I guess our pastor got in hot water with the church council last night.
He's spent several Sundays shepherding various assortments of church kids at various church camps. This Sunday he'd been scheduled to guest-pastor at some special event elsewhere in the state, but when the council got wind of it they got upset, and told him he needed to be at our place on Sundays. So he cancelled his special event.
The bottom line is...well...the bottom line. When the pastor isn't at church, attendance drops and the collection goes down.
While I understand this -- and to be honest, in the past I've been an all-too-willing participant in this trend -- since I've become a lay minister, it hurts me on some level to think that people in our congregation are reading the church calendar, seeing my name (and that of our other three lay ministers) as presider, and concluding, "Whoo-hoo! We can sleep in that Sunday!"
No matter what we tell people about the priesthood of all believers, the fact of the matter is that lay-led worship services simply don't "count" in many laypeople's minds. And I've had other lay ministers who help in their parish's hospital and shut-in visitations share the same thing -- that when they show up on some doorsteps they're considered second-string ministers.
I don't really think there's a remedy for this perception either. In my darker moments, it makes me wonder whether all the effort of going through lay ministry training had any meaning other than my own intellectual and spiritual stimulation. Don't get me wrong; sometimes I need to be stimulated in those areas. But it begs the question of what sort of "service" one is rendering if one's fellow laypeople don't perceive it as a service at all, but rather sloppy seconds that aren't worth their time or donations to the church.