...And an Inch Wide: Focusing Your Own Impact

In our last post, we shared one of Watermark's pillars for outreach - the principle of focused impact. Or put another way, we generally choose to serve "a mile deep and an inch wide" in our partnerships as a church!

But guess what? That's the same sort of service we encourage our people to engage in.

Sometimes it seems more "fun" to spread our service between lots of areas and ministries. And we may even think that's the way to accomplish a lot of good. But there's actually a healthier and more impactful way. We urge you to consider the following points for you and your family as you seek to serve others. (And not surprisingly, they look pretty similar to our points in the last post...)

Pursue few opportunities, not many

I spent my senior year of high school engaging in way too many "good" activities. I might have been very active and had some fun, but I actually accomplished less than I would have if I'd focused my efforts. So in college I aimed to "guard my signature," avoiding more than a few commitments at a time.

After a certain point, a person's impact doesn't multiply by adding more things to the plate - it lessens. It's far better to pick one or two service opportunities / issues you can be passionate about, be devoted to, and truly make a difference in. This can take place over a summer as you dive into a specific cause or community all summer long. Or your involvement may last years, once you find an organization and start serving regularly.

Stay with opportunities for the long haul

When you do find a service area worth your investment of time, talents, or "treasures," plan to stick with it. Of course, no one should blindly remain involved with a cause, and life or family circumstances will sometimes require adjustments. But the main idea here is that you'll see maximum impact if you continue long-term, instead of hopping from option-to-option. (It's also better for those you're serving - and those you're serving with.)

This principle should also encourage wise hesitation before entering into a personal "partnership"... since you're hoping it will last months or years.

Say No a lot more than you say Yes

What's another way to ensure "focused impact'?

By saying No. A lot.

If you want your own service to go "a mile deep," it truly will require keeping yourself "an inch wide." YOU are a limited resource, and God knows the "good works He's prepared beforehand" for you (Eph. 2:10). Make sure you haven't scheduled those best opportunities right out of your life.

Let your impact grow over time

By spending a long amount of time on only a few things, you'll likely have opportunities to move from "ground-level service" to deeper involvement. That should be your goal!

"Deeper" involvement might mean connecting your specific gifts and talents to the needs of the ministry. It might mean serving in a more regular way, or with a growing commitment. Your sphere of influence will grow. You might even have a chance to lead within the ministry, informally or formally.

Expect to grow yourself, too!

If we only dip in and out of causes, organizations, or parts of town, we miss out on personal growth, too.

Much is gained as you familiarize ourselves with a particular issue, a particular neighborhood, or a particular ministry. Over time, you'll see your relationships deepen - with ministry staff, fellow volunteers, and especially those the ministry serves. And service teaches everyone things about themselves, too; it's one of the best ways to discover your strengths... and you might realize a few weaknesses, too.

There certainly are times simply to serve in one-time opportunities, and we will continue to give you great chances to do that! But in the back of your mind, don't forget the principle of focused impact. Use those short-term opportunities to look for long-term service. And as much as possible, keep serving "a mile deep and an inch wide"!

Photo Credit: jkfid via Compfight cc

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