by Rev. Dan Morley, North District Missional Strategist and Superintendent
The season of Advent is a mix of traditions and new possibilities. In an unexpected way, it is the tradition which guides and propels us into a new future.
The 2020-2021 Pandemic has brought shifts and changes to many cultural and social norms. We are all continuing to recalibrate to these changes, some of which will be shorter term and others longer, perhaps even permanent – or at least as lasting as anything ever is.
One of the changes we have witnessed is in jobs. Many jobs have gone unfilled, especially in the service industry. Restaurant owners and managers continue to struggle to fill openings for servers, dishwashers, and cooks. Many persons needed to find other employment when the restaurants closed for service and they are not shifting back. Others are reluctant to get back into the public fray and close gatherings. Not only are workers COVID cautious, but also weary of rudeness, impatience, and bullying that have become all too common social practices.
It seems that in the church we may be experiencing some of the same changes and shifts – after all, we are also “service-providers.” Servant-Leaders in the church appear to be fewer and volunteer ministries are more challenging to fill. This has been a longtime shift, but the pandemic has hastened the vacancies. Let us consider ways we can respond.
First of all, this is a time of re-assessment of all ministries. Identify the ministries which have stopped. Consider if it is right and fit to restart them because the need is no longer present or the ministry no longer fulfills the church’s vision and mission.
The re-assessment can also consider which ministries are essential, vital, and effective and need to restart, but in new ways. One church conference this season shared about their 2022 remake of the longtime traditional VBS. They are now recasting the ministry into a year-long music and drama production in which everyone can have a part. Sometimes it is challenging to find servant leaders because a ministry has completed its course and there is no longer vibrancy and excitement to it. New possibilities can re-energize and re-invigorate folks to step up and into serving.
Another approach is to seek partners in ministry. Consider that doing ministry in local church isolation may no longer be viable, it may also not be a reflection of our values and beliefs. If the body of Christ is truly open and inclusive, then let us recognize the assets and gifts in all parts of the body, which can include sibling United Methodist Churches, other neighboring churches, and also service organizations and community agencies which share a common vision.
In addition, we have all become increasingly thoughtful about how we spend our time. This season has caused us to reprioritize our resources, especially that most valuable gift of time. I choose activities and service opportunities which inspire me and through which I find fulfillment for myself and for others. If too few persons are stepping up to ministry in your church, perhaps it is a sign that right, good, and meaningful ministry has not been put forth, or the purposeful “why” has not been shared.
The Advent season gives life purpose and meaning as we are called into a new year of ministry in new ways to reflect the hope, love, joy, and peace of Christ.
In Christ’s Service,