I want to let y’all in on a little secret: church doesn’t just happen.
No matter how big or small your church is, or how many people there are on staff, or where it’s located, or how its service is structured, I can guarantee you that on Sunday morning there is at least one person running around like a chicken with his or her head cut off in order to allow you to sit in your seat and experience worship.
I have found this out because I’m on the rotation of volunteer Operations Coordinators at my church. We have probably about 200 regular attendees, and 2 services. Our worship is contemporary, with a band, and the “sanctuary” is actually an open room that doubles as an art gallery, so we have rows of Ikea chairs rather than pews. The Sundays that I am “on duty,” I’m at church from 7:45 to 1:00. I have a few physical tasks on my checklist, like setting out the communion bread and wine (including replacing it between services, which lemme tell you, I’ve almost forgotten before in the time crunch!), but my main role is to serve as a point person for all of the OTHER volunteers: the nursery workers, the hospitality set-up person, the Sunday school teachers, the ushers, the PowerPoint slide clicker, and the sound tech. I equip them with their checklists and I follow-up to make sure everything on them gets done, which means doing it myself sometimes. I protect the pastors from having to deal with logistics so that they can, you know, preach and pastor and facilitate worship. I answer questions about where the extra mugs are. I fold bulletins. I straighten chairs. I call people when they are 10 minutes late and call someone else to come in if the first person has forgotten it is their Sunday. And on the worst days, I usher AND do my own job.
The thing is, if the people like me do our jobs well, you’ll have no idea that we’re doing anything at all. And that’s all fine and well. I went to church for years without giving a single thought to what all went into a Sunday morning. Then I served as a children’s ministry intern one summer and got a tiny glimpse of it, at least on the Sunday school side. But jumping into this O.C. role has opened my eyes to a whole new side of church. And it’s made me realize that there are people at every church who do silent work every week but deserve a very loud THANK YOU that they probably never get.
Every group of people needs some dreamers and some doers. It’s not exactly how Paul said it, but you know, it’s kind of what 1 Corinthians 12 is getting at. And I happen to serve at a young, hip church with a lot of visionaries, a lot of artist types, a lot of free spirits. As I got more involved, people started commenting on how great it was that I was detail-oriented, a task master, someone you could count on to get things done. But after awhile, that starts to feel like a lot of pressure. It can start to feel like all the rest of the people, the ones who weren’t blessed/cursed with a type-A, S/J personality, are copping out and leaving all the hard work to you. I watched from the wings as a staff member I respect a lot got taken for granted, at least from my perspective. And I realized the big secret that church doesn’t just happen.
Sure, as a church plant, my church would not even exist were it not for the dreamers. And it’s somewhat of a given that in any group of people, some small minority of the people will volunteer to do a majority of the work. That’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’m just asking you to look around on Sundays, and say thank you to someone. I’m not asking for me–I’m built the way I’m built, and I’d probably keep doing this work in a vacuum because I can’t function any other way. I’m not trying to pat myself on the back or toot my own horn. I’m really not. But I’m sticking up for those who make church happen. They know who they are. You might know who they are, too, and if you do, give them a wave. And if you don’t, see if you can find out. You might be surprised how small their number is. They’re never going to ask you to, but say thank you. It will mean a lot.