Fall is coming.
I love fall for a lot of reasons: apples, pumpkins, decorations, rain, cooler temperatures, falling leaves, the particular scent that the forest only ever has at that time of year. It’s wonderful. I also love fall because, in my heart, it feels like the beginning of a whole new liturgical season: one that is marked by the return of everyone from vacations, the settling-in of the congregation, the anticipation that precedes holiest Christmas and the joy that will carry us all the way through Easter.
But fall is also a scheduling nightmare for believers.
At our church, we have a brief video announcement at the start of every service. Over the summer, these announcements have been fairly sparse: a trip here, an outing there. But at last week’s service, the announcements came at us all in rapid-fire succession, one fall event after another:
Kids! The back-to-school cookout is here! And the new season of youth events begins in September! Parents, mark those dates! It’s small group season! Join one of our eighteen different studies! There are also five informational groups and two support groups beginning in fall! Six church events are on the calendar in September! The choir is starting back and we’d really like you to join! Or play handbells! Oh, and that’s not half of what’s going on, so check the bulletin for other opportunities!
It was dizzying.
I thought of high school students with their extracurriculars and their homework and their regular youth group schedule cramming other activities into the list. Of young couples who work and have kids trying to jam one more event into an already-crowded calendar. And I wondered how some believers do it: the ones who have children and families but who also sing in the choir and sometimes play the piano, who lead one small group and participate in another, and who are present to work every church event imaginable.
This fall, as churches gear back up, believers will have plenty of opportunities to participate in all sorts of events and studies and opportunities. That’s a great thing, and it’s my hope for you that you’ll find something to get involved in that you really enjoy and that God will use powerfully in your life. With that said, I do think it’s important for believers to guard their time, too: to be mindful that they don’t get so caught up in doing that they lose chances to glimpse Christ.
To Martha’s chagrin, Mary took a break from all the details of prep and hospitality to simply sit down and listen to Jesus – and Jesus praised her for it. At times even Jesus himself withdrew from the crowds with his disciples to pray and to be alone. And the Bible tells us that we’re not to be mimic the patterns and behaviors of the world around us. Take a look around and you’ll see that busy-ness, distraction, and harried desperation are the hallmarks of that world. Scrambling to keep up with an overpacked schedule so full that you barely have time to be in present in the moment isn’t an inherently Christlike act, even if the activities you’re involved in are themselves Christlike.
So be wise with your choices and thoughtful with your time. Devoting your time to God doesn’t always mean “getting involved in church activities.” It can mean visiting someone. It can mean building relationships and serving others. It can mean Bible study and prayer and worship on your own. Don’t lose the chance to minister to people, to build relationships with friends or family, or to grow closer to God in an effort to pack your schedule.
When it comes to church opportunities and activities, seek out what you love. Do something new you’ve always wanted to try. Or dive in and help out in an area that you know the church has an urgent need. But don’t feel the obligation to do all of those at the same time, and don’t fall prey to the idea that if your schedule is not 100% loaded for Jesus you’re somehow less committed. God values labor, for sure. But God also values rest. Make sure, as fall approaches, that you can find a balance between the two.