When Not to Volunteer

5 critical guidelines for evaluating ministry choices
When Not to Volunteer
Image: PEARL / LIGHTSTOCK

Children’s ministry is not my thing. I used to feel guilty because I didn’t enjoy singing “Jesus Loves Me” with preschoolers and had no interest in teaching Bible stories using finger puppets.

My guilt spurred me on to volunteer for Vacation Bible School and other children’s programs thinking, Because I have kids, this is where I should serve.

I was wrong. Just because God gave me children doesn’t mean he expects me to teach second-grade Sunday school, and the same is true for you.

We are each uniquely made and uniquely gifted.

However, when we hear of a ministry need, unwarranted guilt often kicks in, and we take on a role that was not meant for us.

It’s vital that we give careful thought to the areas in which we serve. It’s healthy to weigh our talents and passions against the service opportunities placed before us. If we spend all of our time serving in a place we are not meant to serve, we end up wasting the gifts God has given us. Even the apostle Paul encourages us to serve in the areas we are gifted (see Romans 12:6–8).

Deciding whether to serve in a certain area is not always easy, but these five statements can serve as a good yardstick when considering a new commitment.

1. Your No Might Lead to a Yes for Someone Else

For the past decade, I’ve been involved in a weekly women’s Bible study. When our leader, Deanna, stepped down several years ago after her daughter was diagnosed with cancer, I took her place (along with a co-leader). I could name a number of women whom I thought were a much better fit than I was, but, for a variety of reasons, they all said no. Their discerning decisions to say no led to my decision to say yes.

It was terribly uncomfortable for me at first. Nervous butterflies and feelings of inadequacy were the norm at the beginning, but over time I grew to enjoy it. This is often the case; sometimes we must grow into our gifts. Serving beyond our comfort zone can lead to the development of gifts we didn’t even know we had.

When Deanna returned, we became a team and now take turns teaching and leading discussion. I have discovered that I truly enjoy digging into God’s Word, studying commentaries, and reading sermons to gain knowledge that I can share with the group.

Before saying yes to a ministry opportunity because you feel guilty, consider that your no might be the nudge someone else needs to discover a gift.

2. Overcommitment May Lead to Resentment and Exhaustion

God isn’t glorified when our “service” renders us resentful and exhausted rather than drawing us nearer to him. When Moses was leading the Israelites after the Exodus, his father-in-law, Jethro, saw that Moses had taken on too much and confronted him, encouraging him to give up some of his responsibilities to others (see Exodus 18). Moses wisely took Jethro’s advice, and we are wise to heed it as well.

Kim Harms

Kim Harms is a regular contributor for Today's Christian Woman and freelance writer living in Iowa with her husband and three sons. In addition to writing, she operates 500 Dresses, a ministry providing clothing and sewing supplies to women and children living in poverty. Kim can be found online at KimHarms.net or on Twitter at @kimharmsboymom.

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May 25

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