Surprises are great, right? Like breakfast in bed, winning the lottery, and the plot twists in a favourite TV show. All those are great surprises. For the supply preacher, surprises are usually not as fun. Every church and every congregation have their little quirks. Things that the regulars are so used to they have just become part of the scenery. For the supply preacher, everything is new and different so the fewer surprises the better.
So what do I mean by “surprises”? These are little things that aren’t mentioned anywhere in the bulletin and are things you likely wouldn’t think to tell anyone about your church. I supplied at one church where birthdays and anniversaries were announced right after the announcements and then the congregation sang Happy Birthday and Happy Anniversary. This was not in the bulletin and no one mentioned it to me. Until after my first service there. The birthday announcer was upset. I felt badly. And that became the focus on that Sunday instead of being opened to God. From then on I did my best to remember to write a note in my copy of the bulletin, but I have been guilty of forgetting since then. If it’s an established part of the service, why not consider putting it into the order of service if your church has a similar item that always happens but isn’t written down?
There are other surprises to consider. Maybe you have a congregant who likes to help during the service, by lighting the Christ candle with the minister. That’s the way it is in my home church. I was glad I knew that when I supplied there. I doubt it would have been mentioned and it might have been awkward for everyone if I had shooed him back to his seat.
One of the biggest areas of surprise is the offering. Who takes the plates from the ushers? Where do they get placed? Or maybe the ushers recess with the plates after the blessing. It seems to me there are as many ways to handle offering as there are churches. A little word from one of the ushers before the service can help that part run more smoothly.
If your supply preacher has some of these details before the service that is going to go a long way to helping them provide a surprise-free and meaningful service for you and your congregation. The little things are important and if they are missed or done awkwardly then that sometimes becomes the focus instead of the real reason everyone is there.
Next week I’ll be talking about emergencies.