Friday our church lost one of our treasured ministers. Bill had served 6+ years as our church's education minister and had just recently switched hats to become our minister of administration while still carrying the load of education until that position could be filled. At 60 years of age, we all thought he'd be around a lot longer. God had other plans.
I miss Bill already. I missed him last week even before he moved on to heaven. He was on vacation last week and so I didn't see him at church on Sunday and I missed his ready smile and gentle words. I also missed him on Wednesday when I poked my head into the office after teaching Bible study and needed to get his signature on a reimbursement form. I missed him Wednesday night when he wasn't at his usual place greeting folks as they showed up at the church for the various Bible study groups he helped coordinate. And I missed him Thursday when I dropped by the office again to check on something. Bill was the kind of guy whose absence you noticed and felt.
Bill will be sorely missed.
I've been through a lot of teacher training, Sunday school leadership workshops, church growth training, etc. But when I met Bill I knew this man could still teach this old dog a few tricks. And he did. I'd like to share with you a few of the things this godly servant personally taught me.
- Ministry is all about people. Bill always had a new program in the wings, a new study to suggest and a new service opportunity to offer, but he also knew that when push came to shove all that could go out the window. Bill knew how to love people, how to listen to them, how to encourage them. He knew that if a program didn't reach people it was worthless; if a teacher didn't make a connection with a student he wasn't really a teacher; if a meeting didn't answer real questions posed by real people then it was a wash. Like your typical education minister, Bill had a dozen ideas percolating in his head at all times, but people had his heart.
- You're not a real leader if no one is following. And Bill didn't just propose that you have a dozen or so people waddling along blindly behind you. He was a strong advocate of mentoring. Bill encouraged me to train new leaders, equip new teachers, tap new people for new ministries, and invest in new Christians. Bill never advocated lone ranger type leadership. He was all about the buddy system. I like that. Bill changed the way I do things in women's ministry, in many regards, and he is largely to be credited with the beginning of our new MOPS ministry, the inclusion of new women on our leadership team, and my own personal choice to invest more in those who are wanting to try something new.
- High standards are a good thing. So often in church we are guilty of lowering our standards for how we do things. I don't know why this is. Maybe it's because we're cheap, lazy, in a hurry, or just don't have great taste! (Those are all facetious excuses, but they might just hold some water all the same.) Bill always taught by example that if it's worth doing, it's worth doing well.We sometimes joked with him about his propensity to serve refreshments, give out door prizes, and pass out well-outlined agendas at any meeting he conducted, but truthfully we appreciated those nice touches. Those little things (and many others) told us that Bill valued our service, our time, and our commitment. They also told us that he believed in quality. I think it's quite obvious that God believes in quality. I haven't seen Him do a shoddy job yet. I'm pretty sure He's impressed with Bill's attention to detail and quality too. And Bill didn't just add quality with things like refreshments and door prizes. He also reminded us that ministry is worth praying about, that it's worth handpicking new leaders carefully and wisely, and that it's important to be well prepared to teach a class, host a small group or lead a meeting.
Please join me in rejoicing with the angels over Bill's homecoming and praying for Stephanie and her family in their loss.