How to Serve Without Becoming Overwhelmed

Why am I the only one doing this?

Why are those kids playing games while I’m working?

Doesn’t anyone realize that I could use a little help?

These are some of the thoughts that commonly cross my mind as I serve in church. As you can probably tell, I don’t really like serving. It always seems like I’m the only one helping, even though I never am.

So why does serving frustrate me even though I’m not the only one doing it?

Maybe because all I notice is the people who aren’t serving. I don’t focus on the countless people who are washing dishes, throwing out dirty plates, and filling up lemonade pitchers at the church luncheon; I focus on the people who are sitting around, chatting, and playing games while I wipe tables and sweat.

To be honest, I think I’m a little too much like Martha.

“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.  But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.’”

Luke 10:38-42

Martha was a little too caught up in herself and had forgotten who her guest was—or maybe she remembered who He was all too well. Everything had to be prepared perfectly because Jesus was in her home.

Unfortunately, my “service” is often focused on myself and my complaints. Like Martha, I think, “God, don’t you care that my friend/acquaintance/fellow church-goer has left me to serve alone? Tell him (or her) to help me.”

Mary, however, knew the significance of simply being with her guest. She knew His visit—not the food or decor—was of foremost importance. Mary chose to listen to Him, but Martha was too busy trying to make everything perfect.

How can we be more like Mary and less like Martha? By remembering that there’s a balance between serving enough and serving too much.

After all, the church always has needs. But you can’t do everything because you are not the body; you are a part of the body.

“For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body”

1 Corinthians 12:14, 17-20

The church isn’t supposed to be a one-man show with Super Man (or Woman), stepping in to meet all of the church’s needs. If he tried, Super Man would get tired and cranky very quickly.

You do have a special, God-designed part in your church; but you can’t be everything to everyone. The Christian life is hard, and we weren’t meant to handle it alone. We all need to help so that no one gets burnt-out.

If a service opportunity arises, think about it, pray about it, and consider the other areas where you serve at church. You shouldn’t necessarily do something because no one else is volunteering. If you think God is leading you to that opportunity, take it!

But it’s not worth getting exhausted and never wanting to step inside church again.

You are in your church for a reason, and you can have a big impact or a small impact—but you shouldn’t be the only impact.

We can’t get burnt-out because there’s more work to do. This may sound depressing, but it’s actually exciting. There are more people to save, and we have the opportunity to serve them in love and show them what it means to be a Christian.

Don’t grow weary, friend. You’ll reap your reward in due time (Galatians 6:9). God is pleased when you clean up trash after a potluck, watch kindergartners at VBS, play guitar for the worship service, set up tables for a funeral reception, and simply serve to further His kingdom.

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