So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. ~Isaiah 41:10
I remember the first time I heard the term “F.O.M.O.”. My littlest sister, Heidi was upset because she didn’t get to stay the night in the hospital with me and my other sister, Olivia after my daughter was born. Olivia, who is an RN, was my companion for the night so that my husband could get some much needed rest. And I noticed her texting on her phone.
Me: “What’s going on?”
Olivia: “Heidi has F.O.M.O.”
I thought maybe I should be offended, I wasn’t really sure what to make of this new term.
Olivia: “She has fear of missing out, she thinks we’re having all this fun or that we might need her, and she wishes she was here too. She has fear of missing out.”
Eventually Heidi came and joined us, and after forty-five minutes realized that it wasn’t actually fun and that we didn’t actually need her, and so she went home shortly after. But something always stuck with me – how does this fear of missing out impact us in ministry?
Missing Out in Worry
Our congregation at Bethany is a small but mighty community of believers. Even before I came on as pastor a little over a year ago, this community was busy. Almost every member who came to church on Sunday was also at church on Wednesday or Thursday or Saturday, everyone is involved in planning and organizing and doing ministry.
And it’s awesome.
We talk a lot about the 20/80 rule in churches these days, where it often seems like 20% of the people in church do 80% of the work. And it’s true, we have a smaller number of people who do a LOT of work than come to church on Sunday.
But we’re almost flipped, nearly 80% of our members participate in the life of the church in some way. And it’s incredible to see. And we’ve been growing, the calendar has been filling with more and more events and service opportunities.
Our community has grown to a point where we’re not worried if every single member can’t help with the big events (or the small events). We know that there’s enough help, and if there isn’t then we’ll figure out a way.
And that missing out on worry as leaders is a wonderful gift of freedom. Freedom to explore new ways to do ministry, and new ways to reach out to our neighbors. And this can sometimes be the freedom to say no to events or teams. And that is a freedom that some people didn’t know was possible in a small church setting. So I understand how it can also produce this “fear of missing out”.
Missing out on Fun
Now that there are more events and activities and opportunities, it means that members are choosing experiencing a sadness that they can’t go to everything. You’re not able to make a fellowship dinner because your calendar conflicts? It’s okay! We are called to be members of our communities as well as members of our faith community.
Feeling tired after you found yourself at the church multiple days this week and need to skip that evening worship? We’re going to miss you, but we understand. We have to care for ourselves so that we can continue to do this work.
But I understand, as these events come up, they sound fun, and I won’t lie, they are fun. And it’s hard to find yourself missing out on the kinds of things you want to do with your church. I understand. But how might we take this fear and turn it into something else?
Disappointment is okay, it’s normal. I get disappointed when I can’t go to something fun myself. But I remind myself that one event or activity or opportunity is not the only. Where might you be able to share your gifts, your fellowship, your spirit with your congregation on another date or at another event?
Missing Out on Need
Sometimes, the reason we are feeling fear or frustration at missing out on things with church, is because we are really missing out on feeling needed. When every hand needs to be on the deck to keep the ship afloat, it can be stressful, but it can also be invigorating. Being needed by your community is an important part of our experience as people of faith together.
And the truth is – you are needed. You are absolutely needed. The gifts you bring and share are incredible and without you, the congregation you are part of would not be the same. And because we need you, we know that sometimes you need to care for yourself.
Because we need you, we know that sometimes you won’t be able to participate in an event or a committee or a team. Sometimes you need to rest. Maybe right now you need us, your church family, to care for you.
Sometimes we need you to help mentor and lift up leaders around you. What friendships have you created that allows you to share your ministry with someone else? How might you lift up someone else to help share the load you’ve been carrying?
Sometimes we miss out. I wish that wasn’t the case. In this pastor’s ideal world we would all be doing ministry together all the time. You wouldn’t have to worry about missing out on the fun, because you would be too busy bringing it. There’s no worry about feeling needed, because everyone knows how important their gifts are.
I mean, in this ideal world the pastor has all the time to be at every event and activity, to be in the office working on the next big thing, to be at home working on the perfect sermon, to be visiting those who are sick or homebound, to be out in the community, and to have all the time to do this and have a life with friends and family and interests outside the church.
Oh right. Ideal worlds aren’t real worlds. Even I have experienced this missing out, and so I know that it isn’t easy. And I hope that if you are able you say yes to all of the awesome opportunities that are possible in our community. But, if you’re finding yourself saying no, if you’re finding your calendar too full, it’s going to be okay. I invite you to find activities that bring you fun and fulfillment that do fit with your calendar. I invite you to share your gifts through mentoring others, to guide new leaders in our church.
We invite you to remember that you are needed, you are loved, and we’ll be here. Your church family will be here for you when you need us, for you when you need a break, and for you when you are ready to dive in to ministry together.
Now where’s my calendar?