Using the Simple Machines of Ministry

Sometimes when I am gardening, I am reminded of fifth-grade science class. For some reason, I have a vivid memory of learning about simple machines. Can you name all six? They are the pulley, the lever, the wedge, the wheel and axle, screws, and the inclined plane. I have probably used all of them at some point in the garden except maybe the pulley. I have never had to rig a block and tackle over a tree branch to lift something heavy! When there is something very heavy to be done, I either enlist my husband, who is a reluctant gardener at best, or decide that the heavy thing is right where God intended it to be. Just before writing this, I was especially using the lever and the wheel and axle—both great ways to accomplish something that I could not do with just brute strength.
What are the “simple machines” of the life of your congregation, the devices that you use to accomplish the work that God has set before you? Perhaps the analogy to simple brute strength in the garden would be just unlocking the church door (in more usual times) or just putting your service on your Facebook page in these times. You are accomplishing the central function of a PCUSA congregation; you are providing for the worship of God, the witness to the saving love of Jesus Christ, and calling upon the strength of the Holy Spirit. But what more could you accomplish if you used the “simple machines” that many congregations have used in the past to amplify these efforts?
Did your congregation ever have a “visitor” or “friend” Sunday when you encouraged your members to bring people with them to worship? What is the equivalent for that in these days? Have you maximized your use of all of the social media platforms to which your congregation as an entity and each of your members have access? Are all of your members and adherents using their own social media influence to invite people to worship with you virtually and to become involved in your mission outreach?
Have youth and children’s ministries been an important way for you to reach new people? How are you still enhancing the faith journey of those kids and their families now? What resources are you providing to them and what opportunities do they have to process what they are facing? Especially in these next few weeks, when they face decisions about return to school buildings, they need to have a grounding in their faith to help them to manage their fear and anxiety and hopes for the future.
Did you have a “spring cleaning” day to clean up around and inside your church building so that it is inviting to members, friends, and newcomers alike? When I walk around my neighborhood, I see a couple of houses where it is clear that no one is living. The yards have a neglected look and give me an idea about what the houses might look like inside.
We want people to know—even now—that our church buildings are a place where there is vibrant life and where they will find welcome. Perhaps the virus-times equivalent of this is your online presence. Is it vibrant and an indication of ongoing ministry and mission? Maybe you could ask a friend to start from google and see if they can figure out how to access your worship service and any other opportunities you are providing.
We have managed the lives of our congregations for—wait for it—four long months now in this new reality. Much of what we did in the first few weeks was by simple brute strength. Pastors and other leaders just figured out what they could do with the knowledge and skills they or others already had. As the weeks have gone on, we have begun to remember that there are “simple machines” to be used—the good experiences we have had in the past that introduced people to the gospel that can be adapted for these new times.
We are all adapting in every aspect of our lives. The one thing that has not changed is the truth of which we are reminded by the writer of the book of Hebrews. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Our charge is to continue to bring hope in his name in whatever way we can.
The Rev. Susan (Sue) Krummel
Executive Presbyter, Presbytery of Chicago