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.
- I’m not a Christian – I’m checking Christianity out.
- I’m a member of another church – I come here for more teaching/to meet other Christians.
- I’m too busy with work.
- I’m too busy with family commitments (we have kids).
- I’m too busy with family problems (e.g. my sister’s sick).
- I’m too busy with other things (e.g. preparing to get married).
- I’m married to an unbeliever who doesn’t like it when I go out.
- My husband/wife and I don’t get to spend much time together so the week nights/weekends are precious to us.
- I don’t know what opportunities are available.
- 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?).
- I don’t know what gifts God has given me.
- 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)
- No one asked me.
- I’ve come here from another church because I’m burnt out. I just need to be fed for a bit.
- I’m serving in other ways outside of church.
- I don’t want to commit to anything in advance (I’d like to keep my options open).
- I live too far away and it’s a struggle to get to church outside of service times.
- The staff team is paid to serve so I don't have to.
- I don’t know anyone who’s serving in the area I would like to.
- I serve the people I know by encouraging them in their faith.
- I’m generous in other ways (e.g. with my money).
- Serving is what the young people do – they’ve got the time and energy.
- We’ve just got married and we’re concentrating on our marriage for the first year.
- Everything seems under control – I’m not needed.
- I offered to serve, and no one followed me up.
- I offered to serve, but I wasn’t needed (e.g. I was told the ministry was full).
- I served for a while, but I felt unappreciated and no one thanked me.
- I don’t get anything out of it.
- 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!”