Tips for Swapping Schedules in Church Service

I wonder how many churches have this problem on lector no-shows when it comes to mass services. Because it certainly has been a perennial problem in the parish.

When a lector or commentator is absent, it creates unnecessary burden and stress to the other lectors who do turn up for the service. It becomes worse if the absent lector is the assigned commentator.

See, not all lectors are trained to be commentators. So if the commentator is out, and the present lectors are not ready to take on the commentator's job, then what?

When there is no one who can take a lector role, those present sometimes take on dual or even triple roles. I remember once when I multi-tasked as a commentator and lector in a wedding mass service. There was also a time when I took on a one man show of three roles in a Sunday mass at a mall.

Asking New Lectors to Become Substitutes

It's sad that, sometimes, new lectors seem to be taken advantaged of by regular old-timers. Fresh from their commissioning, new lectors are enthusiastic with church service with some even willing to do extra.

Some of the regular old-timers see this as an opportunity.

The old-timers seek out the newbies and ask them to be relievers for their own (old-timer's) scheduled assignments. The newbies may feel obligated, feeling that may be the norm and take up these additional services.

After several months, however, the newbies wise up after feeling exploited. By that time though, some may have lost their eagerness or have become overworked.

But I digress. Sure, some of us may sometimes have valid reasons to skip a service. For this, we ask a substitute to relieve us in our duties.

So how do you ask someone to substitute or relieve you of your duties? You swap schedules! In the spirit of fairness, nobody should feel privileged that they can get something for nothing.

By the same token, nobody should feel exploited either. Always, the schedule swap should be a win-win scenario.

How to Swap Schedules Successfully

Here are my tips to successfully swap service schedules with another in the ministry. These tips, will actually apply to many situations, not just in the ministry.

  1. Look at the monthly schedule of service assignments. Find a few names of your friends or colleagues that you can trust. You should have a way to contact them via phone or cellphone text.

  2. If you think they have schedules that you're absolutely sure you can take as a "payment" for the swap, take a note of these schedules. Remember, you will be taking their schedule in return for the favor you're asking from them.

  3. Call one of them and ask him if he can take over your duty on your scheduled date and time. In return, offer him your returning the favor by taking on one of his schedules.

  4. There are a few ways to say this. Here's one: "Hi George, I need to ask a favor. I have a wedding to attend on March 16 in the afternoon but I have lector-duty at that time. Are you available to take on a lector duty at 4 pm? (Without stopping) I can see your assignments on our monthly schedule and I'm willing to take on your March 28 or April 5 schedule to return the favor."

  5. It may be as short as: "Hi George, can we swap schedules? I'll take any one of your schedules if you can take mine on March 16." However you want to word it, be sure to get a firm reply.

  6. If George cannot accommodate you, there are other names in your list to try. But be sure they're reliable. Your name is at stake here and if the person does not deliver, you will appear as the no-show.

  7. If George accepts, be sure to immediately note down his schedule on your calendar to block out other activities. Remind him to do the same on his calendar. You entered into a verbal agreement, so keep your word.

By offering something in return, you have a stronger chance that the other lector would agree to swap schedules. I know I would.

In fairness, there are many of the old-timer lectors in the ministry who follow the above. Some may even find the above tips plain common-sense.

To me, it's a simple act of courtesy.