By Susan Payne, Associate Professor of Christian Ministries
Easter is the busiest time of the year for most Christian churches. And, no one knows that better than church staff.
Before I started teaching at Northwestern, I worked in church ministry for 25 years. Now, I serve as a church volunteer but remember well the frenetic pace with which we scrambled behind the scenes to ensure that Easter services ran smoothly.
Some of those who would be coming to church that week may have been hearing the story for the first time. That was a huge responsibility and we knew it. Everything had to be perfect.
So much to do
We worked for many months leading up to Easter week. After all, this is the culmination of a year of study, prayer, and worship as we’d grown in understanding of God’s love for us.
As church staff, we developed and implemented events marking each of the days of Easter. Here’s what our Easter schedule may have looked like:
- Palm Sunday: A palm parade and praises
- Maundy Thursday: The night Jesus changed the meaning of the Passover to the Lord’s Supper
- Good Friday: The solemn time to remember Christ’s agonizing death
- Waiting: Gathering for prayer as we wait and remember
- Easter Morning: Hallelujah! He is Risen! The greatest celebration of God’s love for us!
It was all in the details! For example, we had to make sure that we ordered the palm branches for the children’s parade on Palm Sunday, provided a solemn ceremony for adults that reflected Jesus’ suffering on Good Friday, and developed a transformational message for attendees and visitors on Easter Sunday.
When the week came to an end, and the adrenalin wore off, we were exhausted. I’m sure scores of ministers and volunteers can relate. I look back and realize what a hefty goal we had as church staff: to provide an inspiring experience by creatively telling the story of how Jesus Christ suffered, died, and rose—so that we could have eternal life.
“Don’t let the work overshadow the reason for the work.”
We had served our attendees and visitors to the best of our ability, sharing the Good News in a way that was age-appropriate and, hopefully, meaningful for them. I have fond memories of those years.
Remember the reason
Today, as a professor, I equip others to spread His message. As I prepare my students to go out and serve, I remind them to seek God in the place that they’re serving God. In other words, don’t let the work overshadow the reason for the work.
I’m encouraged by our traditional undergraduate students who are running full steam after the passion that God has given them to make a difference in the world through ministry careers.
Our adult ministry majors in our Focus program are back in school because they know that God is calling them to something else. They bring to our classes rich experiences that add to our times of learning together.
Some of our students are serving in hospice care, starting an orphanage in Africa, raising support to join a mission team in South America, counseling men coming out of incarceration, leading as volunteers in their communities and serving in churches as pastors and staff members.
So, during this busy Easter season, I pray that you—whether you’re a student or a church worker, volunteer, or attendee—remember the root of the passion you have for Christ.
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