Recently, a reader submitted the following question:
I have become increasingly uncomfortable with the amount of hustle and bustle of church business and committee work and clip boards flying around to sign up for this and that. Of course I too have approached people, clipboard in hand, on the Lord’s Day. Would one of you consider addressing this topic?
This is a perceptive question that, if we answer it well, could help us maintain or rescue the blessings of corporate worship and Sabbath-keeping.
Before we attempt an answer, let's assuming the following factors are at play:
- A sincere desire to honor the Lord's Day and enjoy the rest it provides
- The need to clearly communicate the needs and ministries of the church and recruit people to be involved
- The fact that the corporate gathering for worship is the easiest time to communicate and recruit
- The danger that the bustle of announcements, sign-up sheets and committee meetings might overshadow or even undo some of the rest provided on the Sabbath
In other words, the congregation needs to know what's going on and how to get involved without losing the focus and restfulness of worship. If your congregation has a lot of things going on, you'll agree that striking this balance is much easier said than done.
As our session has thought about this, we have tended to land on the following parts of an answer:
We try to avoid the legalistic over-legislation of the Sabbath. Once someone says what types of committees can and can't meet on Sunday or what types of announcements are or aren't allowed, we have strayed into some dangerous territory.
We work hard to keep the focus on worship. We can do this with a time of silent preparation before the worship service and by keeping the announcements until after worship. We've even taken the more radical step of moving our Sunday school classes to be part of our evening service, ensuring that morning worship is the "headline event."
We are constantly trying to improve our ministry of administration. Many pastors will tell you with a twinkle in their eye that "that's not my spiritual gift," but serving on a couple different sessions lately has taught me that proper ministries of administration are absolutely vital to the health of a church. Bad administration is a common source of many problems and frustrations in local congregations. On the other hand, good administration has to go beyond announcements and sign-up sheets on Sunday. If the congregation isn't being connected and alerted to needs throughout the week, then Sunday will be way too full and spiritual rest may fly out the window. This can include long-term planning and scheduling (we're trying to improve at this one!), newsletters, emails, facebook pages, etc. The better our all-around communication is, the less our announcement time needs to feel harried.
More generally, the elders simply try to keep a finger on the pulse of the congregation's sense of rest versus overload. Lately, we've made the commitment that the addition of something to our church calendar means that something else needs to be taken off. Why? Because we're about at our limit. Sure, folks might be able to do a little more, but not restfully. Probably not joyfully. Elders, we need to watch over the soul of our congregation and realize that we may part of the problem when there's simply too much to do.
And if you feel that your congregation's Sabbath and worship has lost some of the blessings of rest, prayerfully consider letting an elder know how you feel. The Sabbath was made for you, not you for the Sabbath.