Easter is this Sunday. This is Holy Week, the time between Palm Sunday – marking Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem — and his resurrection. The other half of the time the “twicers” go to church they get to learn about the virgin birth of Jesus. It really is a shame that the only lessons this crowd receives are those of the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus. Granted, they are important elements to Christianity, but the meat and taters of his ministry gets left out.
This is also a very trying time for pastors and ministry staff, as they typically get two at-bats a year with crowds like this and they need to hit it out of the ballpark each time. While they are busy preparing a dynamic service, they are often caught up in the labors of the seasons, dealing with extra services, decorations, children’s programs and all the other stuff that whittles at their time and attention.
If you don’t believe in the resurrection of the dead, you ought to be at a pastor’s house the mornings after Easter and Christmas. I’m no pastor, but I’m related to some and close friends with others. Although they won’t admit it publicly, Christmas and Easter are exhausting. The ones that are fortunate enough to welcome new converts to the faith at these times will now have their work cut out for them. Bringing someone into a relationship with Jesus Christ is a first, big step. Integrating them and their families into their community of believers can require a lot of careful planning and plenty of behind-the-scenes work that few are aware of.
It really isn’t a burden for pastors, ministers and priests because this is what they live for. This is their passion and their goal – to bring others to Christ. While this generally happens on a regular basis throughout the year, the numbers and the challenge get bigger at Christmas and Easter. Many pastors and their staff are caught between trying follow-up and reach out to first time and occasional visitors and wanting and needing to nurture relationships with those new to the faith. This balancing act can be stressful and unnerving but also incredibly rewarding.
Those who go to church for Easter Sunday, whether a first-time visitor, twicer or regular attendee, please take a moment to thank the pastor and his staff for the hard work they do. A little appreciation and go an incredibly long way, especially for people who typically get a lot of criticism and/or neglect from the people they serve.
Actually, I may have painted a much more bleak picture of what the holidays are really like for men and women of the cloth, but you get the idea. Any church or other religious service requires a lot of planning and preparation that most people don’t see. I’ve had glimpses of this over the years because of my family and friend connections and also my volunteer work at church.
Volunteering at church is incredibly rewarding. This Saturday my church, First Colony Church of Christ, is holding its annual Big Bunny Party from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., with a time for special needs children and their families from 10-11 a.m. I think the volunteers have as much or more fun than the guests do, and the little visitors have a ball! I know for a fact that the Big Bunny really gets excited to see all the happy (hoppy?) faces.
For the last year and a half my family has been attending First Colony Church’s new satellite campus in Richmond at the former Wild West venue on FM 359. We literally meet in a barn. Called Christ’s Church at Foster Creek, we hold services Sundays at 10 a.m. My family is fully integrated, as we head up communion preparations and clean up, help with the coffee service and my son Luke operates the lights. My wife Sandy helps out in the children’s area and I am usually with the middle and high school students on Sunday nights for Sunday Night at the Barn.
Our youth pastor, Dale Akers, usually has some wacky (and messy) games to play on Sunday nights. He usually has snacks and drinks for the kids (assuming the food wasn’t obliterated as part of a game), songs to sing, a short message and a time of sharing and hanging out together. It’s been very rewarding to see the spiritual growth and maturity of these kids in the short time we’ve been meeting.
It’s during these times of regular Sunday services and the youth activities that we see the meat and taters of Jesus’ ministry both taught and put to action. There is no such thing as a perfect church and ours is a fine example of that. We all have our flaws and imperfections, but we’re also gifted with a spirit of love, forgiveness, grace and acceptance.
So, if you limit yourself to visiting twice a year or just being a Sunday morning consumer, I would invite you to visit your local church and then get involved. I’m reminded of something pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in California once said at an event I was covering years ago in Amarillo. He compared ministry to a football game. He said there are 22 players on the field in need of a break and 70,000 spectators in the stands in desperate need of exercise.
Don’t be afraid to get in the game. Kickoff is this Sunday. Happy Easter, y’all!