A few weeks ago I got a phone call from one of my small group leaders named Lauren who asked if I could come by her house and meet with her and her family.  I had a feeling this call was coming at some point, but we had prayed for months that it wouldn’t. Lauren’s dad had been fighting cancer for several years and where hope had been, now was the realization that the end of his life was near. I have performed many funerals in my short ministry career but never have I had the opportunity to sit with someone and discuss their own memorial. Challenging doesn’t beging to describe it, but I can also say that it was a tremendous opportunity to encourage her dad and to affirm what a tremendous job he had done raising two remarkable daughters.

You need to understand a bit of her Lauren’s journey to truly appreciate this story so here it is in a nutshell. She is a graduate of our youth ministry and gave her life to Christ near the end of high school and has never looked back. She has served as a leader in our ministry for 3 years now and pours herself into her small group girls week in and week out. While she diligently led and prayed for her group, she was also praying for her dad in the midst of his illness that he would come to know Christ as well.

Lauren would send texts and ask people to pray for her as she had conversations with her dad, asking us to pray when she gave him a Bible, sharing the wins and losses in her sharing Jesus with her dad. There were times in the past years where you could sense fear and discouragement from Lauren about her dad, but she always remained hopeful even as his health declined and her dad could have easily hardened towards God.

As our discussions around memorial plans wrapped up Lauren leaned in and said, we also wanted to talk to you about baptizing my dad and my sister. The look on her face as she said that was something I will not soon forget. Her dad had given his life to Christ not long before we met that day and you could see the joy on Lauren and her sister Georgina who had spent years sharing their faith with their dad as now he was sharing his desire to take this step of baptism. Georgina is graduating high school this year and had been thinking about getting baptized for a while so the thought of taking this step with her day was one she could not pass up.

We wasted little time and a few days later, I met the family at their house again and found Lauren, Georgina and their mom meeting me at the door and behind them in his house coat and swim trunks was their dad. We made our way down to their hot tub and where first Lauren, her mom and dad watched as I baptized Georgina who no sooner was she under the water, but was back up and helping her dad into the hot tub. Georgina sat beside her dad keeping him stable and comfortable as he we went through the standard baptism questions and then carefully helped me as we baptized her dad.

The water was warm and Richard enjoyed feeling buoyant so the three of us decided to stay in and spent the next hour in the hot tub while Lauren and her mom sat beside and I was able to just listen as they shared countless stories and memories about their family.

We don’t know how much longer Richard has, but do have certainty about where he will go when he does pass on.  Its days like that, that remind me that lives are transformed when we are bold enough to talk to people about Jesus and its moments like this that put the toughest days in perspective and make it all worth it.

GS -Twitter

Feeding The Monster

Geoff Stewart —  April 24, 2012 — 2 Comments

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to meet with a fellow youth pastor named Landry who works at a Church in downtown Vancouver. Above is a photo I took as we walked around talking about life and the complexities and challenges of being in ministry (Landry really suffers for the Kingdom as you can tell). While we walked he expressed some frustrations with the other parts of ministry that often take time away from serving Youth. He was frustrated with the amount of meetings, the amount of bureaucracy and other elements that someone who is new to Church ministry might not know are part of the gig and he was simply looking for a healthy perspective on how to embrace it.

A friend of mine once referred to this as “Feeding The Monster”. He expressed his begrudging acceptance of attending board meetings, all-staff lunches, health and safety committee get-togethers and taking tickets at the Children’s department nativity presentation. For my friend it was not that any of these events was bad or had no value, but for each of us, we recognize that an hour spent doing something other than focusing on our students and leaders is an hour that we might not get back. This past week, on top of leading our student ministry, I preached at our main services, taught at our local Christian school and then did two funerals. It was hectic and exhausting but as I reminded Landry, its part of the deal.

When I get frustrated about meetings and pastoral requirements I have to remind myself of this:

The Youth Group Exists To Serve The Church, not the other way around. If it were not for the loving and prayerful generosity of the rest of the Church, our youth group would look much different. We exist as a part of the body of the church, to serve, support, encourage and be a part of all other ministries.

I Am Not Building My Own Church. When I put my head down long enough and focus, I can easily get in the mindset that my ministry is the only one, and convince myself it is the most effective. What happens is that I lose sight of that we are building The Church and if our goal is to have students successfully assimilate into the body, I need to be working with other departments to collaboratively plan for this to .

We Are Called To Be Pastors To The Whole Church. It took me a while to grow in my comfort level to pastoring people 2-3 times my age but as I have grown in that, I have watch God grow me in my patience and love for the older people in our church. Sadly there are weeks like this week where pastoring them means leading a memorial for two of them. Funerals are never easy, but it’s a role that I have grown into as the Lord has shown me that my leadership is wider than just leading our High School students.

The responsibilities that each of us take on outside of our specific roles can be frustrating and can seem like we are simply feeding the Church monster. But in reality its fulfilling our role as a pastor, and reinforces that we are a part of a much bigger story that is unfolding each week at our churches. The key is that we need to see it as a blessing to be a part of and not a burden to endure.

GS – Twitter



Last week I did two of the most difficult funerals I’ve ever done in my life. They were both high profile deaths in our community (you can read about them here and here), and after some reflection I thought I would share a couple of learnings from performing both ceremonies:

Funerals are heavy and humbling
There is never a good time for a funeral – but they are an unforgettable gift to a family in crisis. They are one of the heaviest aspects of pastoral care a pastor is called to do. I’ve felt it the past couple of weeks. It isn’t easy, but you have the chance to walk through a dark place with the family and show them God’s light. This is why you are here. Thank God that He has allowed you to be trusted with this.

Funerals are an incredible opportunity to share Jesus
Without a doubt, having a platform to give comfort and hope to people in need is the most fulfilling part of carrying such a heavy burden. Pointing them to Jesus Christ and the Good News is central to a funeral message. I do my best to share John 14 in every service, even if the person you are eulogizing wasn’t a Christian.

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” “No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. John 14:1-6 NLT

Funerals are the beginning of a relationship with the family
A funeral is not intended to be the end of a relationship with the family – they are just the beginning. Often times members of the family will need additional counseling or help possibly navigating the future ahead without their loved ones. By performing the funeral, you are now an honorary member of the family and can help them in the days, weeks and maybe even years ahead.

JG

My wife and I had an interesting discussion last week after receiving a generous “thank you” card and gift from the family of a recent funeral I performed. We talked about how accepting a gift might cause people to think that a pastor/church simply provides a service to them, rather than genuinely caring for the person in their time of need.

In the past I’ve never had any set fees or expectations in any way, but would accept a gift if it was given. Thought our discussion would make an interesting poll question this week here on the blog. Vote today – I’m interested to see the results and/or hear some of your reaction in the comments.

JG