How Aerating A Lawn Is Like Pastoring A Church

Sometime over the next few weeks, my yard will get aerated.  It’s been happening every October at my house since the turn of the century.  The 21st century.

But here’s what’s true about aerating a lawn:  I won’t see the benefits of it until spring.  The yard won’t look better immediately — in fact, for a short time it will look worse because of all the small pieces of cored-out soil that look like . . . well, you know what they look like.

So in the short-term, aeration does me little-to-no good.  When March of 2014 comes around, however . . . WOW!  My grass will be thick, full, and verdant.  If this past spring was any indication, I will have to mow it twice a week just to keep up with its rapid growth.  Why?  Because the aeration process planted seed deep within the soil of my yard and only when the environment is ready will that seed come to fruition.

Which is a lot like church ministry.

There are many season in which we pastors don’t feel like we are doing any good.  Sermons fall flat.  Visits lack spark.  Ideas run dry.  Even those efforts we think will reach the most people hardly seem to have any impact at all.

I remember approaching our NUMB3RS series with great anticipation several years ago.  It had a great title.  It had cool graphics.  It had a provocative subject — the book of Revelation for five straight weeks, examined through the lens of it numbers!  We had innovative and educational elements to support the sermons themselves.  For sure, I thought, we will fill the Worship Center to overflowing.  (You can see some some samples from series in the early days of this blog here and here.)

Instead: crickets.

It’s not that nobody showed up . . . our attendance was relatively steady for that time of year in that season of our life as a church.  But on the other hand there was no explosive growth.

And I remember speaking with a clergy friend and expressing my frustration that our very best efforts seemed to meeting with such minimal results.  He replied with something memorably simple:  “Your best stuff never brings immediate fruit.  But in two years, what you did in that series will begin having an impact.  Just keep delivering your best work.”

So in the ministry short-term you may be holding on to small clumps of aerated soil.

But just wait until the ministry spring.