Make My Day!

But really. Will you?

It usually starts like this:

Church member to me: I want to help Hands & Feet but I don’t know how.
OR: I want to help Hands & Feet. What do you need?
Me: What are you interested in?
Church member: I don’t know. I just want to serve.

Serving people in need is rewarding and hugely satisfying, but what I love more is when people come to me wanting to serve. For me, it’s truly the most rewarding part of this ministry. I LOVE that people want to serve, and that they often just want to do whatever is needed. It really makes my day when someone grabs me enthusiastically to tell me they want to serve!

And yet, this conversation frustrates me a bit too: because when people serve just for the sake of serving, to fill a random need, or worse, to help me personally because we’re friends, it is almost guaranteed to be short-lived and, more importantly, without passion.

The Little Library project offers long- and short- term ways for folks to serve.

When I get approached this way, it’s usually in the middle of church between services with a hundred people around, so I mostly just run down the list of current opportunities and tell them to think about it and let me know. Or I take their email address and send them the latest Hands & Feet newsletter. Sometimes it pans out and the person chooses something that fits them, but more often than not, they either don’t get back to me, or they choose something that doesn’t end up being the “right fit.” And, it’s hardly ever more than a one-time deal even when they do find something they like.

Another way I connect people with service opportunities, though not as often as I’d like, is to ask questions and gently interview them to figure out what they are passionate about and what skills they have. But honestly, even that doesn’t often lead to anything long-lasting. Maybe that’s just me inserting myself too much and not really knowing what the Holy Spirit would have that person do. Who knows. Plus, I’m not a coach or a counselor or a spiritual director, so without realizing it or intending to, maybe I let the actual needs of the community weigh more than the person’s need to serve.

I have wondered if we should offer a spiritual gifts assessment to help people figure out what their gifts are so they might have a better chance of finding ways to serve that are more fulfilling to them and allow them to really shine. At their best, spiritual gifts assessments can help determine what a person’s strengths are and can put some language around what they might not be able to verbalize about themselves. At their worst, in my opinion at least, assessments simply reflect the person’s current and conscious areas of interest/talents and then can possibly box that person into a certain area, making them think that’s all they’re meant to do. Which I think is the wrong attitude.

My own results from one of these tests… can’t remember which one!

For those who really want to there are tons of spiritual gifts assessment tools available online if anyone ever wants to do that:

And then there’s always the Myers Briggs Personality Test which is very comprehensive (read: time-consuming) and helps put some language around personality traits:

While I encourage people to try these tools out and see if any of them seem to help put a finger on what it is they’d be good at, or what would be a good fit for them, in the end, my personal belief is that you have to jump into things and just roll your sleeves up. Try things out. Don’t be afraid to try something new or something that feels strange. At least that’s what works for me.

When I started at St. Andrew’s, I didn’t know where I should serve so I kind of tried everything out. The first thing I tried was ushering. (Definitely not for me — too much counting and timing.) I tried lay reading. Tried the Kitchen Guild and Angel Food Ministry. Tried serving the chalice. Tried choir. Over time I figured out what I’m good at and what feeds my soul. And in the process I learned a whole lot about myself and the church. Oh. I also had loads of fun and made some great friends along the way, so bonus points to me!

Serving food on the BlessMobile route is a great way to test out a variety of different skills from cooking to serving to interacting with people you might not otherwise meet.

When we try new things, the trick is to do it with an open mind and with the faith that God is working on you. Don’t go in thinking it’s not going to be the right one for you. Don’t avoid something because you think you won’t be good at it or you won’t like it. It kills me is when someone comes to me and says, “Don’t count on me to do XYZ. I am no good at that.” Or, “I only want to do XYZ. It’s what I’m good at.” Please. If I only did things I think I’m good at or that I think I like, I’d be at home rolling meatballs (I’m Italian, remember?).

One really important lesson I have learned over the years is that if you dive into service (or anything, really) faithfully, with the intention of serving God first, you’ll do fine even if it ends up not being your cup of tea. You will likely learn something about yourself that you never expected, and at the very least, you’ll learn what you don’t like and/or are not good at. I’d say that’s a win-win situation — you win because you learned about yourself and God wins because you served Him. And of course our mission field wins because you did something loving for someone.

So here’s my long-winded point: get out there and do something. Anything. Roll up your sleeves and build or paint a Little Library. Put on some plastic gloves and make sandwiches at The Samaritan Inn. Make a crockpot of meatballs (two references to meatballs in one post — my grandmother would be so proud!) for the BlessMobile and come serve the hungry with us! Buy a pack of diapers and come to the baby shower this weekend for Baby Noah who was born 3 months premature and whose parents are in serious need of support!

I have a friend who leads a local nonprofit and she always tells volunteers, “The best way you can serve us is on your knees in prayer.” That’s pretty true about any person or organization, I’d say. The best way you can serve anyone is through prayer. Praying for the Hands & Feet Ministry is an excellent way for you to get involved! You can pray alone of course, or you can join the group of nearly 50 people praying through the month for a list of needs that our community partners and schools have. And while you’re praying, ask God how He wants you to serve our mission field. Ask Him to direct you. I probably shouldn’t speak for Him, but I know He’d be pleased to lead the way.

So I’ll end with a request. Here’s my request to you about serving: 1) pray about it; 2) watch for our monthly email and click on the sign ups to come join us; 3) grab me in the hall and just say, “I want to serve.” You’ll make my day!