Lessons from the parsonage

If you have been reading these articles for sometime, I think you are about to notice something about future articles: they are about to become a whole lot more practical and realistic. I am now writing from the perspective of a fellow worker in the trenches.

My new church has a parsonage next door to the church. Although we don’t plan to live there all the time, we wanted to fix it up for those times when we did want to stay there, and, most of all, to have parties on Friday night and invite prospects, absentees and members to attend.

The parsonage was not in too bad of shape, but, there is no better time to paint than when there is no furniture in the way. And, while we were at it, the church agreed to put in some new carpet and linoleum and some other odds and ends.

The church volunteered to begin working on it before I came, but I had the grand idea that we should work on it together as a great bonding experience. I was picturing a one-day, “barn-raising” kind of event. Boy, was I was I wrong.

Here is my first lesson

Most things take longer, are more trouble, and cost more than you expect.

I suspect this is a pre-cursor of all things local church: they take longer, they are more trouble, and they cost more than you expect. That is the bad news. Here is some good news:

With some work, it can still get done. Even though it is more trouble than you think the project can still get done. They are laying the carpet and linoleum and I can’t wait to see how it will look come Saturday. When you paint every surface, carpet the floors, re-do the cabinets and what not, it looks like a new place.

What has happened to the parsonage I hope will happen to the heart of this little church in time. My prayer is that we can work together to revive their hope and optimism about church and the things of God. My learning is it may take longer and be more trouble than I thought, but I believe it can be done.

We read in the book of Ezekiel where there is the valley of dry bones. Dry, dead, lifeless bones. The question is asked, “Can these bones live again?” The answer: you know, Lord. Implication: You know they can, Lord.

It may be more trouble and take longer than I expect, but my prayer is that hearts that have been pretty discouraged and down will again be uplifted with hope and enthusiasm.

Work with your workers

On the great work day where I thought the parsonage would be totally renovated, we, of course, came up to work with the people. We had a good turn out — I think about 3/4s of the people showed up for at least part of the day. But, as stated, everything takes longer than we thought. There was a LOT to do at the end of the day.

Missy and continued to help, coming up one or two days a week as our schedule allowed. Others–mostly my in-laws and one other couple–came up in the evenings to continue the work. This was our mistake. We came up during the day; we should have come up in the evenings. We should have worked physically, literally along side the people. It was helpful that they knew we were contributing; it would have been better had we worked along side each other.

Everyone who has ever done a visitation program knows this. You don’t send people out alone; you send them out in small teams of two or three. When they are finished you get everyone back together at the church to hear reports and encourage one another. The team that did nothing but knock on silent doors all night is encouraged by the team that saw someone saved. We need to work with our workers.

This is why Jesus sent his disciples out two by two. They could have gone to twice as many place had they gone out by themselves. But, ministry can be hard and we need each other to stay encouraged.

The wisest man who ever lived spoke of this:

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: (10) If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! (11) Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? (12) Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NIV)

Recruit more workers

One of the other benefits of me coming down evenings when others were working rather than during the day when it was more convenient for me is that I would have seen what was really going on. My in-laws and one other couple were doing the vast majority of the work. And, it is not because no one else was willing to help. They just were not aware of what was really going on. Had I been more hands on, I would have been more aware of what was going on and could have been more proactive about recruiting others to help.

Ever help someone move and they get a big crowd there and buy some Krispy Kreme donuts and provide coffee and donuts and there is a big crowd and lots of conversation and fellowship and laugher and, did I mention they got a good crowd there? It can actually be a lot of fun. The work goes quickly and it feels good to move a lot of stuff quickly. You get finished by noon and all go get a pizza together and have some laughs. A good time was had by all.

Ever have the opposite experience? Someone asks you to move and they only recruit one or two others to help. There is not a lot of energy with this crowd. It feels like you are moving at a snails pace because you are. It takes all day and you are totally exhausted and more than a little grumpy at the end of the day. You don’t feel like having pizza with anyone. You are just ready to get home. A fun time was not had by all.

In church life, the Pastor is Chief Recruiting Officer. I didn’t do such a great job of recruiting on this first project. In the future, I plan to do better.

What has God taught you about serving Him lately?