For nearly 30 years now I have been involved in church ministry in one way or another, and in that time I have met many people. So many I often hope God doesn’t expect me to remember them all, because that would seem impossible. After saying that, not too long ago I visited my first church placement and was amazed how the names and memories of their stories came flooding back when I looked upon the faces of people I had not seen for so long. No two people are ever the same, yet my experience has shown me that certain characters seem to reappear in most churches. Let me tell you about some of them; and maybe you will recognise them in your church too:
The elderly person who leads their own home group. They have led their own home group for many years and therefore are answerable to no one for what happens at the group, only themselves. No amount of central organisation, great ideas or themes from the minister to help teach and give direction to for the whole church even when recommended by the leadership and accepted by church meeting , makes the slightest bit of difference to what goes on in their group. Come rain or shine they will carry on regardless in their own sweet way. Faithful but infuriating at times.
The women who runs the church kitchen. Yep she is alive and well in most churches. Experience has taught me that a wise course of action is to befriend this lady and never to cross her. Don’t be tempted in anyway to reorganise the cupboards or part with anything from the kitchen without first consulting her and making her think it was her idea in the first place. In some cases, she actually holds the keys to every single cupboards so you won’t get in without her knowledge anyway!
The retired Sunday School leader. In most churches there is this person who for years managed a thriving Sunday school that was over 300 strong (allegedly!) They will talk about a Sunday school anniversaries and outings to the seaside, recalling the glory days with a sense of pride and satisfaction. Conversations with them always carry the rider that today’s children are uncontrollable, today’s Sunday school teachers are just not committed, and what a pity our current Sunday school only gets 15! In talking to this person always fight the desire to ask where the 300 attendees are now – as they would be in their 50’s and that seems to be a generation where decline hit many churches – Ah yes – the Baby Boomers!
The young person who has been to Spring Harvest/Greenbelt and wishes that our church was more like that every week. Yep they have now seen how church should really be done, after just one week in a tent or Butlin’s chalet in the rain; they return back to the mother church and spend their time telling the minister where he/she is going wrong. Enthusiastic yes – but also very annoying – The thing is this was me once upon a time!
As I write this I can see these characters in my present church, but also names flood my mind from previous places. It seems that within every church the same power struggles exist and the same issues arise. I sometimes find myself in a conversation with one of the above people and while I half listen to their stories, I am thinking back to other related conversations through the years in a similar vein and I have learned to thank God for these people who have become the backbone of many a local church, with their traditions and challenges, their vision and commitment.
So to Edna, Marie, Roy, Bert, Doreen, Norman, June, Debbie, Senga…. to name just a few – thank you that I have encountered God through you, even though at times you have drove me crazy!
Thank You Father for the many people we meet along the way. For the lessons we learn from them and the way we shape one another.
Jesus – during this Lenten season – remind me again that you in each unique person we discover something new about you and your love for us.
Lord hear us – Lord graciously hear us!