In many churches it feels like 25% of the church members are doing 75% of the work—and you will feel this most acutely if you identify as one of the 25%! This kind of perceived imbalance results from a wide variety of factors, and one of them is the simple reality that certain people find Christian service easier or more pressing than others. Some people just fit easily into common structures, perhaps because a ministry connects with their personal passions like cooking or talking to people or playing music or maybe because they see a gap and feel a responsibility to fill it.
But in Ephesians 4, Paul shows that the victorious Jesus “gave gifts to men” in order to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (vv. 8, 12). All his people have a part to play in growing others in him, through and into his love. He shares the work and the skills to do it with the whole church. (The whole church—this is not a self-improvement exercise.) So whether you are on all the rosters or none of them, this is the perfect time of the year to pause and consider what your ministry plans for 2023 are. It’s easier to think clearly and objectively now before the sign-up sheet goes around in January, and making a decision early about next year allows you to give plenty of notice to a ministry’s organisers.
If you have said yes to so many things that you never have a Sunday where you’re free to sit during the service with someone you invited or to stand and chat with others afterwards, now is a good time to identify what you could set aside. Which of these ministries make a good use of your personal abilities? Has one grown you (or others) more? Is there an opportunity somewhere to train another to take your place? Would stepping aside give someone else a chance to serve?
If you aren’t part of any organised ministries at church, take a look at why that is. Perhaps you are using that freedom to take advantage of many unplanned discipleship moments and it’s best for you to keep doing so. Are you investing significant time and energy in prayer for the church and God’s mission? This is a rarely spotlighted ministry that undergirds all the rest. Are you evaluating yourself fairly? Turning up to the playgroup on five hours of sleep with three under four in tow and having conversations with non-Christian parents in the six-minute gap you have until someone cries is a commendable effort.
But if it’s because you don’t feel suited to the roster staples of welcoming/morning tea/music, shrugging and not considering any further is a bit of a cop-out. Maybe you’re just not a people-person; well, church buildings take a lot of maintenance. Perhaps you feel uncomfortable with lots of small talk; driving someone who couldn’t otherwise make it to church builds a steady relationship with lots of opportunities to have deeper conversations in the quiet of the car. Maybe it’s hard for you to stand and move around; maintaining the safe ministry database is a critical aspect of children’s ministry that often doesn’t match the interests of those drawn to that ministry.
The body of Christ is blessed to contain many different kinds of people as its members—as many kinds as there are people, really. This means that there is an almost endless amount of discipleship opportunities that can take place in or connected to our churches.
Honestly, ‘endless’ is an intimidating category to tackle. Much like how a blank page is harder to fill than a page with “My favourite thing to do on the weekend is …” written at the top, it feels easier to go onto an existing roster or dismiss them all than to sit down and think about what particular thing we could be doing to grow others. It’s worth giving yourself the time and space over the next couple of months to give it a go. Perhaps you could begin by making some lists of things you enjoy doing, skills you have, situations you thrived in, actions others took that impacted you positively. Get something on the page and then go from there. And, returning to Ephesians 4, part of ‘going from there’ will be thinking through how you can incorporate the beating heart of church ministry as highlighted in verse 15: speaking the truth in love to others into whatever service you commit to.
God is very comfortable with different people making up his church. We aren’t all supposed to be good at the same things or filling the same rosters. But we are all meant to be in ministry together, growing each other and growing ourselves through serving each other. If you look around and think you’re doing more than your share of the work, check first whether you just haven’t noticed gifts that don’t look like yours. If you look around and think your gifts aren’t ‘church’ gifts, please read Ephesians 4 and see how Jesus has called you into being an active part of his eternal body. Serving others is one key way that God plans to increase our love for each other and for the Servant King.