Monday Morning Quarterback

Note: Monday Morning Quarterback is a recurring post that examines personal and pastoral events of Sunday.

6:00. Alarm. Grab phone to turn it off and discover text sent at 11:30 last night. It’s from the college student youth leader who had agreed to lead jr. highs today in my absence, and it reads, “Is it too late to cancel? I feel like I’m not adequately prepared to lead it.”

6:01. I’m up.

6:14. Putting on a big pot of oatmeal for the family’s breakfast.

6:37. Putting together a junior high youth group lesson with specific instructions. Clearly the “you-could-do-this-or-you-could-do-that” method of planning has failed.

6:41. Doing that thing I despise in youth curriculum writing: proposing “discuss” as a meaningful path to learning for adolescents.

6:53. I don’t know about you guys, but I love oatmeal with raisins and chopped apples.

7:12. Looking over Head of Staff’s “Communion At The Improv” liturgy, an attempt to inject some improvisation into worship on Jazz Sunday by making the communion litany up as we go. How hard can that be?

7:39. Strapping on my favorite shoes and heading out the door.

8:12. Using a Google Drive Presentation to do announcement slides at the beginning of worship. Want to see it?

8:48. Checking in on adult education class about the PC(USA) 2008 social creed. All systems go.

8:51. Checking in on adult education class about a compassion-themed TED Talk. All systems go.

8:53. Checking in on youth Sunday School class. No, not really. That’s a well-oiled machine; my checking in only jams the gears.

8:55. Checking in on nursery volunteers. All infants go.

8:56. Considering the evolution of my job that finds me now the default Sunday School Superintendent.

8:59. Walking 9th grade a/v volunteer through the projection system. He’s never run it before but seems confident. Don’t even think twice about giving him my computer password.

9:07. Settle into that TED talk class with a cup of coffee the leader has brewed. She’s magic. As the video of Joan Halifax begins, the man next to me (a seminary professor) mutters under his breath, “Oh Joan, who dressed you?”

9:26. Sneaking out after the video to spend some time in the other class. Also, my coffee cup is empty.

9:33. Spy the 9th grade a/v volunteer making his way to the sanctuary as instructed. Also spy his two friends making their way with him, as not instructed.

9:40. Being scolded by the guest jazz group’s piano player for placing our projector on top of the organ. “This is a $30,000 instrument!” he says. “I know, right? Isn’t it amazing?”

9:44. There’s a lone Deacon struggling with communion preparation. I offer to go find another, and she falls to the floor in tears of gratitude. Done.

10:08. Worship has begun and the mic’s aren’t working. Sneak off the chancel to go consult with 9th grade a/v volunteer. These kids are so inexperienced and they pay so little attention to what’s goi–wait. What’s that? Oh, you say I never turned my mic on? Right. Got it. As you were.

10:10. Return to the chancel with the opening hymn in full swing. Not only that, but worshipers have begun skipping down the aisles.

10:12. As the opening hymn is ending, make my way to the pulpit to lead the Prayer of Confession. Only, since this is Jazz Sunday, hymns don’t end when you think they will. Stand next to the pulpit like a dummy for the five additional verses of “I Shall Not Be Moved.”

10:19. Trying to explain communion for the Time with The Children by having the coronet player from the jazz band play something. He chooses a horse race bugle call. Perfect. How will the kids understand sacramentology now?

10:46. The moment of communion improv is here, and I’m not exactly killing it. More like turning The Lord’s Supper into The Lord’s Mutter.

11:19. Elder approaches me on the patio after worship with six words of terror: “I think you should see this.”

11:21. Looking at a pool of water bubbling up from the ground near the fellowship hall. Smelling sewage. Looking for the Head of Staff.

12:14. Confirmation class lesson on “Reformed-and-always-reforming” jumps directly to a student asking me, “So can you do a same-sex wedding?”

1:31. Driving about 40 miles to a meeting of this summer’s presbytery youth mission trip team. En route, hearing a description from a student’s dad of the kind of portable bathroom you have to take with you on a six day canoe trip, how to assemble it, and, of course, how to USE it.

2:14. Seeing students from other churches I know from past events but whose names I’ve forgotten. Greeting them with, “Heyyy, youuuu.”

3:00. For a team building game, my colleague has chosen charades, and the phrase he’s picked is, “Going to the bathroom on the bus.” Decide pretty easily that the price of winning this game is much higher than the price of accurately depicting going to the bathroom to an 8th grade girl.

3:58. On the drive home, student’s dad is trying to explain a math riddle I should do with the students. It involves toothpicks and Roman numerals and OH MY GOD I’M EXHAUSTED.

4:38. Students arriving for jr. high youth group. Even though I made it back in time, I still want the college student to lead. He’s prepped. He’s ready.

4:44. Two boys pummeling each other with pool noodles. Gently cajoling them to stop doesn’t work. Firmly instructing them to stop doesn’t work. Yelling at them to stop doesn’t work. I hate my life.

4:45. Threatening to call parents. Over pool noodles.

5:01. Playing a hide-and-seek game in the sanctuary. I’m volunteering to hide in the hopes that I will never, ever, be found.

5:22. Polling jr. high kids on rules they live by. One student insists on utilizing a hashtag, calling out, “Live life to the fullest! Hashtag!” Accommodate him by writing on the board, “Live life to the fullest hashtag.”

6:23. Running to the store across the street to get food for the high school youth group. Returning with macaroons, cheese, crackers, cookies, and soda. Never shop for youth group snacks when you’re hungry and tired.

7:02. Volunteer arrives for high school youth group with dinner for me: beans, slaw, and a tri tip he made earlier in the day. I love my life.

7:38. Playing The Game of Things with high schoolers. Hamster cancer promptly returns as a hilarious answer.

7:44. Game of Things prompt: “things old people should never do.” Some submitted, “Be a youth pastor” for an answer. Ouch.

8:44. My plan to assemble the Ash Wednesday liturgy with students has run aground on their fatigue and mine. Tongues lolling at the phrase, “penitence.”

8:55. On his father’s orders, student assembles the math riddle with the toothpicks and Roman numerals. Students suddenly come alive trying to solve it.

9:15. Home before Wife and Daughter, who went to an Oscar party. I will most certainly be asleep before they get home.


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