“We are looking for volunteers for the _______ ministry.”
If you’ve been to church for more than three weeks you’ve likely encountered some sort of announcement asking for help from the church to serve. We understand why: churches have a number of ministries that require volunteers to coordinate service together.
But have you noticed that churches often seem to have difficulty filling the slots? Over the last several years I’ve noticed, in churches where I’ve served or visited, that some openings don’t seem to ever get filled. It’s like a perennial classified advertisement for volunteers.
There are several possibilities as to why. Perhaps it’s scheduling. The church calendar is far too crowded, and there simply are not enough bodies to fill all of the slots. Or maybe it’s recruiting. The reliance on electronic communication has impeded our ability to recruit helpers.
Or, maybe it has to do with the one who is being asked. Maybe it’s selfishness.
How We Often Hear It
If we hear the request for help and actually consider if we can help, how do we process it? Based on the excuses we make (myself included) we may be thinking through this from the wrong perspective.
When asked to serve, we tend to think, Why should I? And as we begin to process the question, we remind ourselves that we are already quite busy. Current commitments make this type of service unfeasible. But who isn’t busy? Seriously. Think about the last person who told you they weren’t busy. Everyone’s busy—or at least we think we are. It’s so easy to dismiss needs like this.
I think the line of thinking that says, “Why should I?” is unhelpful. It starts with us at the center rather than the needs of others in our church family. There may be legitimate reasons why we can’t serve, but I fear that we often quickly settle for convenient excuses that secure our comfort rather than our sacrifice.
There may be legitimate reasons why we can’t serve, but I fear that we often quickly settle for convenient excuses that secure our comfort rather than our sacrifice.
Reframing the Question
What if we reframed the question? What if the request for help and service began not with us but the need? What if we said, “This is a need in my church. Why not me?”
Instead of attempting to disqualify ourselves from serving, seek instead to assess the need and whether it is something we could personally fulfill.
Let’s remember that the reason we are part of the church in the first place is because Jesus served us. It was Christ who said, “I did not come to be served but to serve and give my life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Our involvement in the life of the church comes as a result of someone who was very busy and even more important, setting aside his own interests and humbling himself to serve those who didn’t deserve it (Phil. 2:5-11).
Our involvement in the life of the church comes as a result of someone who was very busy and even more important, setting aside his own interests and humbling himself to serve those who didn’t deserve it (Phil. 2:5-11).
It also helps me to remember that part of what demonstrates our new life in Christ is the good works we do when we serve God.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Eph. 2:10)
According to Ephesians, good works were ordained by God. Not only did God sovereignly elect his people, but he also sovereignly prepared our good works. He has works for us to do.
Armed with this truth, we remember that we serve a God of providence. He has placed us in this church and placed these needs before us. And in so doing, he has given us the opportunity to do these good works of service that he has sovereignly prepared. This helps us to properly assess the needs from a biblical perspective rather than a selfish one.
Imagine if the needs in the church were gobbled up like free tickets to see the local team? Here in Boston, few would give up the chance to watch the Red Sox or the Patriots. We love to enter into the joy of participating in the event. We love to boast in our team. (And we love to watch them win.) But service in the church is boasting in Christ. We may not think of mowing the lawn, cleaning bathrooms, or serving in the children’s ministry this way, but it is. We enter into the joy of the event. We reflect God’s character in the service of Christ and his church.
May we gobble up these opportunities to serve because they are occasions to boast in Christ. Instead of thinking, Why me? ask, Why not me? With Ephesians 2 on our minds, we may be more inclined to joyfully serve Jesus and his people.