What I have heard?

Last week, I got a phone call from the ELCA Churchwide’s Innovation Department. They have a neat project called the Congregations Lead Initiative. In November, this group of church innovators are coming together, and they will be doing a story swap at my church. The director of the program found this blog and asked that I lead them through a storytelling workshop. The director told me he liked the “about” page of my blog especially the part part “that the church is not dying, but that God is doing a new thing!” That’s what this ELCA innovation project is all about.

Even though, I am positive and I am optimistic, we all know that doing ministry post-pandemic has been tricky. I have had the chance this past year to be guest storyteller and workshop leader at three big events: ELCA Extravaganza in February, La Crosse Area Synod Assembly in June, and at the Conext Summit in MN a few weeks ago. What I have learned from my fellow pastors, colleagues, and even key volunteers is heartbreaking. Here what I have heard:

Most people I have talked to would say they are exhausted. That was a recurring theme in each workshop, small group, and table conversations I have been a part of the last 6 months.

Another person had told me that they are hired as a CYF director but have been doing the work of a pastor. This tells us that churches are under-staffed and under-funded.

I had one CYF Director tell me: “People in my congregation told me I should go to the schools and other kid spots to recruit families to attend our church.” Wait, what?!

Solo pastors I know have very few if any kids on the roster and don’t know how to do a one room school house approach to Sunday School with a 4, 8, 12, and 13 year old.

People are looking to alternatives to curriculum because it is too expensive. While we all love Sparkhouse and other name brands, congregations are having a hard time funding Sunday school, youth group, and confirmation curriculum, supplies, and finding volunteers.

I heard so many comments like “if the congregation knew how much we are trying to re-engage our families” or “no one notices the work I am doing.” s

One Methodist friend told me that because she started during the pandemic, and once the doors reopened no one knew if she was new or had been their a long time. Time that passes in isolation can be confusing.

So, yes! No matter where you sit on the bus in ministry, if you are new or a long term church worker or pastor, I know you are tired and you are trying. Know this, then:

Know that you are enough. I deeply believe that you have all that you need to live a life a faith, to follow the doctrine of vocation (spelled out by Martin Luther), and to live into the calling set before you. Don’t let anyone tell you – that you are not enough. Because, you are.

Know that you can’t be everything to all people. If I learned one thing in the pandemic it is that I will never be able to please all people. All I can do is to be faithful to my call and to do my best. I will fall short, I will fail, and I will never be able to meet the needs of all. This is most certainly true.

Know that you and what you bring to the table is sacred and holy. Just that. Your work is holy. Your work is sacred. Your God knows this, and you are loved.


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