BY DR. JOHNATHAN PRITCHETT
We often hear two things about the economy. These days, the first thing you are likely to hear is that the economy is bad. This may be a temporary condition that could get better. The other thing, which is more often heard about the economy in general during any climate is that we now live in a global economy. This is often discussed in the news and talk radio, and even pastors bring up this issue in our churches. What is often neglected when it comes to getting any attention is that we also, as has always been the case, live in a 24 hour economy.
The number of people working second and third shift has greatly increased in the last couple of decades, and in many cases during this sort of economic climate, these shifts fill up quite fast because people will work any hours they can get. Whether the economy is good or bad, those people who work the late shifts often get little interaction with those who live and do business during the daylight hours. Men and women with families are hardly getting the kind of quality time with their loved ones compared to those who work during regular business hours. Imagine being a parent, married or single, and you are sleeping when they are at school, and you are either headed to work before they come home, or just waking up for work when it is their bedtime. Imagine being single with no kids. What is there for you do ever do to meet people or fellowship? For people working these shifts, their free time is usually when everyone else is at work or sleeping.
In any city or town big enough for a Walmart, chances are that it is also bound to have at several all night service stations and restaurants, as well as factories and manufacturing plants in the area as well. This means there are potentially hundreds, or even thousands in some areas, who get forgotten or left out when it comes to church or community activities, and these people are a vital part of our communities.
There are two things that are usually true about what is available to people working these second and third shifts when it comes to having any sort of social life beyond what little they already see of their families, and the too often lack of sleep when trying to fit in doctors appointments and other important scheduled tasks that must occur during normal business hours. So when it comes to a social life, the options are usually bars and diners. That’s about it. Furthermore, those two kinds of establishments are the only kinds that usually cater to the people working the later shifts.
The question then becomes, what is the church doing to meet the needs of these people in their communities? During the week when the church staff members, and most church members, are usually heading to nighty-night time, someone is just getting off work, and someone else is going to work. Well, God loves these people, and Jesus died for these people (John 3:16), and Christians are Great Commission people, so something must be done in an effort to reach those who get lost in the mix or just plain forgotten. Some of them may already be Christians, and even members of a church somewhere, but many are probably not. What is true for everyone on the late shifts is that there is far too few things involving the church that caters to their needs.
Need some ideas on how to reach out to these late shift folks? Want to see more people meet Jesus? Do you want your church grow? There are hundreds and in many cases thousands of people out there working in the night and early morning who need Jesus, and who need His Church to give them some help and attention. Below are some ideas to help get people started in reaching out to these late shift workers. Before I list them, the best place to figure out what can be done is talk to those second and third shift workers already in your church and see what they need and what ideas they have. Chances are good there are one or two in your church already. If there are none, you now have a target demo to reach out to with the Gospel. In any case, here are some ideas to get started.
1. For second shift workers, churches can usually cater food from a restaurant to their places of employment. This is an excellent opportunity to stuff some tracts or other materials along with some pizza boxes or BBQ plates. For third shift workers, it may be harder to cater, but get some folks together to cook some delicious food and take it to them. Food always goes over well. Another idea is to have the occasional hot breakfast waiting for them at the church when they get off work, or schedule an occasional dinner before they go to work.
2. Find some people who can host Bible studies that can fit their schedules.
3. Have some night owls in church willing to go into these places of employment during these odd hours and share the Gospel with them at work, or at least pass out information to them regarding what the church has specifically for them. People working the second and third shifts at gas stations are always looking for company.
4. Get some volunteers to offer babysitting services (cheap, or even free!) to give them a break on day off once in a while if they need it, and many will need it. Very rarely can anyone working these shifts find people who can schedule the time to fit their hours and schedule. Are these people members who would receive this benefit? Doesn’t matter. Chances are they will become members of a church that gives them a helping hand.
5. Dare to have an odd hour worship service for them! A lot of folks are working late Saturday or early Sunday these days, or can’t make the Sunday night or Wednesday night services if the church has them.
6. Schedule some fun events at the church either late at night or early in the morning. Show free movies with pop corn and soda, have some sports tournament if the church has a gym, or perhaps talk to some of the family entertainment establishments like the bowling alley to open up early once or twice a month.
Most importantly, whether or not they are members of the church, and whether or not they are believers, someone needs to spend some time with these folks on their time schedule. There are lots of people out there these days and too few churches are reaching out to them on any level, whether it is sharing with them the Gospel message, or just giving them something else to do besides go to the bar, Waffle House, or just go home.