In over 25 years of ministry, I have had to cancel Church 14 times for snow and ice. Then I started my 26th year of ministry, and it has been unlike any other. So far in 2019, we have had to cancel three times; once for snow, once for ice and one time the ice and snow caused a power outage. A fourth time we were forced to cancel our first worship program and only have our second one with whoever could attend. About half of the regular attendees showed up, and we were able to worship and fellowship with some of the congregation.
Ours has not been the only congregation affected by the weather this year. Almost everyone in a 25-mile radius of our area has been forced to cancel repeatedly. With that said, here are a few things you need to know about a Church when they cancel worship on Sunday morning.
1. The Safety of the Congregation is Our Top Priority. Numerous issues go into the decision to cancel worship on Sunday. The number one issue is the safety of our people. Most Churches, including mine, have several senior citizens who are at risk when they are out in slick conditions. That is not to mention mothers with infants, those who are sick and teenager drivers with no experience in snow and ice. We cancel to keep people safe.
2. Finances are Affected. Fortunately, our Church does not live from offering to offering, but many do budget that way. We have missed three and a half weeks here at my Church. Imagine if your family did not get paid for one month. What would it do to your finances? It does the same or worse for Churches. That reality affects the ministries they support in all its forms. Ministry expenses do not cease when we cancel on Sunday. Please keep that in mind.
3. Momentum is Lost. Ask any person of faith, and they will tell you that the two biggest days on the church calendar are Christmas and Easter. In between those two days most congregations experience growth and life change as new people come to worship and make decisions to follow Jesus. Our Church had two interested families in the weeks of Christmas and following, now with all the cancellations we have not seen them and may not see them again. Spring is on the way, but so is summer and everyone leaving on vacation.
4. The Fellowship Suffers. It is hard to be a Christian community when you see each other only once or twice a month. Not only have had to cancel worship, but we have canceled fellowship meals, small groups, Bible studies, and youth group. People need to be together to remain a cohesive group.
5. It is Not a Vacation for a Preacher. While I do not preach on Sunday, I am still working all week. Even my Sunday involves getting up early so I can text and call numerous people, then we have to notify everyone of the decision. This week I spent most of the rest of Sunday making adjustments and working on projects. The reason I mention this is because I was planning an actual vacation in May and I know some people will not understand as I had all these weeks off. I know these feelings are not mine alone, but every preacher affected by this winter.
I am not asking for pity. I just want everyone to know the facts. These issues will impact the Churches in my area this winter and well into the rest of the year. I know that God will work through all of this mess, at the very least I am learning to be more patient and trusting.