It’s that time of year, friends.
If you work on a church staff, then you know – it’s the time of year to fill volunteer roles. For the past few weeks, you’ve been looking for Sunday school teachers, greeters, ushers, group leaders, and host homes, all with the aim of having a full volunteer roster by Labor Day.
And if you are a church member, then you know – it’s that time of receiving increased emails, looking at your calendar, and weighing opportunities. There are great opportunities to serve the church in many different capacities, all of which are valuable. And we should take advantage of those opportunities to teach children, to help people feel welcome, or to extend hospitality through giving our homes as a meeting place for a small group.
Along with those opportunities, here is one other one to consider. This is a simple way that, though it might not be listed as an open position on the church volunteer roster, is also a way you can actively serve the church:
Reach out to someone you haven’t seen in a while.
Take a look around the next time you’re at church. Take notice of the people you see, but more importantly, take notice of the people you don’t see. Then ask yourself, regarding those people you don’t see there, when the last time was that you did see them. Then pick up the phone and make a call. Reach out. Connect with someone you don’t see there.
Simple, right? Yes indeed, but most of the biblical commands are. Take this one from the book of James:
“My brothers and sisters, if any among you strays from the truth, and someone turns him back, let that person know that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20).
It’s easy, though, to read this passage and come up with reasons why this does not apply to us or the situation I’m describing above. For example, we might say to ourselves that the person we aren’t seeing in the congregation right now is just absent from church, not wandering and straying from the truth. So we shouldn’t make the assumption that just because they’re not at church that they are also leaving the Christian faith. It seems like a pretty big jump.
Maybe. Maybe that’s true. Maybe the person isn’t there because they’ve been battling an illness. Or maybe they’re not there because they have found another congregation in which they want to serve. But maybe not. Maybe they’re not there because they have stopped prioritizing meeting together with the saints. Or maybe they’re not there because they they are struggling with some of the orthodox, biblical teachings in the congregation. Or maybe they’re not they simply don’t think anyone would miss them if they left.
In any of the cases above, though, reaching out to that person is not a bad idea. In fact, it’s a good one. The point is we will only know the truth behind their absence of we ask.
Here’s another reason why we might not reach out – we might say to ourselves, if to no one else, that we’re not on the outreach team. Or we’re not one of the pastors. Or that it’s none of our business. And if we use statements like this to rationalize our inaction, then we are showing our own misunderstanding both of the nature of the church and of discipleship.
See, discipleship in the Christian community isn’t the job of the paid clergy; it’s something we do together. The church is responsible for her own discipleship – we are a community that disciples one another as we help each other follow Jesus. In other words, it’s all of our jobs to make sure we are all moving forward together toward spiritual maturity.
So, friends, in the midst of all the official volunteer opportunities you have, don’t neglect this one. Don’t neglect the simple act of looking around, and then reaching out. Take up the responsibility given to you as a member of the church – the responsibility that doesn’t only include your own spiritual growth, but the care of the brothers and sisters around you.