Most people reading this blog post will fall into two camps:
- You don't serve "externally" (outside the church) on a regular basis, but you're willing to consider it - if you can find a good fit.
- You do serve externally, and therefore you're in a position to help others learn the joy of impacting our communities, too.
If either of these is true about you, then keep reading!
When someone begins thinking about serving externally, they face an interesting tension (that they may not even realize).
On the one hand, everyone wants to find a great fit for service - a place where their talents, time, and passions align with the needs in the community.
On the other hand, finding that fit can be a difficult and time-consuming process. "Analysis paralysis" can set in with so many good choices, or a person's unique skill set may make it difficult to find a good fit. So sometimes we wonder if we should just start serving.
Before we seek to resolve this tension (if we can resolve it!), let's look at the pros and cons of each argument.
Spending Time Processing...
- ...allows "finding a place to serve" to work like any other spiritual discipline. Prayer, Bible study, fasting, witnessing, and other disciplines aren't always easy or quick. Likewise, finding a place to serve is something by which God grows us - even when it takes longer than we'd like.
...lessens the chance we'll just "check the box" to serve. It's easy to serve just because we "think we should," or because we need it for membership, service hours, or another reason. By spending time processing, we avoid that trap.
...allows us to bring community into the decision.
...also makes it easier to procrastinate or never start serving. We definitely face the temptation never to get started, and it's easy to freeze, forget, or never follow through.
Just Jumping In to Service...
- ...helps us avoid procrastination or "analysis paralysis."
- ...still leaves room to find a better fit later. After we start serving, we may realize there's a better fit elsewhere - either within the same ministry, or in something different. You're not stuck just because you started!
- ...lets us try a few things out to help make the decision.
- ...is the best way to discover passions and gifts (for those who aren't sure). "Reflecting" or taking aptitude tests isn't nearly as effective as simply serving if we're trying to discover how God has made us.
...creates the temptation to jump from opportunity to opportunity. When this happens, our impact stays wide and not deep. (Read more about that principle here.)
...makes it easy to simply "check the box" and keep serving in the first place we find. We may have great intentions to keep seeking the Lord to find our very best fit, but once we start, inertia is always a danger.
Don't Dismiss the Tension
If you're looking for service - or want to help family members or friends find their "fit" - my encouragement is simply to recognize the tension! There are pros and cons for each approach, so our job is to utilize the positive parts of both and let God guide us.
For many, the best answer will be to simply start serving but also to start simply. Get your feet wet, then allow what you learn to inform your decision (in a few months) about finding an even better fit. And all the while, let God grow you through the spiritual discipline of Service-Seeking!
For others, there may be room to spend some time pondering, making sure to loop in community and others as you zero-in on the best place to invest your time and talents. But if you don't find something soon, it's probably worth trying one of your top options to see how it goes.
As you move forward, look for God to point you to His place for you... and watch Him grow you in the meantime!