My husband is a beekeeper. He puts on the bee suit, dons the veil, and lights the smoker to keep the bees at bay. I watch from inside the house.
Nevertheless, I am learning that bees are fascinating creatures. Would it surprise you to learn that the “hive culture” of these tiny insects somehow reminds me of the complex workings of a congregation? It doesn’t matter which denomination or even what faith you belong to, let’s face it – life with a diverse group of people can be challenging. Getting anything done can be a herculean tasks. Congregational life can feel like living with an oversized, slightly dysfunctional family as we attempt to live our faith, care for others, mediate discussions, set visionary goals or simply make the simplest decisions or reach any kind of consensus.
What is the bees’ secret? Over 10,000 of them are crammed into that tiny hive. Yet somehow they manage not only to care for each other and build intricate honeycomb, but also produce delicious honey. Part of their success may be the many different jobs each worker bee holds over the course of its lifetime. No one gets stuck doing the same task without reprieve.
What if congregations encouraged our members to explore new ways to be a vibrant part of this living, breathing community we call church? Every job is important – everyone makes a difference.
Think about the folks in your congregation. Then picture the bees, doing whatever is necessary to make the hive work. They are
- Nurse Bees. These nurturers care for the developing eggs, watching over the vulnerable larvae until they hatch. Who takes care of the weak and helpless in your congregation? Does their hard work and vital contributions get recognized?
- House bees. These industrious workers make the honeycomb and care for the hive to ensure it is a clean and healthy environment for the whole swarm. Picture the folks in your congregation – usually behind the scenes, often unheralded – who simply want to roll up their sleeves and live their faith by doing. We need to celebrate that.
- “Guard bees” sound ominous until you recognize their determination to ensure the safety of the hive. Imagine previous generations of faithful members who weathered threats like economic strain, deficit budgets, weather catastrophes, and fires. They persevered. They did what needed to be done. Their efforts make today’s congregation possible.
- Field bees venture out of the hive to search for pollen and nectar which will feed the rest of the hive. These are the hardworking folks who give heart and soul because they care so much.
Scientists are fascinated by bees because of what is known as “hive mentality.” The bees are completely focused on the hive. The tremendous energy they expend creating the honeycomb, storing up honey, tending the larvae and searching out pollen – it’s all to benefit the hive. “All for one and one for all” is more than a motto – it’s the way they live. Even harsh winter weather can’t defeat them. When the temperature dips below freezing the bees cluster together so the inside temperature remains a toasty 90 degrees inside the hive.
What if congregations banded together like bees? What if we overlooked our differences and ignored petty annoyances and instead pledged to work together as a unit? What if we celebrated our vast variety of gifts and used them to take care of one another and to interact with the needy world around us?
The bees would warn us – loners, those hearty individualists, will suffer and die without the support of a committed community.
The bees are onto something. The church – the Body of Christ made up of unique children of God – can be inspired by their devotion and hard work.