Avoid The Strike Out

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There I was - standing in a cage surrounded by a fine weave of netting. There with a large plastic object tightly secured to my head and an elongated aluminum rod clutched in both hands. Then “THOOMP” a spherical object comes rocketing in my direction. I swung the rod, partly out of self-defense and partly out of instinct but ended up hitting nothing but air.

Sometimes my job feels like that experience….standing in a batting cage in full gear but Sundays come flying at me so fast and I just don’t know what to do with them. They keep coming- regardless of what kind of week I’ve had or what season it is. I get going on a new work week on Monday morning and before I know it, the bulletin deadline has passed, readers are waiting for scripts and the PowerPoint still just does not look quite right. Some Sundays are home runs….others are just plain strike outs.

What can we do to avoid the strike outs? How can those in ministry- particularly those who plan music and worship find a Sabbath rest and feel rejuvenated for the week to come? How can we continually come up with new and fresh ideas for 52 weeks (plus midweek services) of the year?

These were the thoughts I was having a few weeks ago as I pondered the start of the season of Lent. How can I avoid the strike outs? How can our church journey through Lent together and see things anew? How can I keep up with the flying Sundays? I took some rarely found quiet time to think about these things and come up with some ideas.

— Make liberal use of the talents and ideas of your congregation. Yes, many of us are trained and have been doing this for years, but members in my church (all ages!) have never ceased to amaze me with their creativity and wealth of ideas. Go outside your worship planning teams into the Sunday school classrooms and into family devotion times. Have the middle schoolers come up with a list of things they do that they know are wrong and let them write and lead the prayer of confessions for a few weeks. Have a family meditate on a verse or chapter during their family devotional times and share in worship what they have learned. Have your children’s worship room design graphics for bulletin covers. Have your writers come up with verses for a familiar hymn tune that go with your text/theme. Ask your musicians and artists to share their gifts. If your ideas seem old and redundant, cultivate the creativity in your church.

— Mix it up. Instead of sitting down at the same table piled high with hymnals, songbooks and the Worship Sourcebook, change your location. Take a walk in God’s beautiful creation and instead of immediately turning on the IPod, walk in silence and let new ideas start to germinate. Many of you probably have those hymnals memorized. Those indexes in the back are super valuable but they don’t change month to month to give you new ideas. Spend intentional time thinking and planning outside the office.

— Take real Sundays off. Vacation Sunday should truly mean vacation Sunday. Pastors aren’t asked to provide a sermon for someone else to read….why are worship directors asked to plan services regardless of if they will be there or not? Delegate to others on vacation Sundays.

— If possible, ask for an extra Sunday or two per year where you intentionally go to another church for worship. Experience the diversity of God’s people joining together in praise. It will allow you to worship, unhindered by the worry that the service won’t go exactly as planned.

Keep swinging – the Sundays keep on rolling. I have to keep reminding myself that each Sunday is an opportunity for my congregation to meet with and corporately worship the Triune God. Don’t let Sundays become a checklist of things that need to happen before the start of the service. Don’t lose sight of just how important this work is. Opportunities for home runs….not chances to strike out.

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