"Yes, I'll serve wherever! Just don't put me on the decor team. And I don't want to teach. But anywhere else is great!" I laugh as I write these words because, as a former ministry director, this is not a hypothetical example. I have had that exact conversation more times than I can count. Decorating for events and teaching the Bible were the extreme ends of the spectrum for many prospective volunteers that wanted to serve in our church but didn't know where to go.
Maybe that's you today, desiring to make a difference in the local church but unsure of where to start. Perhaps you are already serving, energized, and eager as you balance serving in multiple areas. Some of you feel yourself growing weary as you lead, wondering if what you do matters. Here are some things to keep in mind as you seek opportunities to serve in the local church.
It's not about us
The talents God gives us are gifts from God. When we use our gifts, it says less about us and more about the generous, creative God we serve. We cannot boast in something that was given to us. We boast in the One who gives us good gifts to steward for His glory and the building up of His church. It might also mean serving others in unexpected ways.
For example, my husband is a gifted Bible teacher, and early in our marriage, he taught in the children's ministry with me. He did it joyfully, employing his gift of communicating big truths of the gospel to little children. Years later, I stood in the back of a classroom, tearing up as I watched him teach a theology class to adults. The point of this story is not that he "graduated" to teaching adults. Rather, he joyfully met tangible needs in the church regardless of the audience or accolades. Serving is not about us. It is not about having a platform. Serving is about exalting the name of Jesus above all else.
I heard a pastor once use the home as an analogy for how we are to serve. Professionally, you might be an accountant but when you get home, you still have to do laundry and clean up after dinner. There are things you do using your talents to serve your home (i.e., being an accountant to bring in income), and there are things you do outside of your talents to keep your home functional and healthy (i.e., cooking, cleaning, and laundry). The need for one does not negate the other, and the same goes for the church. Remembering that it is not all about us helps us serve with joy, knowing that it is ultimately for God's glory.
Say "yes" to the right things
Sometimes we say "yes" to a lot of good things, which prevents us from saying "yes" to the right things. If you are trying to balance too many things, you risk being ineffective in your role or, even worse, you could be headed for burnout. We do not want to let others down, so we push through and make it work, sacrificing our own spiritual health for the sake of serving others.
If you are weary, it may be wise to step back and seek wisdom before you move forward. Reflect on how and why you serve. Are you serving to please God or man? Are your motivations guilt-driven or grace-driven? God does not call us to live a life at breakneck speed. Jesus invites us to live an abundant life and calls us to rest in Him. As we abide in Him, we invite others to do the same. Fight the temptation to compare yourself to others as you seek how the Lord wants to use you and seek to be faithful in whatever season you are in.
Serving gives us a front-row seat to see God at work in the lives of His people. It requires sacrifice, not limitless capacity. Being aware of your limits and maintaining your own spiritual health are vital as you serve others. He uses different people with different gifts in His kingdom (1 Corinthians 12:12–26). That means that there is a place for you to use your gifts in the body of Christ. Step out in faith and find ways to serve the church. If you seek to love others and glorify God, God will equip you for the work set before you (Hebrews 13:21).
Finally, if you have experienced church hurt or are struggling to get involved with the local body, we encourage you to check out our blog post "Church is Hard and Holy" and our podcast episode, "Is Church Really Worth It?"