meditations

‘Behind the scenes’ work is vital for our vocations

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This past month at my congregation, American Lutheran Church, I oversaw and officiated two wedding ceremonies, one in Canton, S.D. and one at ALC, and presided for a double baptism of twin boys. It was a busy month full of different ministry acts. The average Christian attending a congregation views weddings and baptisms as positives for their congregation’s ministry within the local community.

Aside from the outward visible signs that people see and experience when they attend, lots of “behind the scenes” work also takes place.

Let’s start with the baptisms. I had two pre-baptism meetings with the two different couples. Janet Brag, my administrative assistant, made sure all the paperwork was filled out, found all books, certificates, candles and blankets and made sure everything was labelled correctly.

I sent reminders to the parents of the baptism prior to the day. Before the baptismal service, I had a brief explanation for what to expect during the service with godparents and parents.

In the same month, I had three pre-wedding sessions with three different couples.

I had two separate phone calls with two of the brides. I had to analyze and place one bridal party with seven couples outside in a way that was aesthetically pleasing. I had to analyze and place the second bridal party with nine couples around the altar of the congregation. I conducted two wedding rehearsals so that everyone participating in the day would know what was expected of them.

I contacted different members of my congregation so that all of the technical and musical aspects of those weddings were taken care of. Thankfully, it was not my job to secure the people to do those tasks. I am extremely grateful for the volunteers who help coordinate that part of the ministry.

The wedding at the church was so large that I coordinated the setting up of chairs in the fellowship hall and bringing the church’s 65-inch TV there so that people seated there could participate in the service. This also meant that I had to enlist the help of someone within the congregation, who has significantly more technical prowess than I do, to ensure that the TV was connected to our sound and video system appropriately.

I had to put together the liturgy (the worship service) for two separate weddings based on the readings and the pre-selected prayers that each couple chose. Finally, I spent multiple hours writing two separate sermons that were personalized for each couple.

Pastor Jonathan, what’s the point of sharing all of this great detail?

Proverbs 14:4 reads, “Where there are no oxen, there is no grain; abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.” (NRSV)

In our working lives, in the vocations that God has called us into, every one of them has a great deal of “behind the scenes” work that only those within the profession may know. The finished product of that work, that which is shown in public, is all that people will see. When we put our best effort into all of the “behind the scenes” tasks, then the actual presentation of our work in the public sphere will be joyful and without worry because we have already crossed every “t” and dotted every “i.”

If I had only put minimal effort into the “behind the scenes” tasks, then the end result shown to the public would not have been presentable. Nor would I have been confident in the day’s events.

Now, we are coming to the end of the summer when the temperatures will soon turn cool and then cold; when all of the vacations, weekends away and all the other busyness of summer, are over. We just may start to have disdain for all of the “behind the scenes” work of our vocations.

I encourage you to do your best at those objectives, so that your finished product is one that you may take pride in, but not too much pride.

As Psalm 90:17 states, “Let the favor of the Lord God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands. O prosper the work of our hands.” (NRSV)

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