Last month I lifted up the important leadership competency of engaging people in God’s mission. The month prior, we focused on the importance of vision and vision casting as a leader. This month, we dig into the nitty gritty of ministry on the front lines: making gatherings memorable. What does it take for you to host a gathering – whether a bible study, a preaching event, or a confirmation lesson?
The most direct answer may be the following: prayer, planning, preparation, execution, and evaluation. It doesn’t always work out that way, yet creating these rhythms in one’s daily workflow can bring about remarkable results.
Prayer: As a pastor, I was influenced by one of Luther’s faculty, Dr. Patrick Kiefert, who encouraged our staff to begin staff meetings with a time of dwelling in the Word. This practice was also taken up by the church council, and proved to be a meaningful rhythm and ritual that kept our community rooted in Scripture and prayer while in the midst of the “business” of the church, including planning gatherings and responding to the various ministry needs and cultural changes before us. Prayer is an essential element to meaningful and purposeful gatherings.
Planning: How do the planning cycles in your church work? Planning six weeks out has proven to be a helpful practice for many congregations. Some even try to have their sermons in rough draft form at that point, if possible! At minimum, establishing a rhythm of long-range planning meetings will assist your community in getting all creative minds on the same page: music, liturgy, message, children, youth, and adults. It’s a privilege to engage various people and ministries in the many and various gatherings as the people of God.
Preparation: Sometimes, however, we’re pressed for time and our planning does go as we wished. So, when pressed for time, what reliable resources do you consult in your planning? Sundays and Seasons is a great worship resource. And www.workingpreacher.org is fine compliment with its various scholarly and pastoral words of wisdom. This most recent post by Dr. Matthew Skinner gives a concrete vision for a broad and encompassing Lenten journey. The best news about such contributions, Sensing the Gospel: A Five-Part Series of Meditations for Lent, is that it is free!
Executing: Studying your material, rehearsing a sermon or bible study, finding the time to refuel so that you can bring your best self. These are the ingredients to strong execution. As public leaders, we want to be able to bring thoughtful engagement with God’s people. Our work is making meaning as a community of faith, and we rely on God to bring this redemptive meaning to light.
Evaluating: Sometimes, however, we live in limbo, not knowing why a particular sermon, meeting, or bible study didn’t go so well. On that note, I have to ask you a question, “Did you ask for feedback?” Finding ways to illicit feedback is a healthy practice in ministry. Yes, it means developing a thicker skin, perhaps. But, more times than not, it means hearing invaluable feedback that connects your planning, preparation and execution to the hearer’s lived experience. It is no wonder that the “sermon feedback forms” are some of the most valuable conversations had by interns with their internship committee. Perhaps such practices should be continued throughout one’s ministry. In doing so, we keep our finger on the pulse of how our words and actions impact the lives of
As we move from Christmas and Epiphany to Lent (before too long), may your gatherings be rich and memorable along the way!
Soli Deo Gloria!