What better opportunity to shake things up than Pentecost? Create a sense of the wonder, awe and joy in your worship. The descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles was unexpected and unprecedented. It literally shook the house. Celebrate the awesome gift of the Holy Spirit by taking worship to new heights.
Inspire and unify
Get creative. Pentecost is a perfect day to try something new. Incorporate different instruments and various languages into this week’s music. Make the most of candlelight—or use firepits for outdoor worship. Evoke the senses with special sights and sounds to illuminate the power of Holy Spirit. Providing a tongue of fire party hat for each member of your congregation makes a big and memorable impact at a low cost. Imagine the delight you’ll inspire, making inner flames glow all the brighter! On a deeper level, it creates an instant atmosphere of unity in the Spirit—whether participants are in the pews, the parking lot or online.
Walk by the Spirit
“If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25). (insert period) Encourage your community in walking the walk with fruitful “party favors.” Give away bookmarks as a keepsake of the Holy Spirit inspiring, renewing and restoring us daily. Bulletin inserts can offer at-home reflection on the ways the Spirit guides us to live out our faith. For fun, Spirit-building Pentecost party outreach events, consider a “walk by the Spirit” 5K walk/run, a drive-through “tongues of fire” barbeque dinner or a “fan the flame” bonfire, offered on site or encouraged to have at home with family or friends.
Exult in the gifts
In word or song, pray a joyous litany with the congregation or church groups or classes. Explore the creative resources available for teaching the fruits of the Spirit. Sunday school classes can make tongues of fire mobiles while these cards help teens learn to live in step with the Spirit. Rejoice in the divine power of the Spirit that sets our hearts and minds ablaze with love, joy, goodness and peace. In the pews or the parking lot, welcome the Holy Spirit into the world and into our hearts with a party of praise!
Opening the mailbox and discovering a surprise can make you feel as joyful as a kid on Christmas morning. Mail ministry embraces the emotional power of gifting by mail to help people feel valued, cared for and connected, and ultimately leads them closer to the Lord.
An age-old practice, as valuable as ever
For hundreds of years, a card or letter sent by mail has been an intimate way of letting a person know you care. To someone feeling isolated or struggling with the social, economic and emotional toll of the pandemic, a devotional booklet from church can serve as a sort of spiritual lifeline that can be seen and touched. It can help someone feel connected to our church community and guide them closer to the Lord through reflection and prayer.
Almost as important as the physical correspondence is the sentiment behind it. The act of sending a spiritual greeting or devotional expresses, “Your church family is thinking of you. You are a valued part of our community. You are special and worthwhile to us and to God.” Ministry by mail delivers a tangible spiritual resource along with intangible emotional benefits—feelings of support, encouragement and inclusion. Like the spiritual gifts Jesus gave through his ministry to the poor and forgotten, widows and children, lepers and Samaritans, our mail ministry gifts remind the receiver of their membership in the one body in Christ.
Share a tangible gift of hope
The idea of mail ministry is nothing new, but its value has come into sharp focus this past year. As churches respond to the unprecedented challenges of physical and social isolation due to COVID-19, many are rediscovering the remarkablepracticality of mail ministry. With a simple note or prayer card, pastors can share Christ’s love with the most vulnerable and isolated members of their community, effectively placing a memento of that love, like a tangible gift of hope, into the hands of those who aren’t making it into our pews or parking lots.
For elderly or homebound individuals, for whom isolation is not merely a temporary issue, mail ministry can be an ongoing spiritual life preserver. A devotional booklet can provide daily purpose, something new to read and think about each morning. Imagine the emotional benefits a homebound parishioner derives from looking forward to—and then receiving—the Advent or Lenten devotional your church reliably sends year after year. Of course, these blessings are secondary to the Greatest Gift of our Savior and the all-important relationship with him you are nurturing through the spiritual content you send.
It’s more affordable than you think
You can put a 48-page devotional booklet into the hands of a homebound parishioner for just under two dollars each, including shipping costs. The envelope will even be printed with your return address, so the recipient knows it’s a gift from you! Longtime ecumenical publisher Creative Communications for the Parish added drop ship service to its trusted lineup of church resources last summer to help churches minister amid the pandemic. You need only provide your mailing list (for one-time use only) and Creative does all the work for you.
Nudge them to unplug
Consider the value and accessibility of a held-in-hand message on paper versus an email message or link to online resources. In contrast to the continuous bombardment of digital messages that pass across our phones and computer screens each day, there’s a quiet comfort to a paper devotional. It appeals to the senses and allows us an opportunity to sit quietly with the material, away from the artificial light and constant pings of our screens. This calms our brain and body, clearing the way for mindful focus on reflection and prayer.
Personalize your message to make a lasting impression
Make an especially personal connection with a greeting card that shines God’s love on a parishioner celebrating a birthday, the parents of a newly baptized baby or a couple married in your church on their first anniversary. Sometimes, a simple “thinking of you” makes the biggest impression of all. Signed with a handwritten note from the pastor, a greeting card can become a treasured keepsake.
