Dead Puppies is a parody song that includes the lines "Hunting season opened yesterday. Two men in a pickup blew puppy away. Oh, dead puppies aren't much fun."
Well, Sunday we had services at St. Petri, Oak Park, and Nazareth. It was a wonderful celebration of All Saints' Day. After service at Nazareth we held the 3rd annual Hunters' Dinner.
There was a huge gathering for the dinner.
I took Matt, John, and Stella home around 2pm.
On the way home we saw the rice paddies full of swans. There are Tundra and Trumpeter Swans in the paddies.
I took the van to St. Petri, just in case the alternator on the Ford Escort proved bad. But I took the Escort to Nazareth. It's only 6 miles and I had people behind me in case it didn't work.
It worked. Yipee!
Managing the schedules for 4 congregations, 4 sunday schools, 4 ladies' aids, 4 voters assemblies, 4 youth groups, 1 parish board, and (currently) 32 shut-ins can be a bit hectic. Christmas programs, Baptisms, Funerals, Weddings, special visits, hospitalizations, all these things tend to put a kink in the management of the schedule. So I plan ahead with what I know I have to do. I plan out my service themes, sermon outline, and hymns well in advance.
Some members don't believe this because the Law and the Gospel reach them so poignantly on some Sundays. But it's true. The sermons and themes are done waaaayyy ahead of the time they are preached. I don't have everything in the parish webpage database yet, but we'll get there, little by little. But, now that I've got the hymn and sermon text schedule done for the next couple of years (no, I'm not kidding) perhaps I can get to the newsletter and writing Bible studies a bit better.
Let me talk about Bible Studies. In a 4 congregation parish a Bible Study after each church service is an impossibility. And scheduling Bible Studies for each congregation is an exercise in frustration. Over the past 6 years I've tried mornings and evenings on each weekday. I've tried varying locations to make the study accessible. But the basic problem seems to be that Bible Studies at other times than before or after Church are just one more thing for the families to keep on their already full schedules.
I've had wonderful turnout for Bible Study when it's after the Lenten services. But the rest of the year, well, if I get more than 2 to turn out I'm lucky. Now, don't get me wrong. Each youth group meeting and each Ladies' Aid meeting has some kind of Bible Study. This comes out to about 20 Bible Studies per year for those. And during lent the 4 congregations have six weeks of Bible Study, so add another 18 (because two congregations alternate during Lent). And of the weekly Bible Studies there are probably about 20 that take place for all four congregations. So, all in all, I have about 58 Bible Studies per year to lead and to prepare for.
The shut-ins that I am able to see each month have special attention and devotions with instruction in God's Word. But for the average member of my congregations their involvement in Bible Study with me as instructor is proportionally rather small. So I especially encourage, teach, and strive toward getting them to have home devotions more often. I'd like my members to use Laache's "Book of Family Prayer" or Carl Manthey-Zorn's "Manna" for the instructional part. But I also encourage them to use the morning Office of Prime with readings and the evening Office of Compline withe readings. I'm not sure of percentages of members who actually do this. I know of several families in each of my congregation who do have daily devotions.
If any pastor out there has experience with multiple congregations and holding Bible Study in a way that is accessible and used by many members of those congregations, please let me know through the comments.