ and all people of The Way, here are five reasons to be involved in active ministry.
- Washing coffee pots brings about personal, spiritual growth. I was pretty much unchurched as a child. After my mom married my awesome, Jewish step-father, we didn’t go to church. Mom was hurt by excommunication (as she was divorced) and dad was a very, very, very reformed Jew. A Jew with a side of bacon-wrapped shrimp. Long story short, my unchurchedness left me with no idea actual people did all the things one finds in a church: set up the altar, put out the prayer candles, clean, host funeral, confirmation, baptism, and all manner of receptions; make coffee; teach Sunday school; take Eucharist to the home-bound; wash altar cloths and albs…. the list goes on and on. In every church there is a stalwart band of folks doing these things, and they get tired. They need refreshment – they need others to step up so they can go to Sunday school, attend a reception without staying to clean up, sit with their families during the service. When you step up and allow them to recharge, you’re loving another with no expectation of reward. This will bring about personal growth in ways you never imagined.
- Active ministry will take you out of your comfort zone. Go to a homeless shelter a few times and make the unexpected realization: they are not much different than me. It turns all your notions of poverty and homelessness upside down. Drive some middle-school kids to church camp listening to them talk and seeing the world through their fresh eyes; count the offering on Sunday and be amazed at what gets done with $35 and some baling wire; bring a casserole for a family grappling with a medical emergency; teach Sunday school. Metaphorical scales will fall from your eyes; it will be uncomfortable at first, as Truth always is, but then will come an indescribable Understanding, along with a weird feeling in your chest as your heart grows another size.
- You will learn what it means to be a small part of something larger than yourself. Active ministry is not for those seeking glory. It might be months or even never before anyone connects the dots to you and the coffee and donut holes they look forward to every Sunday; however, sitting back and watching or better, listening, to a room full of happy people, knowing you were in some small way responsible for it is, well, magic. Warm, undefinable magic. The closest I can come to description is in simply showing up and doing something small, a door is cracked through which Holy Spirit enters. You are the crack in the door and suddenly, being small no longer matters.
- Relationships are strengthened when you support those in active ministry. My husband jokes that his ministry is “writing checks”, but that’s not 100% true. Oh, he writes checks, but he also supports me in everything I do. He schleps crock-pots and casserole dishes, my laptop and camera equipment, plies me with coffee and basically keeps me on my feet through everything I get myself into. It’s how our personalities work: I’m an ambivert who volunteers, he’s an introvert who quietly stacks chairs, empties garbage cans, and fetches pizza for me when I’ve exhausted myself and need to recover on the couch, watching Big Bang Theory reruns. My point is, if you’re an introvert, there is still a place for you, and it can be the door through which friendships and relationships enter.
- Ministry is, most importantly (I believe) the essence of what Jesus meant by, “Love one another”. When you stay to wash up the last of the dishes, that’s love; when you feed a hungry person, that’s love; when you teach another’s child about God, that’s love; when you answer phones, fold newsletters, change light bulbs, cut the grass, that’s love. It’s not big, sparkly, neon love – it’s better: it’s quiet, work-a-day, whole-grain, sustaining, infused-with-God-love. It’s the best.
How wonderful is it that God allows for ongoing maturation in humans? I know I’m grateful for it all the time, and for the countless blessings ministry opportunities have brought me: being a lector taught me to study the Word; cooking for others allowed me to do something useful in situations needful of hope; I don’t even know where to begin on all the things I learned from teaching Sunday school. Suffice to say, though it’s cliche, I learned much, much more from them then they ever did from me. But I know I made a difference, because I loved. And, all these paragraphs later that is my point: active ministry provides opportunities to love one another as Jesus loved us.
This Sunday my parish has a Ministry Faire. I sure hope everyone comes, and I hope they find their place in our big puzzle because as it turns out, it’s not the building but the people (and their love) who are the church.