For multiple years, through a local hospital’s ministry, I had the honor of conducting memorial services for parents who had lost their babies in utero or within the first months of life.
Each year, these saddened families came and gathered underneath the tent near a graveside marker titled “Tiniest Angels.” Many brought toys or stuffed animals to hold onto or place at the grave marker. In many instances, this was the only memorial service certain families experienced for their child.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Black @jeffblack76
The first year I spoke at the service, not only had I not lost a child, I was not even a dad. I couldn’t empathize with their loss. How was I to give hope to these families?
With my inadequacies, never more did I rely on the truth and hope of God’s Word. It’s something I wished permeated all my actions. Full dependence on God allows Him his greatest work. With my inadequacies, I never gave hope to those families, but God did.
Since then, ministry has allowed me more opportunities to be used by God. And with my parenting privilege quadrupling, I find myself in the same frame of mind I was in while preparing for those memorial services–total reliance on God.
The stakes are too high for me to try to meander through ministry and life with Brian-sized strength to do God’s work.
Like me, you’re not prepared for all the opportunities God will present you. But God provides ample amounts of Himself so we can be used by Him. I hope you and I continue to live in the tension of not being enough ourselves, but serving a God who is enough.
What life circumstances have taught or forced reliance on God for you? I’d like to have the conversation via Twitter or email.
They have common tells. They’re reading the bulletin feverishly. They’re actually reading the signage in the hallway. They’re on time. They’re sitting in the back. Their eyes are exploring the room. They’re filling out the guest registration card. There are more subtle signs, but as a minister you must hone your guest radar to notice these first time guest tells.
Only when leaving my last church did I find out that many people had appreciated my noticing them as guests and beginning those first conversations with them. While we all have many tasks going on prior to our various church services, I’d argue that spending ten minutes looking for and greeting first-timers should be the highest of our priorities.
As in most cases, it takes a little relational intelligence to figure out how much a guest wants to engage a staff minister. But I have found that most people are thankful for a personal conversation.
In engaging guests have I introduced myself to those I thought were first time guests only to find out they were founding members? Yes.
Have I sniffed out a pastor search committee? Yes.
Have I connected guests to information they needed, such as restroom location or length of service-time, and have I sometimes connected them with someone to pray? You bet.
It begins with putting time in your schedule to engage this. If looking for guests is your priority, you’ll quickly become adept with this guest-sense.
Then, scan the room for those “Tells” that guests usually exhibit. And then go in for the engagement, “Hi, I’m Brian, and I don’t think I’ve got to meet you before.”
This sixth sense will allow you to minister to people, and it will likely get people to attend your church more than once.
Happy guest hunting.