Fears there might be no mourners at the funeral of an 85-year-old...
Church leadership is full of variety, and for some this is definitely the spice of the ministerial life. You can be in a maternity ward at breakfast, a school assembly mid morning, spending time with an office worker at lunch, leading a funeral in the afternoon, and a church meeting in the evening.
Dull moments are rare. But imagine if you had to do just one thing? And imagine that one thing was funerals?
Well that’s the experience of a recent guest, on the Leadership File, Colin Green. He just leads funerals. And before you get the idea that he works in a part of Britain with an uncommonly high death rate, he is actually ordained by the Oxfordshire Community of churches to care for the bereaved.
Here’s the rationale. Some bright souls in Oxfordshire spotted that every day someone somewhere dies! And although it’s too late for them, there’s something valuable about providing Christian care for their friends and family at such time. Many have no connection with a local church and may not want a Christian service as such and so they call on Colin, or, more accurately, the Funeral Directors call on Colin.
Colin is a former school teacher who had been asking God where he could serve. He believes that Jesus has called him to serve the bereaved, regardless of whether they want a Christian funeral or not. Many of the funerals he conducts have little or no Christian contact. Nevertheless, he is God’s man in the situation and invariably has an opportunity to speak of Christ. He might do as many as three a week, and over 400 in the four years since he has been working.
People open up at funerals as the reality of their existence is brought before them, and so, in the family home or the pub after the service, Colin has been able to speak of the one who ruined his own funeral, and can ensure that theirs is a more joyous event. Colin is also able to provide some follow-up to those who engage his services.
This ministry represents one of the many ways in which the Church is able to serve a society that has moved on from its Christian roots. You may be serving as a leader in a traditional role, which is still very much needed. Vestiges of Christendom remain and we are wise not to abandon them. Many still turn to the Church at times of crisis and we know that Jesus would not turn them away. But if this is all we do, we are missing the vast numbers who need a different approach. British fish need a very different ‘bait’ and the Holy Spirit is leading some Christian leaders to think outside the boxes of conformity. Perhaps Colin’s ministry was always likely to succeed? I don’t know. Maybe it’s time to think about the neighbourhood or sphere that your church serves and think not about those who are happy to come, but those who never would and see whether there are options you could introduce.
Who could you brainstorm possibilities with? And if you are short of ideas, you could do worse than offer a ministry to the bereaved too.