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Getting Ahead of the Snow: One Church’s Proactive Response to a Sunday of Inclement Weather

Posted: 1/31/19 at 9:00am. Written by Bob Lee.

On December 9, we cancelled our Sunday worship services at Huguenot Road Baptist Church because of snow. I happened to mention to our staff at our next staff meeting that I wished we could have held worship that Saturday (the day before), because the weather system had not arrived by that time.

Several people thought it would have been a good idea. I had also seen Tommy McDearis’ post on Facebook (from Dec. 9) that Blacksburg Baptist held worship on Saturday. I told the staff that one weekend at New Highland Baptist, where I previously served as pastor, we held worship on a Sunday at 3:00 pm because the snow had melted and temps were warm. We had used social media and email to get the word out.

So when the week of January 13 arrived and snow was in the forecast for that Sunday, I saw that Saturday, January 12, looked clear. Snow wasn’t supposed to come until that night and the next morning. So on that Thursday morning, January 10, I reached out to all staff and planted the seed.

I realized right away that email would not be a sufficient way to handle the communication, especially since Rev. Phillip Brown, our Pastor for Worship, Music, and College Ministries, was in Florida at a worship conference.

I was out of the office that day myself; it was my day off. So I asked everyone to agree on a time that we could do a conference call, and we chose 4:00 pm. I asked Richard Martin to share the link to the web-based conference call site that he has used with our church leadership. He provided the information to our church administrator, and she lined up the call and emailed everyone the code.

In the meantime, I asked everyone on staff to list what their respective ministry teams would need to do to move everything to Saturday.

That afternoon during the conference call, we did the following: 1) We all agreed that we would move the services. 2) We agreed on a schedule after getting input from each staff member. The key was making sure our worship staff was available—those who lead the Awakening (our contemporary expression of worship) and HRBC Classic (our traditional expression of worship)—and the answer was yes.

But I needed help as a leader. My initial thought was to have a combined service at 11am with Bible Study at 9:45 but not to have an 8:30 Awakening service. I didn’t think we could do both, because Upward Basketball uses our gym until 2:00 pm each Saturday. The Awakening Service is held in our gym.

Our staff helped me to see a different schedule. Since many of our young families have commitments on Saturday mornings (sports, coaching, etc.), and since Upward uses the gym, and so that we could offer both services, they offered the following: HRBC Classic worship at 3:00 pm and the Awakening at 4:30 pm with a time of fellowship in between including coffee and hot cocoa. We would not try to do Bible Study.

This schedule would enable our traditional service folks, many of whom are senior citizens, to get home before dark. And it would enable our Awakening folks to worship and then perhaps go out and watch NFL playoff games or go out to eat dinner.

So we finalized the schedule that afternoon by 4:30 pm. Our office staff had already pre-arranged the email blast, social media communications, and all other communications. The printed bulletins were also adjusted with the updated schedule. So by the end of the day Thursday, everything was set and ready.

On Friday morning everything was prepared, the bulletins were run, and there was ample notification to our congregation. Our Guest Services team, children’s ministries, worship teams, etc. were all ready to go. When it came time to advertise on TV stations, we were able to say that Sunday services were cancelled and that we were having worship on Saturday.

Phillip Brown, whom I mentioned earlier, had been at a music conference in Florida that week. So he took time from his conference to help make these plans. And he changed his flight and left a day earlier than planned so that he could be here to lead the services. He arrived back in town late the night before—further illustrating everyone’s willingness to work together as a team. I didn’t expect him to do that, but he willingly did so.

We held both services and had a great response. Including both services, over 250 people attended. We were not concerned about numbers; we just wanted to offer the opportunity for worship. We don’t like to cancel worship if we can help it.

Our congregation responded with enthusiasm! We also had a number of guests from other churches, since many of our members told their friends what we were doing.

Overall it was a great opportunity for the congregation to show how we value worship. And it was a great show of our staff and leadership teams collaborating to help this come to be.

In our next staff meeting, I led our staff to evaluate so that we could learn from it and see what we might need to improve. (We do this every week anyway for the previous Sunday. We always ask, Where did we see God at work? Where did transformation occur? What went well? And how can we improve?

I thanked our staff and leadership teams for their work on this. As pastor, I could never have done this alone. Overall, it wasn’t that difficult. If we can plan a huge funeral service within two or three days’ time, then we could do this.

I am thankful to be at a church that is willing to try new things and to take risks. And I am glad to serve a traditional church that seeks to be nimble in its approach to ministry!

Bob Lee is Senior Pastor of Huguenot Road Baptist Church, a BGAV congregation in North Chesterfield, VA.