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Septembers have scared me ever since Ma, back in the old country, marched me off to “Kleuterschool” (kindergarten). I was terrified. I kicked up such a fuss that she walked me straight back home again until grade 1 began (unavoidably) the next September.

In September newbies everywhere nervously find their way down eerily alien school halls. And so do rookie teachers and principals. And then there’s a whole new church season with all its twists and turns.

There are people who relish new beginnings. I wish I were one of them. Are you? Many of us need to shake off that “summer’s already over” angst before we catch our stride in the routine of a busy church season with new expectations, new responsibilities, and, sometimes, brand-new challenges that we find more than a bit daunting. Whatever it is that you’ll be doing this September, thanks SO much for your willingness to step up to the plate!

A colleague and I once tried to count the number of volunteer hours invested by the sisters and brothers in our respective churches. We finally had to stop after we embarrassed ourselves by tripping over more and more forms of ministry we’d just plain overlooked.

It’s not that in church we get everything done we’re supposed to do, of course. We could always do more. And, possibly, we should do more—though definitely not always.

But it would be the height of ingratitude if we didn’t say thanks up front for all those who willingly wade in and give of their time and talents to make our church ministries hum. Even when your work goes unrecognized by the rest of us ungrateful (albeit saved) wretches, you are a blessing, and we pray that in your ministry you will receive blessings in return. And never fear: the One you’re ultimately doing this for certainly takes full notice.

A bit of spiritual tonic I rely on to get me past the Labor Day blues is the inspiration I received many years ago in a service designed specifically for worshipers with cognitive disabilities from the local Friendship group. The theme of the service was thanking God for the gifts we can share with others. I’ll never forget one young lady, whom I’ll call Mary. Mary lived in a nearby group home. She hit the nail on the head for me in a way that slid right past my jaded know-it-all, seen-it-all brain and punched directly into my heart. She walked to the front, picked up an iron from an ironing board she had set up earlier, and said, “My name is Mary. I do the ironing for the people at my lodge. I do it because I love Jesus.”

If you’re a rookie GEMS counselor, church school teacher, or elder, always, always keep your eye on the One/ones you love. You’ll still need to pony up the energy and the effort, but when your heart is in it, it’s amazing how joyfully a church season zips by with our Savior’s love in your heart and the wind of the Spirit at your back.

Go ahead, make our year. Bring on September!

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