Do you serve at church on top of working and possibly serving with other ministries? A lot of people ask me if I serve at church. Honestly, I wrestle sometimes trying to decide whether I should or not. If this was 10 or 12 years ago, my whole life was spent in the local church serving in our high school and college ministries.
Now things are a little different since I travel more than ever before, work long hours, and have a 4-year-old and a daughter on the way.
I know this is a question that some people have wrestled with and so I wanted to share a few guidelines that have helped me in the last 10 years.
First and foremost, no matter what we do, our service should bring glory to God. Everything we do can help to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ in some way. Acts 1:8 says that we are to take his word from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
However, does that mean we should take every opportunity that comes our way to serve? Here are a couple of questions to ask that may be helpful in deciding when to serve and when not to serve in your church:
1 – What are your areas of strength, passion, or gifts?
There are 20 spiritual gifts according to Scripture given specifically for the upbuilding of the body of Christ: administration, apostleship, compassion, discernment, evangelism, exhortation, faith, giving, healing, helping, interpretation of tongues, knowledge, leadership, miracles, prophecy, servanthood, shepherding, teaching, tongues, and wisdom.
What are the activities that you enjoy doing? Things that give you energy? How has God gifted you? What does it mean to have a passion for something?
It’s not always related to being gifted. Passion is what drives you to do your best because you care. It is noticeable to those around you and can influence others. Passion makes serving less of a duty or obligation.
Duty and obligation can be intentional, but unlike passion, the heart is not there. Without a heart in the area of service, one can get burnt out or bitter about serving. Serving with passion and utilizing the gifts that God has given you can be life-giving.
After 20+ years of doing ministry in different capacities, I now know what I am good at and what I am not. I am not a good coach or mentor. It’s not how I’m wired, and I am not passionate about it. So, when I “have” to do that, I feel drained.
On the other hand, give me a vision and I can plan future steps and get excited about putting a team together to have the vision come to fruition – project management. That is innately in me and I believe God planted that in my design. Rarely will I turn down an opportunity that involves project management.
2 – Are you serving to fulfill a need within the church?
There are times, passion or no passion, we just “suck it up” and help. At home, we all pitch in some way, like throwing out the garbage or doing the dishes or laundry. Why? Because we are family.
It’s no different at church with our church family. We want to help each other and share the load. As great as that is, I noticed that if you serve out of need for too long of a time in an area that you have no passion about or in an area that you do not excel at, you run the risk of burning out or growing bitter.
Eventually, you won’t want to do it anymore. I am not good at children’s ministry, but at church, I volunteer to sub when someone backs out or if extra help is needed during the holidays. But if you ask me to do it every other week, I would not. I know that it would not be good for me or the kids.
My dislike for the job would start to show, which is bad. Be careful also not to be guilted into service. Group think within churches is huge. Whenever a new vision or project arises, people are asked by pastors or leaders. That isn’t bad, but when you do it out of guilt, then it is bad. I’ve done it and seen it firsthand.
3 – Do you feel a leading from God to do this?
What is God calling you to do? What is the burden you feel in your heart? Do you know what your calling is or where God is leading you to focus your efforts?
I believe it can change at different points of your life. For example, many of us work in the marketplace. That is your mission field to serve God. But then God can call you to focus on your family and serve them because of your children or family illness.
In the book Designing Your Life by Dave Evans, it helps us to realize who God designed us to be and how to live your life around that. In most cases, there is prayer and affirmation from peers/mentors after making the decision to switch areas of service or focus.
God calls us to be in community with each other. Why? Not only are we called to serve one another (Gal. 5:13) but to make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification (Rom. 14:19).
Basically, we are to spur each other on to finish this race that we have begun in Christ. Jesus had his disciples that walked beside him. Serving involves other people – those you serve, those you serve with and those that help you serve. It’s a privilege to serve but let’s remember why we serve and who we serve as we bring the Gospel to life in our house, workplace and church.
4 – Is serving the wisest choice for your life NOW?
How much is on your plate? Sometimes we just need to say no even though the need is there, and the cause is good. Serving is a privilege and opportunity for a person to be blessed. We need to evaluate what is going on in our lives before making the decision to serve.
Honestly, you may not have the time to serve well. It may not even be a good season to serve. I’ve been very active in my local church, leading college ministry, doing camps and teaching Sunday School. But with the growth of Resource Global and CreatePossible, traveling constantly, and my family to take care of, I just didn’t have the bandwidth to do it all. My struggle with cancer two years ago also taught me to not push beyond my physical limits.
I had to scale back and be more discerning. God doesn’t want just part of us; He wants us to serve wholeheartedly. He also wants us to take care of ourselves and treat our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19).
Saying no to serving is hard. But for the right reasons, God will honor that decision. Don’t say no out of laziness or apathy. Ultimately, it is your choice to serve or not.
You only need to be accountable to God, no one else. Pray to hear God’s calling and leading when deciding to serve. What is God calling you to do?
Tommy Lee is the founder of CreatePossible. Previously, he served as Special Assistant to the President at Moody Bible Institute, bringing new life to their conferences, publishing, and radio entities. Prior to his work in the non-profit sector, he was a consultant with FMHC Corporation and project manager with American Tower, where he was recognized as employee of the year. In addition to overseeing CreatePossible’s operations, Tommy specializes in developing sponsorships and private donor relationships.