September 30, 2010

A New Perspective on Screens

Many churches over the past five to ten years have added screens in the sanctuary. Screens convey announcements, sermon illustrations, as well as the words for hymns, and liturgy.

Recently, my husband, Mike, encountered a different perspective on the use of screens when he visited a couple from India who have been attending church for several weeks. The husband and wife have lived in the United States for thirteen years, however, the husband was much more proficient in English than the wife. The couple is Hindu, but a friend of theirs in India encouraged them to attend a Protestant church to learn more about Christianity.

The couple commented how helpful the screens were as they learned a new form of worship. The screens offered a visual cue to supplement the auditory experience that came from singing and praying -- opening new ways to understand what was happening during the service. And the repetitive scroll of events and prayers offered continuous opportunities to learn English.

Most people who attend the church speak English, but for those few whose command of the language is limited, screens can provide a unique way to teach English and guide persons toward a deeper walk with God.

Does your church use screens in worship? What benefits do you see?

Jacquie Reed
Fishers, Indiana

September 28, 2010

The Ministry of Donuts

Today at church there was a big crisis. Everyone was talking about it. They talked about it more than I have heard anyone talk about a sermon or worship experience.

What was this remarkable crisis?

The Krispy Kreme donuts, which usually cover two tables in the dining room where coffee hour is held each week, did not arrive.

There were no donuts for the weekly time of conversation and gathering that adults enjoy!

I have heard pre-school children say upon entering the church say, "I want my donut." to which their parents reply, "Not until after church." I have seen two year-olds holding a donut that is bigger than his/her hand. Did you know that donuts have magical qualities? They can even calm any child who is having "a difficult time." Adroit adults can even balance a donut and coffee in one hand as they climb steps to attend Sunday school. Donuts, needless to say, are very important on Sunday morning.

I wish that persons would get as excited about a ministry or an opportunity to serve or beginning new ways of spiritual formation as they did about donuts.

Yes, I do know that Jesus enjoyed sharing food with people, and I bet that if Jesus came to any church across the country, he would visit the "donut room," get some coffee, and enter a discussion with those gathered around the tables. So is more ministry done over donuts than in the sanctuary? Hmmmm.

Jacquie Reed
Fishers, Indiana

September 27, 2010

Travel Soccer, Travel Football, Travel Dance Team...

We had a great day yesterday at church. The hospitality was radical, the worship was passionate, the faith development was intentional, mission and service took risks, and the generosity was extravagant. In other words, we were impeccable in the five practices department. But where was everyone?

This is not to say that no one was at church, but there were fewer. Many of the youth were on an outing with our youth director, but many families were elsewhere-- not that they stayed at home or even just slept in. No, many were with their children who were on traveling soccer, football, hockey, and/or dance teams, and the list continues.

I realize this whole "I want my kid to be successful and have fun" thing is important. Our daughter participated in Color Guard and missed a number of Sundays. But what should our Christian response be?

Do we make our kids go to church? Do we tell them that in the great scheme of things, church ranks after sports? Does the commitment to church take a back seat to our commitment to the team? Do we take our church and witness beyond the walls? Do we miss the opportunity to be part of Sunday worship? What do you think?


September 24, 2010

When the Church Sins Against You

I recently had a tender conversation with a spouse whom I have mentored through a few difficult situations related to ministry.

Her husband is a second career pastor. His first congregation, while he was in seminary, warmly and enthusiastically welcomed him and his family. They were very supportive and encouraging while he navigated the demanding path of papers, tests, and family and church responsibilities. Following graduation, they moved to a rural church that was completely different. There were inadequacies in the parsonage. Getting needed repairs was a constant battle. And they expected the spouse's presence at various church events, which was complicated by the lengthy and daily commute to her job.

The "final straw" occurred when her husband was hospitalized, but the church thoughtlessly required him to preach within a few days of discharge -- two weeks sooner than recommended by his doctor.

I listened to my angry and frustrated friend for nearly forty minutes. She concluded by saying, "Someone needs to tell ministers and spouses not to expect 'a red carpet to heaven' when they begin life in ministry."

