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29 reasons why people don’t serve

Church isn't a spectator sport. Church is a family. And yet, many Christians have little more involvement in family life than rocking up to the family dinner late, and leaving as soon as they've finished their meal.

This is an issue common to many churches. Two books have been helpful in thinking this issue through:

Here's 29 reasons I've heard or heard of, that people give for not serving (I couldn't think of a 30th, but you're welcome to contribute!).

Sometimes there are genuine reasons why people don't serve (number 1 is at the top of this list), and various circumstances of life. Other times, the reasons are less convincing. In other cases, there is more that can be done by ministry leaders to encourage people to use their gifts to serve.

It's a heart change, not a guilt trip that will lead people to serve. But as ministry leaders, I think it's helpful for us to understand the reasons and excuses people provide, as we pray for their hearts to change, and pray for wisdom as we seek to encourage them to use their gifts for the benefit of God's family, to the glory of God.

  1. I’m not a Christian – I’m checking Christianity out.
  2. I’m a member of another church – I come here for more teaching/to meet other Christians.
  3. I’m too busy with work.
  4. I’m too busy with family commitments (we have kids).
  5. I’m too busy with family problems (e.g. my sister’s sick).
  6. I’m too busy with other things (e.g. preparing to get married).
  7. I’m married to an unbeliever who doesn’t like it when I go out.
  8. My husband/wife and I don’t get to spend much time together so the week nights/weekends are precious to us.
  9. I don’t know what opportunities are available.
  10. I don’t have enough information about the available opportunities (e.g. what would be required  of me to serve on a fair trade market?).
  11. I don’t know what gifts God has given me.
  12. I don’t have the skills required to serve in the available areas (e.g. I don’t know how to use the computer to operate PowerPoint)
  13. No one asked me.
  14. I’ve come here from another church because I’m burnt out. I just need to be fed for a bit.
  15. I’m serving in other ways outside of church.
  16. I don’t want to commit to anything in advance (I’d like to keep my options open).
  17. I live too far away and it’s a struggle to get to church outside of service times.
  18. The staff team is paid to serve so I don't have to.
  19. I don’t know anyone who’s serving in the area I would like to.
  20. I serve the people I know by encouraging them in their faith.
  21. I’m generous in other ways (e.g. with my money).
  22. Serving is what the young people do – they’ve got the time and energy.
  23. We’ve just got married and we’re concentrating on our marriage for the first year.
  24. Everything seems under control – I’m not needed.
  25. I offered to serve, and no one followed me up.
  26. I offered to serve, but I wasn’t needed (e.g. I was told the ministry was full).
  27. I served for a while, but I felt unappreciated and no one thanked me.
  28. I don’t get anything out of it.
  29. I just don’t want to.

What would you add to this list?

Too busy to serve? I like this quote by Andy Stanley:

“Too busy to serve at your local church? FYI: Every Sunday you attend your local church you are served by very busy people. Get involved!”

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  1. Calum Henderson

    May 6, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    Definitely agree with your first point, I’m sad when people show up late and leave early consistently.

  2. David McKay

    May 6, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    Some people have great difficulty being among others, but can, with difficulty, cope with being in a church service, but can’t cope with socializing which drains and overwhelms them. That’s why more than a few arrive at the last minute and leave early.

  3. Rachael Scoggin

    January 23, 2013 at 6:44 am

    people are afraid to serve with children…they feel like they don’t know the Bible well enough to teach it to kids….afraid they aren’t qualified to do the activities….afraid to commit to coming every week because of all the other reasons you’ve listed above… FEAR…it’s a huge factor that keeps people from serving. :/

  4. Pingback: Endurance Church of the ValleyEndurance Church Blog | To Serve or Not to Serve?

  5. echarleen

    September 28, 2014 at 11:10 am

    “We’ve put in our time. It’s time for the next generation to step up.”
    “I just want to worship today.”

  6. echarleen

    September 28, 2014 at 11:10 am

    “We’ve put in our time. It’s time for the next generation to step up.”
    “I just want to worship today.”

  7. echarleen

    September 28, 2014 at 11:10 am

    “We’ve put in our time. It’s time for the next generation to step up.”
    “I just want to worship today.”

  8. Carla

    October 16, 2017 at 12:34 am

    Churches sometimes have a tendency to harass people into serving. Asking is one thing, but the moment someone declines, don’t continue the discussion on that topic. Additionally, if someone is dedicated to one ministry, don’t bother them/guilt them about serving in another unless they come to you. I know you need people, but seriously, that is using people. You are thinking about how I can benefit the church and have completely ignored my needs/concerns as an individual. Listen to what the person says to you. If they are working all of the time to support their families, respect that. Pray for God to lessen their load and move on. Also, just because that person doesn’t want to teach Sunday school does not mean he/she is not a worker for Christ. People serve the Lord in many ways, not just within the confines of church administration.

  9. F

    January 9, 2018 at 7:57 am

    My personal experience is that being new to the church, the established members do not want to include “outsiders”. Offers to assist are dismissed or your opinion is dismissed because you are not a long time or more “advanced” believer in their eyes.

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