You are free not to be. Free that is. You see, you are free for a fee. Confused? Me too. Allow me to continue anyway.
Paul starts the concept with eloquence:
My brothers, God called you to be free. But do not use your freedom as an excuse to do the things that please your sinful self. Serve each other with love. The whole law is made complete in this one command: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Galatians 5:13–14).
So what has this anything to do with being there?
It’s all about presence—yours as a professional in a Lutheran school and as a member of the Christian community known as your school and congregation. You see, the people you serve need to see you. You need to be there for them, if for no other reason (but there are lots) than you need to be seen. You are more important than you realize. That’s why your school and congregation may legislate your presence for certain events. For other events, well, your presence is a present from you to them.
For example, policies may be in place regarding your attendance at worship, faculty meetings, Bible classes, VBS, etc. Because of your training and background, policies may even require your leadership. Those for whom you minister want you—need you—to be there. As such, they cost your time in ways that your public counterparts do not suffer. Er…experience.
Of course, we know there are different ways to be there. Hallway conversations (aka crabbing), the look on your face when you enter the be there space—and how your countenance evolves as you continue conversations and activities. Does it reflect a love your neighbor attitude or is it more like “Well, okay, I’m here in body but you can’t force me to enjoy it.” What is your level of being there?
This is not to say you need to perform a happy dance to celebrate your (nearly) on-time arrival at the faculty meeting (after school every Friday or before classes every Monday). But you do have an image to project and protect—the image of a church worker selected by God, or at least a board, to tackle the task of educating your students in what they need to know about their Savior and all the other important things they will face in life. So, with the few required work obligations out of the way, you are free!
Look at this:
We are allowed to do all things.” Yes. But not all things are good for us to do. “We are allowed to do all things. Yes. But not all things help others grow stronger (1 Corinthians 10:23).
As anticipated, there are always a few buts to slow you down. According to Paul, speaking here as directed by the Holy Spirit, you are never exempt from the biblical imperative to help others. While not presented as a requisite for salvation—as it never should be—it remains a sign to others that you possess a working, active, compassionate Christian faith. But what sorts of activities may we sample here? Consider the following:
- Worship. This gets complicated and requires thought and planning. You may not be Lutheran, and you enjoy active worship and service at your congregation. That’s your main place to grow. Staff that have a spouse working in another Lutheran congregation face similar challenges. Talk to the pastors involved and explain your situation. Try to be present at least occasionally at the congregation you serve—maybe at worship that includes the children’s choir. While you don’t need a song-and-dance processional, make yourself visible to the people who employ you. Partake in a Bible class and fellowship that might be available that day. Enjoy it.
- In your own building. Don’t be a hermit. Make yourself known to children in the grades with which you’re not normally active. Ask a third grader what they are studying. Show some excitement. If another class has a special project, arrange to stop by just to see what’s going on. Invite kids from other classes to come to your room when you have something special going on.
- Go the extra mile. It may not be your job to turn off the classroom lights at the end of the day or to organize your closing activities with the janitorial staff in mind but do it anyway. Greet the cleaning crew if you don’t already know them. You can be there for them even when you’re not there.
- Pray for your colleagues—those at your level as well as those below and above your organizational status. Take time to be there for them in their moments of joy and times of anxiety or sadness.
Make your presence—and your presents known. Show those you serve the gift of God that you are. See you there.
All Bible passages quoted here are from the International Children’s Bible.