I knew that I had to pray about what to say to her. I surely did not want to offer her empty platitudes. She'd already heard too many from the congregation. So I suggested that she and her husband talk with their DS. I reminded her that a DS can be their advocate when church members avoid or prolong making necessary changes such as parsonage repairs. A DS can help a congregation sort through needs and expectations placed on a pastor and spouse. Finally, a DS can substitute or get a substitute for a pastor on Sunday, when the pastor is ill or dealing with critical personal circumstances.

Additionally, and most importantly, I encouraged her to keep her walk with God alive and vital. God is ever present to help us and hear our concerns. I also suggested that she contact three or four pastor spouses for support. I described my good experience with a book group I attend with a group of spouses. I confided that the discussing the book is really secondary to our opportunity to share our personal lives and places in ministry.

While no one gets "a red carpet to heaven," we do have God's graceful invitation to walk on a "red carpet of life." A carpet where we can travel with our Savior on the road that leads to life.

Jacquie Reed,
Fishers, Indiana

September 13, 2010

My favorite account of Jesus feeding the thousands is in John, chapter 6, verses 1-13 because of verses 12 and 13: "When they were all full, he said to his disciples, 'Gather the pieces left over; let us not waste a bit.' So they gathered them all and filled twelve baskets with the pieces left over from the five barley loaves which the people had eaten."

John's gospel is the only account that mentions gathering the "leftovers." Jesus realized that the pieces were just as valuable as the loaves. Putting all of the pieces together enabled even more people to receive nourishment.

I was reminded of this story a few weeks ago. I have quilted for many years, and quilting is a way that I pray. I decided to go through my pile of unfinished projects, leftovers from finished projects, as well as pieces of fabric representing experiments of a particular technique. There was definitely a diverse collection of fabric, embroidery, applique, and a few pieces of paper that I used with fabric. I really did not want to throw away any of these pieces because each represented prayer as well as an image of my faith walk during the past several years.

Just like the crumbs of bread, my pieces were sacred because of the way God was part of the creation. So I randomly began to sew everything together. I disregarded color, pattern, as well as the expectation of making something that "looked nice." I gathered (and sewed) much like the disciples. I ended with a new quilt top, one that will continue to feed my heart and soul as I pray and finish the project.

Jesus gave us a model to value pieces as well as wholeness.

Thank you God for those pieces of who we are that when put together make us whole in you and in ourselves. Amen.

Jacquie Reed, Fishers, Indiana

September 8, 2010

Cable TV and Other Parsonage Standards

Dear Friends, I recently learned that pastors in New Jersey have as part of their parsonage standards, cable TV and Internet. While that isn't the case in our Tennessee Conference, it started me thinking about how one could change/update the parsonage standards.

In our conference, the must-haves include: energy efficient heating and cooling systems; a stove, refrigerator, dish washer, and dryer; some furniture; window coverings; suitable floor coverings; an adequate lawnmower or lawn service (to be negotiated with the pastor); proper installation, storm windows, and storm doors; a garage or carport; and deadbolts on all exterior doors.

First, what do you think about your parsonage standards? Does your parsonage meet those standards? Do you have what you need for ministry in today's world?

Second, if you wanted to change your parsonage standards, would you know how?

Our first parsonage was seriously lacking in both heating and cooling. The window coverings did not cover; there were no storm windows; and the furniture, such as it was, was pitiful. The people were great, but they seemed not to even know there were standards. Our current parsonage is the polar opposite. It is a lovely house.

How is it with you? What words of wisdom can you share to help make life better for other parsonage families?


September 1, 2010

Fall Kick-offs and New Year Resolutions

Even though I don't have kids at home anymore, Fall still seems the beginning of a new year. Funny how the new school year also means a new church beginnings, for example our church kicks-off its Wonderful Wednesday program tonight with a family (and neighborhood) cookout.

With this new beginning, it almost feels like I need to make New Year's resolutions all over again. So here they are:

1. I resolve to let the light of Christ shine through me in all I do and say.
2. I resolve to do my part to make our church a welcoming, affirming, mission-orientated place.
3. I resolve not to feel guilty when I have to say no.

Ok, that is probably more than enough.

As your church enters into a new school year and kicks-off Fall programs, what resolutions will you make?

Grace, Kathy