Between welcoming new-comers and valuing old-timers
We’re often told to keep an eye out for visitors and chat to someone we don’t know after Church; so we try not to spend all our time with the comfortable, familiar faces we know, for fear of isolating newer members. But, if we are heavily focussed on greeting the new, then we may end up side-lining those who have been coming for years. Regulars need someone to talk to as much as newbies. Sometimes the after-church teas and coffees can even be more awkward for someone who is known in the church that has no-one to talk to. How do you start a conversation with someone you see every week but know nothing about?
It’s a balancing act between investing in the new-comers, and appreciating the old-timers.
Between excellence and inclusion
I always want to encourage others to join in and try something they haven’t done before. Leading the prayers, joining the worship band, making teas and coffees. It’s great to include people, especially those who are new or on the fringes. But it’s hard to keep up a level of excellency if the serving teams are always full of beginners. It can be great to have the kids playing the drums enthusiastically in the worship band; but 5 weeks in a row, it can become a little wearing. What about serving the Lord with excellence – giving him the best of our musicians and preachers and servers? Then again, if our service is only ever done by ‘the best’, it can be a pretty intimidating environment to ‘have-a-go’ in!
It’s a balancing act between striving for excellence, and striving to be inclusive.
Between tradition and trying new things
Hymns vs. modern songs. Written vs. spontaneous prayers. Spoken liturgy vs. personal testimonies. With such an eclectic mix of ages, preferences, cultures and experiences, it’s near impossible to please everybody (though we still try!). The meaty truths contained in hymns and liturgy are too precious to just be thrown away to make room for the new. And yet, there’s no denying that the language and form of these beautiful traditions is widely inaccessible for a contemporary audience of younger or ‘un-churched’ people. Is there room in the service for both Doris’ favourite hymn, and the latest Bethel release that the youth group love?
It’s a balancing act between powerful, old traditions and accessible, modern ideas.
Between making it fun and keeping it reverent
Picture the scene: organ music softly playing, elderly folk peacefully listening, people praying with bowed heads. And in the same room, children running and squealing in delight to see their friends, laughing from the teenagers on each other’s phones, and loud chatting from their parents. But which is right? Should the church be kept in respectful silence in reverence to the Lord? Or should it be a lively, bustling hub of joy and excitement? Somehow, the answer is both. Church is both a place to silently reflect and pray, AND a place to laugh, chat and have fun!
It’s a balancing act between fun and games, and reverent devotion.
Between my health and my sacrifice
Perhaps the balancing act that I find most difficult of all: looking after myself, and serving sacrificially. Nearly every Sunday for the past 18 months I have been doing something at church. And nearly every Sunday for the past 18 months, I have suffered with anxiety before church. I experience terrible stomach pain and racing heart several hours before the service, which often lasts until the end. I’ve wrestled with the tension of wanting to give it all up to make it stop, but also wanting to serve God with my sacrifice of being willing to do anything for Him, despite the cost to self.
It’s a balancing act between serving through sacrifice, and receiving grace to take time out.
All in all, a large dose of grace is needed by everyone to maintain the balancing act of just about managing to keep this whole melting pot of cultures, genders, ages, abilities, tastes, ideals, traditions, and values that we call church, running as smoothly as possible.
What a relief to know that it’s not us balancing it all, but Christ Jesus.
Laura Summers is a Ministry Trainee at Christ Church Sidcup in Greater London. She is a strong advocate for water pistols in church and ‘ordinary’ every-day Christianity (while also excitedly hoping for the extra-ordinary!). She blogs in 50 words or less at www.nutshelltheology.org.