I have been supply preaching for several months now. I've been doing this every weekend and it's been very interesting to see the differences and similarities in the congregations.
I want to preface this by saying that some of these do not come from any of the congregations I've worked with this time around. Some are from last time, and some are from friends who are also supplying or have supplied. I am grateful for each and every opportunity I have had!
â–ª I have learned to BRING MY VESTMENTS. Set your alarm, put it in the car the night before, but remembering to bring your alb, stole, and ceinture (if you wear one) is pretty important. Ask me how I know.
â–ª I've learned that it's really nice when someone can let me into the pastor's office so I can hang up those vestments, make last minute adjustments, stow my purse, etc.
â–ª I have learned that all churches collect and bring up the offering differently. Same with communion.
â–ª All churches THINK they do it the correct way, the way it's always been done. (It almost always works out just fine, any way you do it).
â–ª I've learned that all sound systems are different, too, and that I won't know if I need a mike (or how to use it) until the very last minute in most cases. And the person won't have changed the batteries, and sometimes the mike won't fit my head (because I have longer hair than most pastors), etc. It's okay! I can project.
â–ª I've learned that in Lutheran churches, there is not always good coffee! And sometimes there is only POWDERED CREAMER. Guys. I love you, but get right with Jesus and buy some good coffee, have someone who actually drinks coffee make it, and get some half and half up in here. Pay me $3 less, if you need to.
â–ª I have learned that most churches are lovely and will slip you your check as you enter the building or as you collect your thoughts in the pastor's office. However, a friend had to ask for hers, and they didn't have it ready and had to MAIL IT. This is not okay. Neither is trumpeting "HERE'S YOUR CHECK, PASTOR! IS THIS ENOUGH?" or, true story, "HOW MUCH DO WE OWE YOU?" in the middle of a fellowship hall.
â–ª Their pastors are doing too much. "She REALLY needed this vacation" is a phrase I've heard often. You may not think they do, but your people (some of them, at least) have your back.
â–ª I have also learned that some of your beloved people will use your absence as an opportunity to complain about you while you're away. DO NOT WORRY. It is never anything serious. Also, I got your back! I will NEVER let it go on without letting them know that you are a personal friend of mine and that you are a PHENOMENAL pastor.
â–ª I have learned that most early worship services (before 9 a.m.) are tiny and sleepy. Pastors...I have been there. I want to urge you to think carefully about the best use of your time and resources.
I have already known this, but I have learned that most churches are simply doing the best they can. They are quietly feeding hungry people, caring for each other, hugging visitors, asking about children. Thank you for your hospitality, and be encouraged...you're doing good work. Thank you also for letting me be a part of your community for a bit. It's been a gift.