When I interview people who want to be members of our local gathering, a frequent question I get as a pastor is, “How can I be involved at Eagle Heights?” It’s a good question but a better question may be, “How can I be involved with Eagle Heights?” The choice of preposition is important because serving as a part of a local church does not necessarily mean serving at a location. I want people to gather for worship and serve others when we gather as a local body, but I want to avoid communicating the idea that all church ministry happens at the place the church meets. Ministry happens or should be happening wherever we are. I want for myself, and the people I pastor, to see all of life as a chance to serve and minister to brothers and sisters and those who are not yet believing in Christ.
I also want to try to communicate that serving with a local church, or as a part of a local church, does not mean that a person has to have a job or position. The Bible is clear that we should have people who serve in positions of leadership and there are practical reasons for having structure and service opportunities. But I fear that our organization of everything that is perceived to be ministry has produced the unintended result of making people feel like they need a position to do ministry and impact others. I have tried to think of ways people could serve with their church without having to do so with an official position or through a program or event.
So when I get the question, “How can I serve as a part of the church and with the church?” I want to consistently try to suggest ways to serve that are not necessarily at the building and ways that don’t require an official position. Here are some ideas I am giving to people in our church:
1) Attend a Bible study regularly. Your consistent presence and interaction is an encouragement to your Bible study facilitator and your fellow Christians. Your consistent presence is a ministry.
2) Be relationally biblical and Christ-centered. For example, invite someone from church to a meal and ask what God is teaching them through Jesus. Think of ministry in terms of relationships, not just positions.
3) Be an unofficial greeter. Every person who is a member should be a friendly face and greeter. Church should be the friendliest place on earth.
4) Connect people with other people. As you meet people, ask them if they are in a Bible study and if they are not then connect them with someone who is in a Bible study that fits their stage of life.
5) Invite people to have a meal at your home. Maybe invite someone who isn’t in your inner circle.
6) Invite people to a worship gathering at church. A personal invitation to someone you have a relationship with is the best way to get people to come to church.
7) Write a note of encouragement to someone. Maybe you know of someone who is going through a difficult season. Maybe you know someone who is serving faithfully. Write a note.
8 ) Pray. Everyone can pray for the local church.
9) Be specific and intentional with words. Often we greet others with generalizations for the sake of brevity or as a mindless habit. Think of specific encouraging words you can say to people. It is great to ask someone, “How are you?” It is even more helpful to ask, “How is everything going with your family, work, etc?”
10) Take the initiative to think and then act. Sometimes I think the church enables people to do nothing by providing everything. Some people feel as though they can’t do anything to serve without a program or event. Look around (In the church, in your work place, in your neighborhood) and ask the question, “What can I be and do for others with the abilities and passion God has given me?” If it is from God the idea and call will last and when it does; act.
11) As you go, live and tell the gospel of Jesus. Every believer, every disciple is to be an evangelist as they are going and where ever it is they go. Live like Jesus where you are and when people ask why you do what you do, tell them. Live like Jesus and tell others about Jesus.
12) Serve a little with a few. Surely there are needs in your church and in your neighborhood. Can you help someone mow their lawn? Can you pick up trash in your neighborhood? What can you do with one or two other people to serve others? The other day my two sons (4 and 6 years-old) helped mow our neighbors lawn without being asked. Our neighbor was encouraged and my sons learned about taking initiative to serve others. It doesn’t take a lot of planning and you don’t need a lot of people, just serve others with others.
These are simple and even obvious ideas that I am trying to plant in the lives of the people I pastor. Positions of service and specific tasks are important, and positions of leadership are needed and important, but I want to equip people to live and serve as Christians all of the time and in every place, even if they are away from the church building and don’t have an official position. Every person who is in Christ and is a member of a local church ought to see themselves as serving as a part of the local church. I’m leading the people I pastor to that end for the greater end of bringing glory to God through Jesus. I would welcome your ideas.