“Thank you for all you’ve done for me and my family like on Dec. 7th, 2008 Ron baptized me.”
“Thank you for baptizing me and being nice and friendly.”
“Thank you, Ron, for baptizing me.”
“I want to also thank you for being part of my baptism. I had a wonderful experience.”
“One of my favorite memories is of when you baptized Hayley in the river at the retreat.”
“Thank you for baptizing me.”
“Thank you so much ! You’ve made such an impact on me and I’m sure many others. My baptism was one of my most memorable and favorite moments of my life.”
“I still remember the day you baptized me. It was an honour that you were the one to do it.”
“Thanks for all the great things you do for us and for baptizing me.”
All of the above quotes come from a special book that I had not looked at in several years. As I read it, I both smiled and cried. It was a book of memories that was given to me when I left Faith Community Church in Alliston, Ontario after a couple of years as their interim pastor.
There were a lot of nice things expressed in the pages of that book as people shared their feelings about my time with them, enough nice things to bring both the smiles and the tears.
Sharing in important moments
As I read the comments that I have quoted above, I was reminded of an important fact about serving as the pastor of a church and especially a small church. As pastor you get the incredible privilege of sharing in the special events in people’s lives.
I was only at Faith for a short time but I was able to baptize a number of people. I took part in funeral services. I attended special celebrations. I performed wedding a ceremony.
Those are special memories for me. I baptized twenty people in a horse trough in the top part of a barn on one occasion. I still have the picture of those twenty people hanging on the wall just outside my office. I did another baptism in a creek in October and trust me in October that water was cold.
As I read the comments at the start of this blog, I realized that as special as each of those moments were for me, they were also special for the people involved. They were what they commented about when they had the chance to write about how I had impacted their lives.
Making the important moments special
If you read this blog with any degree of regularity, you will know that the strength of a small church is relationships. I have said it often enough but I keep repeating myself because it is true.
Relationships are at the heart of small-church life and at the heart of relationships there needs to be a personal touch.
This is something in which a small church has the advantage. If you are a leader in a small church you probably know each person at a more personal level than the leader in a large church does.
It is simple mathematics. The leader of a large church has a lot more people among which to divide her time and therefore she is not going to be able to spend as much time getting to know each individual in the church.
One of the advantages that that gives to a small-church pastor is that she can make those special occasions even more special by making them personal.
Some terrible advice
When I was a student at Bible college, I received what I consider to be one of the worst pieces of advice ever given to me.
My pastoral professor told the class that we needed to maintain a certain amount of distance between us and the people in the church. We should never develop any friendships within the church because someone might accuse us of favoritism if we did.
I listened to that advice, thought about it and then rejected it. I decided that I couldn’t pastor a church that way. If I was going to meet people’s needs, I needed to build a relationship with these people. Then I needed to serve out of those relationships.
I decided that it was worth the risk of being accused of favoring certain people to have those close relationships.
Being the pastor of a small church allowed me to build a relationship with each of the families that I served. I was able to build into my schedule the time to attend sporting events, graduations, anniversaries, etc. I could spend some time talking with the teens and children getting to know a little about their lives.
It meant that when I performed a wedding ceremony or took a funeral or dedicated a baby or performed a baptism, I was doing it for someone who was an important part of my life. That is something that I would have lost if I had become the pastor of a large church.
Make it personal
So, whatever the special occasion might be, make it personal. If you do, you will build into the people involved a memory that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.
As I read through the memory book, I was more than a little bit humbled. I always am amazed that God uses me to impact the lives of people. I get the privilege of participating in the building of his Kingdom. I hope that I never get over that sense of wonder.
You, as a leader in your church, get to be used by God to touch the lives of those people whom he has entrusted into your care. You get to make a difference in their lives and in their relationship with God.
I would encourage you to make those special moments in their lives, those live-changing events as personal as you possibly can. If you do, you will create a memory that they will carry with them forever.