If you are anything like me, you have friends known as “church hoppers.” They tag along with a group of friends to an 11 a.m. service, get a feel for that church’s culture and try a new church the following week—for three years now. Perhaps, they switch up the church live stream playing on their MacBook and try out “bedside-Baptist” church.
The concept of church hopping is especially prevalent among ORU students, considering the sea of incredible churches to pick from. I believe the intention behind testing out churches is respectable because people desire to find a church they love and connect with. But after a couple years of on-and-off church attendance, it sort of looks like a lazy version of attending church.
Maybe you aren’t that person—you’re the one who arrives early to the 9 a.m. service and stays late to shake the pastor’s hand. You just adore the lobby vibes, worship, pastor and the automatic bathrooms, but you aren’t particularly interested in holding a “You Look Great!” sign in the parking lot (a.k.a, the most advertised form of volunteering). There’s a magical satisfaction in consistently choosing to be poured into from a single community of people. That’s an admirable thing to enjoy, but are you pouring back into that community?
Of course, there are different levels of serving at a church, some requiring multiple hours a week and others requiring only an hour every other month. Alongside commitment levels, there are different departments within churches to serve in (creative departments, youth service, children’s church etc.). That being said, it’s not hard at all to find an enjoyable and manageable church niche.
ORU offers a plethora of ministry opportunities, and I’ve done my fair share of them, including ORU Missions & Outreach and Prayer Movement. These programs are incredible and stretching, but I have witnessed the difference between these and volunteering in a church. Serving in the house of God shifts your focus outward, whereas other opportunities often focus inward.
Although the push to get involved within a church comes from a place of “giving back,” I’ve found that the Lord blesses the sacrifice of time and energy. There comes a reward (heavenly and earthly) from surrendering your time to support the church. In addition, serving in a church will bring you a community within the congregation that otherwise would not have formed.
When I started serving in my church’s youth group, not only did I get to pour into students, but I also met peers and leaders who poured into me. After sacrificing time (literally, so much time) and energy into the youth ministry, I never feel drained because that is where the Lord placed me, meaning he sustains me through all the chaos of dramatic junior high students.
I’ve also had my fair share of jumping headfirst into the ultimate volunteer position in the church: internship. Interns dedicate hours upon hours of behind-the-scenes labor with the reward of private recognition and self-growth. After holding this position, I found an appreciation for the Average-Joe volunteer because they truly support the church in ways he or she doesn’t realize.
After developing close friendships and learning the ins-and-outs, I gained a deeper love and respect for my church, especially for the staff and congregation. Instead of feeling like a crowd, it felt like a family (ironically, this is the youth group’s motto). I’m not only excited to hear the pastor speak, but I’m also excited to engage with the church family and serve in any spot needed, which is sometimes just chatting with a teenager and inviting them to a youth service.
Every position I’ve served in has uncovered a fresh perspective of my church and introduced me to people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. If I was drowning in assignments, serving my church didn’t increase my load, but rather provided me a temporary escape from college life. Wherever the Lord calls you to serve, He knows how to keep you afloat in the midst of juggling everything college throws at you.
Your church, I assume, is different than my church, so the areas of serving might look different. A few areas open for volunteering inside my church are greeters, ushers, service coordinating, connections, book store, cafe, first-time desk, parking-lot team, outreach teams, production teams (backstage, actor, make-up, etc.), hospitality, kid’s church, special-needs kid’s church and, somehow, many others. So don’t cop out by thinking you won’t find your niche.
Don’t allow yourself to believe that volunteering in a church is limited to middle-aged adults or the students with “theology” or “church” in their major’s title—yes, I said that. Serving in a church is just as beneficial for the student majoring in engineering as it is for the student majoring in ministry and leadership.
Whether a freshman or super senior, there’s never a wrong time to try out the wonderful world of serving in a church. It’s easier and more beneficial than some make it out to be—don’t let the poster-child volunteer convince you that it consumes your life and requires an endless supply of skin-tight black jeans.
First, you need to find a church that makes you excited, not just the one your roommate or friend group attends (unless that’s the one that excites you). Second, get to know the church and its programs, factoring in your talents and future plans. Finally, jump on in—you’d be surprised what happens when you dive right into an area of serving instead of dipping your toe in the water.
College life takes a toll on students—I get it—but life never slows down, so deciding to serve inside a church now will immensely influence how you spend your post-graduation life. Don’t allow your college experience to revolve around being a “student” but let it be a time to develop a love for serving in the Lord’s house.
Photo by David Ropotusin