Medical workers are no strangers to disruptive lifestyles. This year, Black Wednesday (the precarious first Wednesday in August when the new doctors start work and others move along) has provided me with a new job, in a new department, in a new hospital, in a new place as it has every year of the last five that I have worked as a Junior Doctor…
This displacement isn’t always easy and is often complicated by being thrown straight into working through hours you would much prefer to be in the pub, or at very least, in bed. These factors can merge into a perfect storm that can make both settling and staying in a new church a particularly rocky ride.
I've found the most important part of settling is to find a church quickly. When moving, considering which church to go to is important enough to be one of our top considerations, but in reality it often becomes more of an afterthought. In London, we are lucky to have a wide spread of Jesus-centred, Bible believing churches within touching distance but this can make selection of a good church all the more difficult. I’ve found the following three pointers helpful:
- Suggestions: I’ve been incredibly lucky to have friends and ministers that I’ve been able to ask for advice when I find out I’ve been sent to a new region. They are usually a brilliant resource – they are likely to know both you, but also some churches in the region – the perfect matchmaker. Use them!
- Shortlist: Take the ideas from your suggestions and prepare a list of places to check out in advance. Crucially it should be a short shortlist. Anything between one and three sounds like a sensible range of churches to check out.
- Succinct : There are no perfect churches this side of creation as we are imperfect people. Set yourself a time limit within which you will decide a church to commit to. Be decisive and succinct.
Shift work can make living church life and being a Christian challenging. In hospital, many will work rotas working every other weekend and have unpredictable shifts resulting in attendance at small groups and Sunday’s being sporadic. This is hard work - and I hope if you read this as someone with more regular hours that you will check up on your friends that may be in the midst of a miserable rota period to ask how they are doing. Some things that I have found useful in the fight to keep going:
- Go the extra mile to get to things: I’ve rarely regretted the effort to get out of bed early on a Sunday to get to church before another night shift. This sometimes isn’t possible, but often you will find it’s possible to come get along, or to join in the last 30 minutes of a bible study after your shift. It’s encouraging to meet with people and can become very isolating if you end up missing out on gatherings.
- Use the time that you gain: I have found that church workers are one of the strange species that are available to meet during the hours when most are confined to the workplace. Send a message and go for a coffee with one of them! Also, go to the post office/bank. Get a haircut when there is no queue. Go to the gym when it’s dead.
- Prioritise teaching yourself the gospel: Fight the isolation and lack of formal teaching by rehearsing the Gospel to yourself every day, even if you are part of a weird and changing sleep pattern. I think often the best is before your shift starts, whatever time that may fall. Days off can be a great opportunity to spend more time in understanding the Bible a little deeper.
I hope that these ideas may be useful to some doing shift work, and for others to help understand what we do. Come and grab me to talk about it if you’re interested!