If you have ever attended any sort of christian church for any length of time, you most likely have been asked to “serve” in the church. There are many areas for people to serve.. but … not really. There seems to be 4 major areas that you can serve in; worship (ushering, working the sound board, behind the scenes making sure things go smoothly), welcoming (greeters, bulletin passer outers, refreshment managers etc), set up (those churches who meet in buildings they don’t own and have to set up for all the glitz and glam band shows) and childrens ministries.Ya might even have some missions in there somewhere…

No one job is more important than another, these tasks are all needed to make a traditional service happen. People are needed to run these areas, and they should if that is what they desire.

Many people feel that they would like to serve in some way… some even feel guilty when they don’t “serve” in the way the church is set up. So what should someone do when they don’t have  a desire to serve in those areas?

There are people who like to serve in those areas and certainly have the talent or willingness for those areas. What if none of those areas suit you and you would like to serve but just not there? I know that when I used to sign up, every time church handed out a yearly commitment card, for lighting and sound board… I would be contacted and asked if I would work in the kids classes. Why even bother to ask what i would do?? At that time I was working as an aide in my kids elementary school and spent the rest of the time at home with my own 3 kids… I DID NOT! want to do kids ministry! Yet each time I filled in the card, that’s what I got contacted to do.

There was even one year where church handed out t-shirts promoting serving in the church. If you were serving in the church ..in a ministry that THEY defined, then you were considered “All In” and you could get you a T-shirt. (reverting back to my southern talk). That’s ok, I can do without the t-shirt because I figured something out already about ministry.

Here is what I figured out: It doesn’t have to be church sanctioned.

That’s right. You are “serving” whether you are at church doing your area of ministry or not. It can even be within the church walls or people yet still not be part of their definition.

A couple of years ago I decided that since I did not know very many women in my church that I would commit to meet someone new each month and invite them to lunch or tea. Some of them never got back with me and that’s OK. With some of them, I only met up with them the one time, that’s OK too. The others are now close friends of mine. I made an investment in the lives of other women. I have a community of friends who I have learned from and have grown with, some I have been able to teach and mentor or just see them through a difficult issue or 2.

If I had not stretched my thoughts on what ministry is and had I restricted myself to the confines of “church ministry” or “church service”, I may never have gone to the effort to meet these women and invest in their lives .  I am confident that my investment has been beneficial for myself and others. I feel that if I wanted to teach a class or do some other project that I could just do it, and not have to wait for approval.

Now, I have been on both sides of the ministry table. I have served in a pastoral and administrative role in the church as well as been a church attendee. I have done service in the church as the church defines it. I have worked in women’s programs, kids programs and social service areas. I have also been the person who was worn out and decided to take a break and just go listen to the pastor and attend and participate in a bible study. I have done the gamut .

It’s hard work to run a church from any perspective, the staff and pastor cannot do it all. They need others to make it work or it falls on them. (I’ll address that in a couple of paragraphs down). SO if you are thinking there is something you would like to do, don’t rely on the staff to get you started. If you want to teach a class, don’t wait for approval, set it up and teach it. If you are interested in serving in an area of the community, set it up, YOU invite people along. They will see your passion for this area and if it’s their interest as well, they will join you. If your heart is in it-DO IT! Don’t wait! The pastor and staff are not there to start up all the stuff. YOU do it.

Examine what you are doing it for and the purpose of it. If you are interested in genuinely serving others.. it will flow.

I also think that perhaps if churches are having difficulty getting people to commit, then they might examine some things. Perhaps, if you are having trouble getting people in the areas of service, you are not offering what you need to be offering. People are burnt out on serving in areas they don’t like or if they do like.. they get sucked in for more. Sometimes people hope for position and that gets taken advantage of by asking them to do more and more. I know that when I have served in some churches and was one of the only “normal” people there, I got asked to do A LOT! It got old. I can’t be there every day of the week and service on the weekend.

It’s difficult to be at the church so much of the time. Perhaps they could split class commitments and have some teach one week and someone else teach another week. Switch off. That way, there’s a replacement for that week. If someone is out, the can work it between themselves and the other class teacher(s). If you have someone who has committed to a task, leave them alone. Don’t keep asking more and more of them. That wears them down or can cause issues at home.

People need to spend time with their families. (No that doesn’t mean hit up all the young couples with no kids or the singles either). People can’t be at church all the time. They have other things in their lives besides church. Even if they are not out doing stuff with families, it’s nice for people just to be there and available and not overly committed.

I often have friends who say “oh I can’t leave what I’m doing, they don’t have someone else to do it”. Well… that’s not your issue, they will find someone and even perhaps, there is someone who desires to do that thing you do but you have been doing it so they are not stepping up. Some people need to be asked.

Church staff: quit asking the same people to do more and more. Split up some of the stuff. Ask some people to fill in some times … hey.. they might like it… and there’s no commitment. If it doesn’t get done.. it doesn’t get done. Rethink the services you are offering if no one wants to do it.

People: Quit doing stuff you don’t like. If you want to do something_speak up. If church doesn’t like your idea, do it on your own.

It’s time for a change.

Have you started your own area of ministry without church? I would be interested to hear it.