To celebrate the end of school, one of Daughter’s friends had a sleepover. Daughter had cheer practice til 9:00, so I drove her to the sleepover after. The dropoff was like so many other things:
Me: “Bye [Daughter]”.
Daughter: “Uh-huh” (doesn’t look up).
I drive home thinking of how quickly kids grow up.
Then she calls at 2:30 in the morning and asks to be picked up. She doesn’t feel well. She’s not comfortable. She wants to come home.
I drive her home thinking of how long it seems to take to grow up.
When the final bell rang on my last day of fifth grade, I came home and sat on the front stoop. I remember this clearly, in a way I don’t remember the last days of any other grade save 12th: it was sunny, and I was holding in my hand a pencil I’d bought in the cafeteria that day, one of those striped ones with the NFL team name down the side. In my memory it’s the St. Louis Cardinals one (the Cardinals moved to Arizona the next year).
I remember a very satisfying sense of accomplishment. I had completed a major chapter in my life, and I was aware that it was the longest one; neither middle school nor high school would take me six years! Everything was possible. Summer and the rest of my life held incalculable possibility, and I was ready for all of it.
Daughter finishes fifth grade today, and I hope she feels something like that, even though she continues at the same school for 6th-8th grade. By the end of the next year of school, most of my boundless 11 year-old optimism had buckled beneath the weight of adolescence and an imposing junior high hierarchy. I expect Daughter may experience something similar in the next year or two, and so I hope the closing of this year can be all delight.
One of the advantages of serving a church with multiple pastors on the staff is that you function in a variety of Sunday roles. You may preach in one service, lead worship in another, and conduct an officer training this week, and then next week lead youth groups and have no role in any worship service. Every Sunday is unique.
This weekend my role during the 9:30 and 11:00 services was the one where you don’t function in the service at all but are in the sanctuary, doing whatever is needed. Make sure there is water in the font for the baptisms. Make sure the microphone is set up and where it needs to be. Greet everyone you see.
It’s actually a great way to experience a worship service in a church you serve, and when I call it an “advantage” of being on a multi-pastor staff (there are disadvantages too) I mean that it’s a personal advantage, because the role allows you to see and experience things going on during worship that you simply can’t know about when you’re leading worship. It broadens your sense of what “church” is for people on Sunday morning.
People are talking with one another in the fellowship hall. The ushers in the narthex preparing to collect the offering are enjoying one anothers’ company as they take up the plates (I’ve only ever seen them serious-faced, striding down the aisle with those plates). Youth and children are spread around the sanctuary, worshiping with their parents.
“Church” includes all the things happening the worship leader’s designs and outside the sanctuary doors. It’s quite lovely.
For the fist several years of leading youth mission trips, I leaned heavily on the pre-trip meeting(s). I shared all the information about the trip with parents, answered questions, and started to build some community among participants. Even when these trips involved multiple churches spread out over two counties, I still insisted on the meeting.
But man does that feel difficult now. I’ve scheduled youth trips for late June and mid-July this summer, and either people can’t get to a pre-trip meeting or I’m simply not scheduling one. People are busy with the end of the school year, and I’m working on more than these trips, so the meeting has ended up something of an assumption, if not a complete afterthought.
That’s not working.
It’s still important to get young people and adult leaders together with parents and staff for some face time before embarking on a week-long service trip. You can share the schedule and gather all the medical and consent forms without a meeting, but you can’t really allay a parents’ concerns about power tools or stoke a students’ excitement about using them without one. You need to be able to tell the story of the trip in this preparation stage. It’s about more than firing off information and collecting forms.
For two consecutive summers our high school youth went to Cuba, and those teams met at least three times together prior to wheels-up. It felt critical that they learn some things about the context and the partner church they would be working with. Also, it’s a big commitment on the church’s part, and those meetings are reliable indicators of students’ comparative commitment.
We make participation in those meetings pretty easy, because they’re on Sundays after youth group and they are scheduled and publicized weeks out. This is basic work we should have lined up for all our trips, no matter where they’re going. I need to do better.
June is my month to go crazy with calendars and schedules for next program year. In the early summer sun, no event conflicts with any other and every lesson idea is fully-formed. Retreats are well attended. Everything that didn’t work this year works next year–no, gets replaced by a brilliant new idea that does.
This kind of advance planning is important and helpful. It creates a feeling of sturdy scaffolding for the work you want to do. With each passing year, though, I admit into my consideration of the metaphor some new things holding the structure up that have nothing to do with my dates and lessons. The vagaries of life in a human community and my limited attention for complexity have to be accounted for in that they can’t be accounted for.
Back-up plans are just as important as the ones on paper.