I believe it is important to serve outside your comfort zone. Part of my practical Christian training is to push comfort boundaries.
I will never forget the first time that I led a song. I was a freshman in college, and as a part of a small church of only about 12 people, we were having one of our midweek services in a group member’s living room. The person who normally led our songs wasn’t there for some reason, like illness or something. I clearly remember being asked to lead some songs, and I was kind of confident in my natural response to being asked.
That’s probably the best way I can describe it. I was semi-confident because I knew the songs I was going to lead forwards and backward.
But I was also pretty anxious because I had never actually led songs before. This anxiety was with me the whole time. It seemed to go fine, but I didn’t shake the anxious feelings until it was all done. Afterward, everybody was extremely encouraging and telling me, “thank you for leading the songs.” I was glad I did it.
I was glad that I stepped up to the plate, met a need and, and was able to lead songs in a way that served the group.
What I didn’t know it at the time, was that leading songs would come to be a recurring thing. I led songs for several years in that church, and then led a worship ministry for several years at another church I was later a part of where my wife and I led the worship ministry together.
I don’t think any of that growth would have happened if I didn’t stretch outside my comfort zone.
I’m a big believer in using your gifts. Like, a really big believer that people should use their gifts.
When you’re able to use your gifts and serve God, it gives you confidence to be a more effective Christian in the world, and to bear fruit for God.
While that’s important, if you only do what you’re good at doing, and never do anything else, you’ll actually stunt your Christian growth. Why hold yourself back? Imagine going to the gym and working out only one body part. Whenever you go to the gym, you only work out your biceps. That’s pretty silly, right?
Plus, eventually, you’ll look really weird and off-kilter. You need balance. Similarly, it’s not wise to only serve in just one service area. You have other gifts, and you can develop other gifts that God will use.
I want to encourage you to stretch outside your comfort zone, and to force yourself to put yourself in a position where you have to grow, every year.
Choose one new way to serve. Deal? Don’t overwhelm yourself, and don’t throw everything out the window that you’ve learned about yourself or enjoy doing in your service choices.
But every year, choose one new way to serve. Maybe keep track of how it’s going by journaling or talking with someone about it on some regular basis. Reflect on it after a year, and you might just be very pleasantly surprised!
I want to run through some examples — some ideas for you, to help you think about something you haven’t done before that you might be interested in learning how to do that you believe will stretch you and help you grow as a Christian.
The first idea is, I think, a simple one but you may have some anxiety about it if it’s outside of your comfort zone: Greet people when they walk into church on Sundays. You probably have a greeting team or a group of people that stand by the front doors and say, “Good Morning!” or “Hello” or “Welcome!” to people to help make them feel welcome. So, you might consider signing up for your greeting team for a period of time.
A second idea is to consider serving in the children’s ministry. I don’t know of a single children’s ministry coordinator that has an overabundance of volunteers! They typically need people willing to serve in children’s ministry. People who serve in children’s ministry usually say they received blessings upon blessings from being a part of it It’s definitely very rewarding. But you do have to deny yourself from attending the normal church service on Sundays so, you can consider signing up for a children’s ministry rotation of some sort perhaps.
Another idea, outside of the church building, is that you can think about hosting events in your home. Maybe you will want to be a host for the team ministry, and offer some nice hospitality and entertainment like a meal and a movie or game and hang out. Or, your home can just be the resource for them, a place where they can come and spend time together as a ministry.
You can also think about signing up to be an Usher where you’re helping by passing communion and offering trays and helping people find their seats.
Which of these can you imagine doing for this next year?
If you really have a big heart and gift for manual labor, sign up for janitor or set up and break down duty by stacking chairs after service or cleaning the church, building, cleaning the bathroom so that when people come on a Sunday they have a pleasant experience throughout and you’re able to make a thoroughly good impression on your visitors.
Or even further, maybe this is the year when you decide to start volunteering in your community, whether that’s a local soup kitchen, a homeless center, a hospital, a nursing home? Maybe you’re going to do some cleanups at the beach or in the park. Explore your community and decide that you’re going to do something that requires some sacrifice and some planning, and that is going to stretch you to be more like Jesus.
Maybe this is the year when you finally learn to lead a small group. Perhaps you’ve been thinking about it — you’ve been contemplating, “Is this something I want to do? I have an idea, but I’m not sure if I’m good enough, ready, qualified…”
None of us wants to fall, crash and burn. It might take some planning and counsel and prayer for some discernment about what’s best for you at this point in your life. Talk with people who know you for some input as well.
All these are just ideas. At the core of this service outside your comfort zone discussion is the practical takeaway for today: Don’t just do the thing that you’re good at doing. Become a well-rounded disciple.
The truth is, the longer you’ve been a Christian, the easier it is to put your spiritual life in cruise control, and not try new things, not stretch yourself because you may be mistakenly thinking you’ve acquired enough spiritual talent and know your service knack to get by in an above-average way, where somebody looking from the outside in can’t really tell that you’re not giving your whole heart to your ministry.
Not that it is at all about what others think, but don’t you want to grow into the best Christian you can be and discover more about yourself and how you can serve with your gifts?
When you constantly expose yourself to new ways of serving, you’ll grow more than you ever thought was possible.