Articles on informal ministry

Welcoming hospitality

When we talk about someone’s ministry we often mean some sort of formal ministry for which training and/or qualifications are required.

We might not so often mean the ministries of each one of us. This week and over the next three weeks let’s meet some people who use their gifts to minister, or to be of service to, others.

Ben always has time for you. He greets you with a warm smile and talks with you, giving you his full attention so that you feel welcome and warmed by his hospitality. He’s never looking round, as if he wants to escape, or glancing at his watch because he must get on to the next thing.

He and his wife, Claire, often invite people to Sunday lunch including those who are lonely or sometimes overlooked in the church. Their spare bed is always made up for anyone who needs a “refuge” in a time of distress and they can be trusted to keep confidences safely.

This ministry of welcoming hospitality is a way of allowing God’s love to flow through us and perhaps we can all think about how open we are to receiving guests into our lives.

Cheerfulness and humour

Jenny has no formal training for ministry in the church. She hasn’t been on any courses or read lots of books. Yet she does have her own unique way of ministering to, being of service to, other people in the church and at work.

Jenny is always cheerful and up-beat. When she comes into a room people can’t help smiling back and her laughter raises spirits and eases tensions when things get awkward.

She also has the sensitivity to know when humour will be appropriate and helpful and when it won’t. She wouldn’t say to you things like “cheer up, it might never happen” when you’re in distress. Yet somehow, when Jenny’s around you can’t help but feel that perhaps things aren’t so bad after all.

We need people like Jenny: people who prevent us from taking ourselves too seriously, people who can be joyful and share their joy to remind us that we are Easter people.

We can’t all be like Jenny but it might be worth reflecting on how often we come across as downcast and woeful when we could show a positive and cheerful approach to life and to others.

Encouragement and Reassurance

Richard’s second name could be Barnabas, “Son of Encouragement”. He’s a quiet man and prefers to work for the church behind the scenes. Richard is also very good at offering encouragement and reassurance to people who are in the “front line” of ministry.

All who lead worship and preach in Richard’s church have been warmed by his words after a sermon or a particularly demanding service. The soprano who sang a solo will find reassurance in Richard’s “thank you, that was lovely” and someone who’s led the prayers for the first time will be encouraged to do it again when Richard tells him that he found the prayers moving with deep personal meaning.

Richard’s ministry of encouragement is quiet, sincere and offered at a cost to himself. He’s shy and finds it hard to approach people. But he knows how much someone’s encouragement and reassurance meant to him when he was struggling as an awkward young apprentice in the building trade and he wants to pass on that kind of support.

Today, if you particularly enjoy some part of the worship, think about telling the person involved. You could make a big difference by your ministry to him or her.

Prayer and Presence

Helen has a special ministry to offer. It has grown out of her own experience of grief and loneliness.

When her husband was killed in a road accident she found one of the hardest things to cope with was that some of her friends and people from her church, seemed to be avoiding her. One lady even crossed the road rather than speak to her. She couldn’t understand what was happening and felt deeply hurt.

Now, Helen reaches out to people who have suffered bereavement. She knows that offering to pray for someone can be a great comfort. People had said to her “all I can do is pray” as if that was a last resort but Helen knew how she had hung on to the thought that people were praying for her when she couldn’t pray for herself.

Helen also knows that just being quietly alongside someone is in itself a comfort. It doesn’t matter what’s said – what’s important is knowing you’re not abandoned, avoided or feared.

If you can pray for someone and spend time with them in their sorrow you are indeed ministering, being of service, to them when they need a friend.