Written By Faith Hanan, USA
“Hi, how are you?”
“Nice to see you today.”
We smile and wave and shake a few hands on our way to our seats for the Sunday morning service. Some of us might even have a cup of coffee with us. We sit in our seat, and stand when asked to. We praise and worship as part of the congregation, and then listen as the pastor delivers a well thought out, meaningful message. Then we say goodbye on our way out of the door. We grab lunch, and we don’t think about church until it’s time to go to the next service.
For years this was me.
Oh, I read my Bible regularly and listened to preaching throughout the week, but I didn’t actively serve in my church. I always had “good reasons,” like being gone on the weekends, or serving in other organizations.
But something shifted in me and my faith when I began to serve in my local church on a regular basis.
It was my second year of college. I had been faithfully attending my church for over a year. I was there every Sunday and Wednesday that I was in town. I took my Bible to church and took notes in service. I looked forward to church and left equipped and encouraged.
Then one Wednesday night, my Pastor said something in his message about serving. I honestly don’t remember what he said specifically, but I remember leaving service with a thought burning in my heart: You need to start sowing back into the soil where you are planted.
Psalm 92:13 says that those who are “planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God.” I knew enough about farming to know that plants not only take nutrients from the soil, they actually give back different nutrients to the same soil. One plant will leave behind an excess of a nutrient that causes the next to flourish.
I decided that I should start serving. My logic went something like this: I know the youth pastor and a couple volunteers in the youth ministry. I only recently graduated high school so I could probably relate to the kids. We’d probably get to play games and be loud. Boom. I’ll start volunteering in youth.
11 years later I’m still volunteering in youth. And it has radically changed my life.
Allow me to share some of what I have learned:
1. Serving is part of discipleship in action
Jesus gave the mandate to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). By consistently showing up and serving in the youth, I earned a high level of trust and influence in the lives of the young people there. We got to walk together through difficult and fun times in their young adult life.
Because of my involvement and the involvement of other Christians in their lives, these girls became more than just “converts,” they became disciples, seeking to know Him better. They went from timid little baby seventh graders who barely knew anything about worship or the Bible, to young women in love with Jesus, who will worship their hearts out every opportunity they get. I have been able to help them look at their lives and look at the Word and learn how to apply it. This kind of deep discipleship doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and love to cultivate this kind of influence.
2. Serving is part of our identity as Christ followers
Jesus didn’t just serve the strangers and the masses. He served those closest to Him, He served His own community. We would be wise to do likewise. After all, we have been given a gift for the purpose of building God’s house and our church community.
I love how The Message paraphrases Romans 15:1: “Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status.” Not one of us—including the pastor—is supposed to do everything. We would be more effective as the Body of Christ and as a church community when we each use our gifts to serve faithfully. You know those things that you are good at? They’re not just for your benefit. God gave us those gifts so that we can bless other people too!
3. Serving exposes areas of our character that need refining
Nothing makes me realize how much I need a heart check like throwing an internal fit because I had to take a kid to the nurse’s station at camp during my all-time favorite worship song. Selfish much? I am here to serve the youth, not to be served. Tired and cranky from not sleeping well at camp? I get to practice “love your neighbor” on the fellow leader who rubs me the wrong way. Christianity is easy behind a screen or when we hold people at a distance, but transformation really happens when we rub elbows with people who are hard to love. Serving will mature us spiritually.
4. Serving teaches us to love others genuinely
I knew I liked teenagers when I started volunteering in youth, what I didn’t know was how much I would grow to genuinely love “my girls.”
When they had a question that I couldn’t immediately answer, it made me dig into the Word to help them. When their tender hearts were crying out for love and wisdom, I got to lean on the Holy Spirit to share the Father’s heart for their situation. In serving them I have grown to see them through our Father’s eyes. My girls are no longer just teenagers that I go talk at and sing songs with on Wednesday nights. They have become family. I pray for them much like I pray for my own daughter. In serving them, I have grown to love them.
I know, it can sometimes be intimidating to raise your hand and say “Hey, I can help.” But it’s worth it! Don’t feel like you have to find a ministry or group of people that fits your skills or personality perfectly before you start serving. Sometimes we figure out what we’re passionate about by trying lots of things that we don’t end up liking. That’s okay! But try not to jump from one ministry to the next without giving it time.
You have a gift worth offering.