You’ve heard the pleas from the pastor on the weekend or watched the well-edited video announcements that include the following words: “get involved,” “sign-up,” or “connect.” Chances are, if you’ve grown up at church, or been a part of one for any length of time, you have been asked to help in some capacity: the children’s ministry needs volunteers, the offices need to be painted, or the food pantry is in desperate need of extra hands.
This cry for help is as long-standing as the ask for financial contributions, and yet you’d probably be surprised to hear that there are still other things that your church wishes you would do. Here are 10:
1. Stop showing up late.
Sure, everyone has the morning where the alarm fails, the gas light turns on as soon as you pull out of the driveway, and every parent with small children has endured the inevitable "potty" incident as you're trying to get out the door. Don't worry; there's grace. But if you slip in with a 7-syllable-Starbucks drink, chances are eyes will roll. The worst is when the children become your excuse, yet you can manage to get all four of your kids out the door, to school, and checked into childcare in time for your 9 a.m. pilates class--three days a week. If you can make your morning workout a priority, then surely you can do the same once a week for church services.
2. Stop comparing.
It's a blanket statement that covers everything. Complaining is listed as a sin in the Bible, right along with all of those "really bad" things that people tend to be quickly judged and condemned for. Stop comparing your current church to every other place you’ve ever been involved, including the white-steepled church you grew up in, or the mega-church full of creatives and flashy technology. Be where you are. Stop expecting it to morph into what you think it should be.
3. Stop making church political.
The church isn't the place to debate your personal agenda. God isn’t right or left; He doesn't belong to any party, and He isn't confined to a nationality. His values and character cannot be contained by programs, nor should the church be a place to debate and try to conform the moral-less world based on your political platform.
4. Stop complaining.
Again, this is an overarching plea. It gets old; the complaints about the sound--whether it's too loud, or too quiet. The music won't appeal to everyone; you don't need to voice your opinion at the end of every service. Obviously, most speakers welcome constructive criticism, but not after every message. The complaints need to stop. If God has placed you there, then it's with purpose. Be there and be positive, or find somewhere else in town to get rooted.
5. Stop making excuses.
It's understandable that when you have two kids under two you may not have time to volunteer. If you're pulling yourself out from underneath a huge amount of debt, then no, it's not the time to give to the local outreach or to bless the building project in Kenya. But, when your kids reach high school years, or it's well known that your company has taken off, those excuses just don't fly. Whether you've been dodging getting connected, giving, serving, or just choosing to plant roots and make it a permanent home, some people can come up with endless excuses. It gets old quickly; stop it.
6. Commit to your own spiritual growth.
It isn’t up to your pastor, elders, and worship leaders to make sure you’re growing. Personal faith is about digging into the word on your own, growing your prayer life, and committing to discipleship. With a vast amount of studies, books, and podcasts in today's Christian market, there is no excuse for you to become stagnant in your faith. The role of the senior pastor is to shepherd the whole flock, not be your personal accountability--that's what community is for. Outreach, serving others, fasting, giving--there are so many ways for you to take your faith to the next level; get to it.
7. Get involved.
There are seasons to rest, to grieve, to refuel. However, God also calls us to be bold and courageous, yet some people appear timid and aloof. Often worship services look more like a spectator event than one of joyous celebration; similarly the complaints of "lack of community" could be mended if you took a step of faith. Worship, kids, military, the homeless--there are countless ways to get involved. Find something that pulls on your heart, and become part of the solution.
8. Get out of your comfort zone.
Sometimes being comfortable turns into disobedience or laziness. The comfort zone is whatever won't cause too much sacrifice or pain, yet that’s not often God's way. He enjoys watching people give generously, just so He can show up and do something miraculous. So, the next time volunteers are needed, financial requests are made, or a mission trip is announced, don't duck your head and run for the door; ask God if it's something He wants you to do. If it is, He'll take care of the details.
9. Get to know your neighbor.
The church is not meant to be a social club, but often that's what happens. When Jesus told us to "love your neighbor," it was as much a figurative statement as it was literal. Get to know your neighbor; learn their names and those of their children. Yes, invite them to Easter service, but even more, invite them into your home. Find ways to socialize outside of church: get a gym membership, play on the local softball team, hang out with your co-workers and know what the needs are in your community.
10. Put your money where your mouth is.
Your church can’t turn on the heat and pay the pastor with words of affirmation; it requires money. Don't get hung up on the percentages and a specific day to give--Jesus said those who sow sparingly will reap sparingly. If you’re a Jesus-follower, and if you’ve committed to being part of a local church, then start giving the way Jesus commands: cheerfully and generously.
A Prayer to Build Up the Church:
Father, help me to be a generous giver--with my time and resources. Show me how to build the community I long for and how to be part of the solution instead of complaining and comparing. Forgive me where I have been lazy or apathetic instead of bold and engaged; I want to grow in my faith this year. Help me to do that, and to be a blessing in my church community. Amen.
Malinda is a freelance writer, passionate about thriving families and igniting others toward authentic faith. Canadian-born, she now lives in Northern California with her husband and two daughters. Malinda shares on her website, and more frequently on Instagram.
Photo courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com
Publication date: March 16, 2017
Originally published Thursday, 14 September 2017.