Serve & Be Served–The Truth about Volunteering at Church

There seems to be a weird stigma around volunteering at church. For some reason, few people seem to want to do it. Every church I’ve ever been to–all two of them–are constantly short-handed when it comes to volunteers. Why is that? We all have spiritual gifts, Paul tells us that very clearly in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4 and a few miscellaneous verses throughout the New Testament. It’s also taught indirectly through several other passages as God uses people and their natural abilities to serve Him and grow the Kingdom So, why is there such a stigma around serving in the church? We could point fingers and say people are selfish with their time. For some that may be true, but I don’t think that’s the root cause. It could be that it’s not clear to everyone what is or isn’t volunteer work, but that’s not it. Churchs are constantly asking members to serve here or there or wherever help is needed. So, what’s the problem then? I think it’s a few things: a) People don’t know their spiritual or personal gifts. b) People don’t see how their talents could possibly be useful in the church. c) People don’t understand how exhausting it is for the ministry leaders and servers when no one else volunteers. d) People don’t understand how much of a gift serving can be to both those who are served and those who do serve. e) Some other reason I haven’t thought of.

a) People don’t know their spiritual or personal gifts. It’s easy to understand why a lot of people don’t know what their spiritual gifts are. I grew up in the church and went to a Christian school. Even I didn’t know anything about spiritual gifts until I was senior in high school. There are over a dozen spiritual gifts. Mine are mercy, discernment, and encouragement. Basically, that means I’m really good with people. I feel with them, I’m a good judge of character, and I’m good at encouraging them. If you’d like to find out your spiritual gift(s) then I highly recommend you google “spiritual gifts test” and take a couple assessments. It’s always helpful to get a “second or third opinion” because they are man-made tests so they could be wrong. I like to take several personality and type tests, so I always take at least a few to get a more accurate understanding of where I fit. And keep in mind, we can grow our spiritual gifts. It’s not like your born with one it’s the only one you’re stuck with for the rest of your life. God wants us to become as gifted as we can be.

b) People don’t see how their talents could possibly be useful in the church. Even before I knew anything about my spiritual gifts, I knew I loved kids. I’ve always wanted to be a mommy and I have a bunch of younger siblings. Where better could there be for a girl like me to serve than in Children’s Ministry and or Youth? What about you? What are your passions? What are you good at? Are you good at singing or playing instruments? Join the worship team! Do you love kids? Join children’s ministry! Are you a talker? Do you like people? Join the welcoming team/guest services! Are you interested in computers and other gadgets? Join the tech team! Can you build things? Organize? Work behind the scenes by helping set up and take down for various events. Have other talents or interests? Talk to your pastor, the elders, your mentor, or people you’re close to. I’m sure anyone who knows you could help you find somewhere to serve. A lot of spiritual gifts quizzes also give suggestions on where you can serve.

c) People don’t understand how exhausting it is for the ministry leaders and servers when no one else volunteers. It’s possible some (or a lot) of people don’t serve because they think the leaders and regular servers have everything under control. Some may even think it’s not their job, because “I don’t have kids” or “I’m too young” or something else. Maybe they’re insecure for one reason or another. Here’s the thing though, serving on a regular basis can be exhausting, especially if it prevents you from hearing the weekly sermons. I served every two to three weeks in children’s ministry from twelve to fifteen years old. Then, I started serving every week as one of the children’s ministry leaders until I was eighteen. Then, I changed it to every other week for a few months. Took a short break when I started going to a new church and quickly started serving every week again at this new church. I did that for three or so more years until I eventually burnt myself out from serving almost every week for a decade. I wasn’t even the leader of children’s ministry. Can you imagine how exhausted Pastors, Worship Leaders, Children’s Ministry Leaders, Youth Leaders, other ministry leaders and all their family must feel? Leading and serving can be thankless jobs, but they continue to do it, especially when they’re short on volunteers. Maybe you can help relieve some of the stress and exhaustion your leaders and regular volunteers may be feeling by joining one or more of the ministry teams! Whether you do or don’t, try to remember to encourage and thank those who do serve, especially the leaders; they probably need to hear it!

d) People don’t understand how much of a gift serving can be to both those who are served and those who do serve. I don’t have any regrets about taking time off from serving for a while. If I hadn’t, then I would have ended up serving with a bitter heart and that’s worse than not serving at all. God is very clear about how He cares far more about our heart than our sacrifices and service. If we aren’t doing it out of love, then He doesn’t want it. He wants us to want to serve Him and others. That said, a couple weeks ago, my best friend let me know our Children’s Ministry had been looking for more volunteers. She didn’t know this until I told her afterward, but God had been nudging my heart for a couple months at that point that it was almost time to get back into serving with children’s ministry. So, I took that as my cue. I offered to help once a month as a means of dipping my toes in the water before jumping all in. As my life would have it though–because I’m an all or nothing kind of girl–I was asked at the same time to serve, at least for a few weeks, with the youth. Little did anyone know, God had also been urging me to see about serving in Youth with the same kids I had served in children’s ministry two years prior.

Last week, I served in Youth for the first time in years. Today, I served in the nursery with the babies and toddlers also for the first time in years. I knew I had missed it, but I didn’t know how much! I was nervous about getting burnt out again. But both last week and this week, God quickly assured me that He is calling me to serve again. He wants me to help the kids and babies and He’ll be with me at every step. The second I walked through the doors of the youth room and then through the door to the nursery, my heart immediately filled with joy and contentment. I belong with kids and youth. I belong somewhere where I can serve and encourage others. Where people in need and young Church kid hearts are, that is where I belong! I grew up as a church kid, so I know what it’s like and what is needed in these areas. God seems to agree (aka, it’s His plan and He just nudged my heart with it) because that’s where He has me serving.

I can assure you that if you serve and you do it with a heart that wants to serve God and others, then you won’t regret it! Even after I got burnt out on serving for a decade, I never regretted it. I just needed a break. If you can’t serve with the right heart, then I urge you to pray for God to humble and encourage you to have a servant’s spirit. Afterall, Matthew 20:28 says, “…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…” If that’s not encouragement enough for you, then surely, praying for God to guide you will be! 🙂

(also, I totally recommend you go read that whole passage! It’s a good one!)

*Helpful Tip* If you want to serve where you can be a big help, but want to take on a little “less responsibility” at first, then here are two suggestions. If you’re an extrovert, then try the welcoming team/guest services! 🙂 You can chat with people as they come in and be the first smiling face newcomers see! If you’re an introvert, then try the tech team! I’ve filled in a few times when needed and as intimidating as it seems, it’s not too difficult, at least not if you’re just clicking arrows for the slides. Maybe you can volunteer for that and then learn the more complicated stuff?

e) Some other reason I haven’t thought of. Can you think of other reasons people might not serve in the church? Feel free to share them with me! 🙂


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