Until I started volunteering in the office at New Life, I was one of those people who wondered what on earth pastors and church workers did outside of the Sunday services. For me, everything about the church experience seemed smooth and effortless. I’d show up on a Sunday morning with two minutes to spare, drop my kids off in the nursery, and sneak into my seat as the band started playing. The words came up on the screen as the songs I didn’t yet know played, the sermon was relevant and relatable, and someone trustworthy was downstairs entertaining my two boys so I could attend church. The food was fantastic, the coffee was hot, and someone greeted us by name as we came and left.
Everything seemed so seamless and practiced that I never really stopped to consider how much work must go into pulling it all together.
To be honest, I’d never even gotten a glimpse at the church offices before I started working as a volunteer, let alone had any idea what happened within those walls. What I quickly found out is something I suspect a lot of people probably don’t know: the reason the service (and everything else) is so seamless is that a handful of extremely hardworking staff members and ministry leaders dedicate nearly every day of their week to ensure that’s the case. Here’s just a small glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes at New Life Monday through Saturday:
- Preparing sermons. Between researching, writing, editing, preparing slides, and practicing, giving the weekly sermon involves much more than just standing up on stage and delivering a 30-minute message. Pastor Keith usually writes sermons several months in advance so he has a jump on the upcoming series and enough time to plan meaningful content. Both pastors also deliver sermons every couple months at Teen Challenge, one of our local missions that supports addicts and their families through the process of recovery. Once a month, Pastor Keith delivers a separate message to the teens during their youth service.
- Keeping members in the loop about what’s happening at New Life. This is a whole job in and of itself, which involves compiling all the pertinent information for, planning and sending out the weekly email newsletters for Kids Life and New Life, designing handouts, graphics, and sign-up sheets for upcoming events, putting together weekly sermon notecards, keeping the blog and social media outlets updated, and fielding questions about anything and everything under the sun.
- Scheduling volunteers for Sunday services. This includes scheduling worship, sound, speakers, greeters, host team, Kids Life/nursery teachers, Kids Life check-in, and communion. The whole process is like a puzzle that requires fitting people into certain spots for both services without any overlap or overscheduling.
- Planning for upcoming sermon series. The sermon planning team usually meets two to three months prior to a series to brainstorm ideas, plan the order of the messages, and develop content. Christmas Eve and Easter planning usually begins about six months in advance.
- Supporting members in need. This includes planned pastoral meetings and impromptu drop-in conversations, visits to people’s houses or the hospital to check up on those who are sick or going through a hard time, arranging for meals to be delivered or cards to be sent, and alerting other members to prayer requests.
- Planning special events and services. We sometimes joke that as soon as we’re done planning the annual Block Party, we immediately begin preparing for the Christmas Eve services. This is no exaggeration. Each of those events takes about six months to plan and includes everything from brainstorming message content and dreaming up set designs, to planning budgets, wrangling volunteers, and contacting vendors (plus much, MUCH more). This is not to mention all the work that goes into planning the monthly events like church cookouts, men’s and women’s community groups, game nights, youth group dinners, Christmas adopt-a-family, etc.
- Developing additional content. This includes coming up with themes, content, and discussion questions for each small group, writing blog posts, deciding on appropriate Next Steps for the weekly services, and prepping messages for other classes like Starting Point, Roots, and the New Life membership info session.
- Supporting our kids’ ministries. Kids Life and Youth Group are two of the ministries into which the staff and ministry leaders pours a great deal of time and energy. Both require developing relevant and relatable content for the year, planning activities, and making sure the kids feel supported and comfortable at New Life. It also means keeping parents in the loop about what’s happening and, in the case of youth group, developing a separate monthly service just for the teens. This year, we also completely redesigned the Kids Life room, renovated the nursery space (without any need for outside labor–thank you Pastor Jason!!) and are preparing to renovate and open a separate toddler room with a special curriculum just for them.
This is truly just the tip of the iceberg. I had no idea how much of church work boils down to interacting with and supporting people and that all these other things are done to achieve that end. The real work is in the details and these extremely dedicated people who live to serve Jesus do it so very well.
All of this to say, church work is no small job. It’s doing God’s work, day in and day out, often without recognition, or much time to rest and decompress. This week, the staff will be taking a well-deserved vacation before the whirlwind of planning for the fall begins. Please join me in wishing them a very relaxed and refreshing week away with their families to enjoy God’s provision in their lives.
If you have any immediate needs, please feel free to email me at Melissa@newlifewakefield.com and I will do my best to help.