Don’t overlook youth ministry. For children and teens, whose interactions take place overwhelmingly via electronic messaging, a devotional booklet in hand can stand out as strongly as the message of Christ stands in radical juxtaposition to messages of popular culture.
Prayer cards, bookmarks and litanies can easily and inexpensively be sent by mail and are likely to get tucked into a Bible or book, where they will be kept and read repeatedly. Holidays and special occasions offer year-round opportunities to reach out. Which members of your flock are feeling most isolated right now? Begin there. Deliver some Good News to people desperately needing to hear it.
This post was written by guest blogger, Lisa Komp. Lisa is the Editorial Assistant at Creative Communications for the Parish. She has spent more than 20 years serving religious institutions in marketing and communications.
The use of digital Bibles as exploded over the last several years. So much so that I know that in many churches the pastor will say in a sermon, “Let’s open our Bibles or your favorite Bible app or website to look more closely at our reading for today.” It seems more common these days for people to read Scripture to me on their phones when we are talking about a particular topic or a favorite verse they want to share.
Biblegateway.com is my go-to digital Bible most of the time. It recently celebrated its 25th anniversary and has 219 Bible translations in 72 languages available to users. I like to use it to get right to a verse I was trying to think of. Like, say, I am looking for that verse about “endurance” and “character ” Type in those two words into biblegateway.com and boom! There it is. Romans 5:4: “Endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” Now I can go from there quickly and easily in the flow of writing a devotion or blog or letter to a friend to make my point.
Hard to believe that at one time we spent lots of time flipping Bible pages, looking through concordances and saying to ourselves, “I know it is here somewhere in Romans, but where exactly?”
Digital Bibles do take the guesswork out of finding verses. But the work of the Holy Spirit still needs to happen within our hearts for these words now more quickly found to speak to us deeply and spiritually. Digital Bibles should never be a way for for us to “click it and forget it” and go on to the next verse or the next app or the next website. We still need to be people who “let the word of Christ dwell in [us] richly” (Colossians 3:16). What the Bible (digital or leatherbound or otherwise) has to say to us must continue to sink into us and make a difference in how we live, speak and act.
That’s why I do like the “in context” feature available on biblegateway.com. It takes the verse you have found and shows you the verses that surround it, the story this verse is from, the topic that this verse was a part of. It’s easy to “cherry-pick” Bible verses when you are working with a digital Bible and not get the full message being expressed, unfortunately. So taking the extra step to put verses in context is invaluable to our understanding of the Word of God for our lives.
Making the most of the digital Bible you use can help you grow in faith and develop a closer relationship with Christ. In the end that is all that matters, no matter how those precious words of salvation through his cross and empty tomb reach you. See how much “screen time” can involve “faith time” in the digital Word this week!
As the depth of the tragedy in Orlando came to light throughout the day today, our nation’s collective anguish and helplessness seem more pronounced than ever before. We are at a loss to understand why such a devastating and senseless event could occur again on our soil.
What breaks through the mayhem and confusion for me at this moment are the words of St. Paul in Romans 8:38-39:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
It is in this conviction that I pray for the people of Orlando tonight that the all-surpassing love of God would surround, support and strengthen them during this terrible time.
In Strong and Weak, a new book being published this month, Christian writer Andy Crouch lays out for us an interesting tug-of-war between authority and vulnerability. If you are too firm, you become a dictator. If you are too warm, you become a pushover.
There are so many applications to this conundrum that I see in the workplace, as a parent, and in our role as witnesses for the faith.
The necessity of striking the right balance between strength and weakness when proclaiming the Gospel is even pointed out by Christ himself: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).
We should never try to overpower people with the message of the Gospel and demand that they coalesce to our way of thinking, but at the same time we should not just tell people that anything they believe is fine.
We know the truth. Jesus is the only path to our salvation. He is THE Way, the Truth and the Life, not just one of many ways to God. The Scripture records Jesus saying, “NO ONE comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Jesus is, of course, our role model in all of this, displayed most profoundly on the cross. In his ultimate vulnerability, he revealed his supreme authority.
We can show our vulnerability in our witness by acknowledging our sinfulness and our own need for Christ, while at the same time expressing that we have the power of Christ within us because he declared victory over sin when he proclaimed from the cross, “It is finished!”
I am reminded of the experience of Paul who admitted to his frustration that he had a “thorn in the flesh” that God would not take away from him, though Paul had thrice prayed that it be removed. Finally, God provided Paul with an answer to his dilemma. ““My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). It was then that Paul came to this realization: “When I am weak, then I am strong“ (2 Corinthians 12:10).
It is God’s grace that is sufficient enough for us, too, to face that combative coworker, that ornery child, that defensive unbeliever with Christlike care. It is God’s grace that allows us to be firm, but loving in all that we do, knowing that God has been firm but loving with us through Christ that we might have life everlasting with him. We have the power within our weak selves to do great things! So, go, therefore, and be weak AND strong!