December 6, 2018

Behind the Scenes

This Thanksgiving I visited my young cousin who was hosting his first dinner. Just before leaving he said to me, “I now really appreciate all the dinners you’ve hosted over the years. I did not realize what happened behind the scenes as I always arrive in time to eat and then leave after an evening of fun. It’s a lot of work!”

For many years at our church, five large containers of bread and pastries are donated weekly by a local restaurant to our Feeding Outreach Ministry. A new vestry member was surprised on discovering that behind the scenes each week someone had to pick up the containers and bread, and others had to sort and bag the bread and clean the containers, in addition to completing an annual application. We laughed and asked if she thought the “Bread Fairy” did all the work.

There are so many places in our church life where members of our congregations do not know or have not been told what happens behind the scenes. If we characterize this obliviousness in stewardship language, knowing what is going on behind the scenes with our time, talent and treasure is critical to the health of our congregations.

For example, with regard to time and talent, do we know who is opening and closing the church, planting the flowers, changing the lightbulbs, replacing the torn hymnals, balancing the checkbook, counting the offering, ordering the wine and the wafers, and creating and printing the bulletins? If there is paid staff for all these tasks that’s great, but increasingly congregations need volunteer help to complete these duties.

Additionally, with regard to treasure, do we know how the money we tithe to the church is being used, do we know if it is enough, how much others are giving, whether the church is meeting its financial obligation each month and when it doesn’t, how do we handle the shortfall?

It is important that members are active in the life of the church - it prevents burnout of volunteers, rebuilds the talent pool, encourages shared leadership and a sense of ownership as problems and solutions are recognized and discussed. Likewise, leaders should endeavor to communicate information to congregations, removing the mystique and asking for help when needed. These collaborations will help us to progress toward a stronger worshipping community.