Part Two: Maybe You Weren't Made to Do This
“How did I get to this point?” she asked herself on the drive home from her committee meeting. She was a little shocked by the angry little tirade that had just occurred in her head. This wasn’t like her. She usually loved to help and serve. She had scored high on those traits on spiritual gift and personality tests. She could remember a time when she couldn’t wait to teach her Sunday School class. She loved decorating the church for Christmas and making costumes for the kids’ pageant. She enthusiastically welcomed the Bible study women to her house every week with fresh muffins and coffee. These days, though, she fantasized about walking away from it all. “Maybe I need to find a new church, start fresh. It would be easier to turn over a new leaf if I didn’t have the reputation as the ‘go-to’ girl.” But then the faces of all her friends flashed before her eyes, and she knew transferring churches to run away from her harried life was out of the question.
Have you ever been so discouraged in ministry that you just wanted to quit? Have you ever been hanging by a proverbial thread, just waiting for some other kind-hearted servant to come along and relieve/rescue you? Maybe you’re not that far gone, but you can see down the road and it won’t be much longer before you’re there – joyless, duty-bound, resentful. How does this happen?
There are three sure-fire paths to burnout: Serving outside your gifts, never getting rest, and serving with wrong motives. We will tackle the first in this post.
Serving outside your gifts and passions.
This seems obvious, but it happens All.The.Time. Why would anyone serve in a ministry they aren’t passionate about or gifted in? It’s a four-letter word that sucks some of us in like a black hole: need. Need is everywhere in the world. The PTA needs help with the fundraiser. Your neighbor needs babysitting. The food bank needs volunteers. NPR needs pledges. But the myriad of organizations and people tugging at you in the world have nothing on the church. The church has needs all over the place. “Help quiet crying babies, help make a meal for a new mom, help decorate for the women’s brunch, help sing in the choir, help make coffee for Sunday morning, help make copies in the office, help knit blankets for a women’s shelter, help this, help that…” We might as well be honest with our little catch-phrases and just advertise, “Come to _________ Church: The church that needs your help.”
Now, before you throw all your service verses at me, I want to make it clear that I do believe to sit in the pews every Sunday and not be involved at any level of contribution is wrong. A church is a family, and as a family, we are called to care for each other’s needs. However, as a good friend told me long ago, “A need does not constitute a call.” Just because I hear that there is a need does not mean I have to be the one to meet it. For some of us, this is an excruciating and painful principle to apply. Immediately when we hear of a need, we think, “I know I’m not really excited about x ministry, but if I don’t do it, who will?” Or, “I know I’m already serving somewhere else, but I’m sure I can squeeze in another hour or two a week.” Or, “I’ll do anything to avoid disappointing people, so I’ll say yes even if it’s not a ministry I’m crazy about.”
If you say yes to a ministry that is outside your passions and gifting, you may burn bright for awhile, but rest assured, you will eventually burn out.
If you’ve been at a church for awhile, take a minute to evaluate where you are currently serving. If you had to do it over again, would you choose to serve there? Which of your current ministries brings you the most fulfillment? If you’re new at a church, take your time and find the ministry that most fits your gifts and passions. Don’t react to every need that comes along. Pray. Ask God where He would want you to serve.
Now, I know the push back to this, because I used to be the one shouting, “If we all just did what we wanted to do, no one would be willing to do the necessary tedious tasks!” Isn’t it selfish to serve only where you want to? I do think there are times when we are called outside our gifts and passions to do necessary work. (I’m a mom after all.) But, if most of what we do is not stuff we’d choose to do, that’s a recipe for joyless service.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30