By Pr. Craig Pederson
One of the joys of ministry is discovering insights into the ways of God through vehicles I never expected. This week, the ways of God have been revealed to me through an actual vehicle: the Rally Car!
Let me explain.
At this time of year, the reference to “rallying” will not be lost on many of you; we are approaching the annual “Rally Sunday” in churches throughout our synod and beyond. Following the summer slowdown, Rally Sunday brings renewed energy and refocused action on the ministry efforts over the months to come.
“Rally Sundays first appeared on the scene about 100 years ago as a way to build momentum for the Sunday school movement.”
Curious to learn about this “Rally Sunday” tradition, I set about doing a bit of historical research. As you might expect, it does not have deep ancient liturgical or theological roots! Rally Sundays first appeared on the scene about 100 years ago as a way to build momentum for the Sunday school movement. In later decades, Rally Sundays came to include all the ministries of the church that needed a boost of revitalization as they entered the fall months.
But in researching the origins of the “rally” in the church, I came across other expressions of the term as well. This led me to a “Back to the Future” moment of another form of rallying I enjoyed in my younger years – rally car races!
I GREW UP WATCHING dramatic rally races televised from obscure locations around the world. And in my extensive Hot Wheels and model car collections were a variety of rally cars, from Baja buggies to Fiats to VWs. These unorthodox vehicles represented ways to explore adventurous and unconventional paths.
“Is it a stretch to glean lessons for Rally Sunday from Rally racing?”
And now as I look through the lens of ministry (in a whimsical yet insightful way) at these remarkable road races, I think we can learn a few things:
- They run in stages: Rally races are not singular start-to-finish events; they tend to have several stages based on time, distance, and road conditions. The approach to each successive stage is built on the learnings from the previous stage.
- They require teamwork: Not only does a rally car have a full crew to help prepare it for the race, but the driver often has a co-driver in the seat next to him/her. The co-driver is fully a part of the success or failure of the race, keeping notes, monitoring conditions, and advising the driver on how to approach the different stages.
- They run on both known and unknown roads: Some rally races run on public roads in highly populated regions; others run on mountain trails, uncharted desert routes, or intercontinental passages. They require knowledge of both familiar and unfamiliar terrain.
- They require partnerships: Rally races that run through an urban core city or a remote ocean village necessitates working with local authorities and event planners to manage traffic flow, ensure public safety, and promote economic opportunities.
- They race where the people are, not vice versa: Rally races don’t rely on people coming to them at a designated speedway; there are no rally “temples.” They go out and race through neighborhoods, country sides, wilderness villages, and sprawling beaches where the locals live and enthusiastically attend the races.
- They have adapted over the years: Rally cars have evolved with advanced technologies, and rally races have grown more sophisticated to adjust to changing demographics, local policy considerations, and increased environmental awareness of the effects of racing.
So, is it a stretch to glean lessons for Rally Sunday from Rally racing? Perhaps! But you could do worse than to approach your new program year with these principles:
- Building and assessing your ministry in stages,
- focusing on teamwork vs. going it alone,
- being attentive to both known and unknown roads,
- valuing partnerships beyond the church,
- bringing the gospel out to where people live, and
- adapting proactively to changing external conditions.
Whatever your Rally Sunday traditions or new adventures might be, I pray that the Holy Spirit blesses them richly!