I've always been one for obsequious volunteerism, a phrase I made up so that I could make my debilitating impulse to enlist in every church activity sound like a justifiable habit. When someone asks for workers, my hand seems to always stretch to the sky.
I could be perceived as a dedicated and enthusiastic worker, but in reality, it's often to fill a hole in a ministry. Many churches are in want of volunteers to help execute the ministry vision. Somebody has to do it, and I tend to feel guilty if I don't volunteer. I'll admit that I, like many of my fellow perpetual volunteers, do tend to develop a sense of self-righteousness by our robust church ministry resumes.
But the ability to volunteer was taken from me when I gave birth to my third child about a month ago. I knew that, for the foreseeable future, I would be unable to participate with the same intensity as before. I conceded that I wouldn't be able to shoulder the weight of all the programs I was involved in as well as two preschool children, an infant and a business start-up I founded last year.
So I stepped back and enrolled in a small group study for the first time in more than a decade. It was odd being a participant - a consumer, if you will - in a ministry. I wasn't responsible for the lesson preparation or the pre-meeting setup. I didn't even have to make the refreshments.
And I love it. I found myself relaxing, enjoying being taught rather than teaching.
It feels like church is supposed to: warm, inviting and ultimately, spiritually enriching. I'm able to learn truths about God's word and participate in loving and respectful conversations with other believers who are hungry for truth.
Why do I share this? Because there are other chronic volunteers who need to take time from volunteering to be participants in the church. They need respite from the busyness. Wise King Solomon knew this: "One hand full of rest is better than two fists full of labor and striving after wind." (Ecclesiastes 4:4-6, NASB).
You might feel guilty, as I did at first, but the ministry you have as a participant is no less valid. Your contribution to a group may be crucial to another believer's understanding and vice versa.
We can sharpen one another (Proverbs 27:17) as well as support and strengthen one another.
"Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up." (Ecclesiastes 4;9-10, NASB)
If I'm only concerned with my church to-do list, I run the risk of not investing in the lives of those in my church family, an act that has far more detrimental consequences than, say, not turning on the coffee pot on Sunday mornings.
Email Jamie H. Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org
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