If you are anything like me, getting students or kids to volunteer to help serve can feel like you’re forcing them to leave all their family and friends and move 1,000 miles away just to give up an hour or two of their time. I find my biggest struggle in youth ministry is getting students to commit to serving. I have heard all the excuses in the world about staying up too late the night before, can’t find time to do it, and don’t feel like they are capable of serving. If some of these excuses sound familiar, it’s often because parents have used these same excuses for not being involved in the life of the church through volunteering. To look past the excuses, we must first define what serving is and what serving is not.
- Putting other people’s needs ahead of our own. Our society certainly doesn’t model living a selfless life. It often tells us to start with our own needs before we meet the needs of others. There is value in remembering to take care of ourselves, but that shouldn’t be the main goal. I can never think of a time where I decided to help volunteer or serve and left feeling like the time and effort I put into it was fruitless.
- A sacrifice. If serving was easy, I think a lot more people would be doing it and there wouldn’t be so much of a struggle to get people to volunteer. Serving doesn’t always have to feel like a sacrifice, but I think it’s interesting that God designed us in a way that makes us feel like we have to give something up to serve others. If we didn’t feel like we were giving up something, would we really be serving? Much like tithing, it often hurts to give when money is tight and there’s things in life that you would rather use the money for. I fully believe that God’s blessings come through our sacrifices.
Serving is not…
- A handout. Often times, it easy for us to look at serving as a handout or looking down on those that are less fortunate than us. People come from all different walks of life and we shouldn’t pass judgement based on their outward appearance. We are all in need of God’s grace and have all fallen short of his glory. When we approach serving other with this mindset, we place ourselves on the same playing level as those we are serving.
- Going to another country. There are many needs all around us, we don’t have to get on a plane to serve the least of these. There are people in our backyard that can be shown the love of Christ. Many times, we don’t see these people because we aren’t asking God to reveal those people who are in our lives everyday that need a word from God spoken through you.
There are many more things we can add to the list of what serving is and isn’t, but those are a few things that first come to mind that people often get confused with serving. So where do we go from here? Whether you are a parent, small group leader, youth pastor, or a student – how can we get more people to serve?
- Relationships – When we focus on relationships through serving, it makes us want to come back again to continue building on the relationships we previously experienced. Without a relationship, we really aren’t committing ourselves to the full experience of serving. Find a place to serve and be consistent in serving. Start with committing yourself to serve once a week for the next few months. More often than not, you will find yourself continuing to serve because it has become a habit.
- Model It – This is something that the holy spirit has convicted me of as being a youth pastor. I have lots of opportunities for students, but they don’t always see me physically serving. I have made it my goal to be more invested in serving, not so that my students will see me as this awesome religious Christian, but that I am practicing what I preach. Peer influence is the strongest kind of influence and I always encourage students to tell their friends to get involved and invite them to come with to serve. When we model our faith through serving, it becomes contagious and gets others on board to do the same.
- Pray for it – Ask God to guide you to a place you can serve. Those places may be overseas or they may be the lady next door to you that you try to avoid having a conversation with. When we allow the holy spirit to speak to us, we begin to join our heart to the heart of God and the love that he has for people. We were created for relationships and it is a privilege that we get to serve!
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. – 1 Peter 4:10