One of the collections of churches I serve has to meet once a year and plan our worship services for the coming year. We have four buildings and only one worship service a week so we have to decide which building we meet it on which Sunday. That sounds simple–we can just have a simple rotation where each building has worship every fourth Sunday. Unfortunately, things are not that simple.
To start with, some buildings are better for some events–only two of them can host meals or receptions. Each building needs to have worship on some of the special event days like Easter and Christmas. Parking in the winter can be a problem at some of the locations. So, every year, we have to have a meeting to take into consideration all these factors plus some others and design a schedule to be approved by the church.
(By the way, the answer to the question “Why not just have one building?” is long, complicated and while some have been asking it for years, we are not likely going to get to that point for a long time.)
Anyway, during the last planning session, we tried to add some different events to add some variety. One of the additions was an outdoor worship service with a picnic to follow. As we talked, we even decided to invite the members of my other pastorate to join with us. When we were planning this late last year, this looked and sounded like a great idea.
But, as things got closer and closer, well, the idea needed to be structured and organized and put together better. The key issue was the weather, something which is notoriously hard to predict in Nova Scotia. We needed sunny and warm but would settle for cloudy and warm–cloud and rain would be a killer.
While I have great leaders in the congregations, as pastor there were some things that only I could take care of. My first act was to discuss rainy day backup plans–if it was raining, the deacons and church moderator would make a final go/no go decision since I would be leading worship somewhere else when the final decision had to be made.
I also decided that I needed to be prepared for any eventuality. After some thought, I decided that I would use the same sermon no matter where we were but the other elements of worship needed some attention. We would need different music, different orders of service and even different announcement, which necessitated different bulletins.
I like to be prepared so I eventually prepared two complete worship services and two different bulletins. I would choose the appropriate service when the time came and I would copy the bulletin just before I left for worship (remember, we are talking small congregations here–copying the bulletin doesn’t take that long) and hope that the weather didn’t change while I was on my way.
Some might suggest that my extra work to prepare two services and two bulletins was a sign of weak faith. They might be right–I have never claimed to have great faith. Since we actually did have the outdoor service and the picnic along with a sprinkle of rain, I didn’t need the backup service and so wasted my time.
But for me, it wasn’t wasted time. If I hadn’t done the extra work to have a backup ready, I would have been more anxious and would have spent even more time worrying and fussing and wondering if I should have created a backup. Knowing myself meant that I could circumvent the anxiety stage and do the back up. The extra time spent on that saved me a lot of strain and stress during the week and even more on Sunday. No matter what happened, I was ready.
I can’t anticipate every twist and turn in ministry–but I have learned that I function better when I am ready for the ones that I can anticipate. It is means that I do a bit of extra work that ends up being unused, that isn’t a real problem since I have avoided a major amount of stress. And while stress does have some good points, finding ways to reduce unnecessary stress is always a good thing.
May the peace of God be with you.