Letting Your Lil Light Shine | day 4: get involved at church

Growing up, my parents made it look easy to be involved in church. They volunteered to design and print the church bulletin each week, served as deacon/ess, and helped lead out in our church's Pathfinders group when we were kids. My dad ran the church sound booth, served as the treasurer, and even gave the sermon a couple times. My mom was involved with women's ministries, taught youth Sabbath School, and told children's stories.

Their involvement led me to become involved. We attended church socials regularly, and helped out with evangelistic series and Vacation Bible School. We gave the scripture or morning prayer, and I even gave my first sermon when I was 13.

I thought this sort of involvement was normal. That all of this was part of being a member of a church. That involvement didn't have to be sought out, it just happened.

In reality, getting involved in a church can be difficult for some people. Especially if you're an introvert. Especially if you attend a large church. Especially if you don't see the value of getting involved.

(Note: I realize some have the opposite issue--one of being too involved. That is not meant for this post.)

What is the value of getting involved at church?
1. Refuels our lights--The support and encouragement that comes from a community of believers
2. Gives us opportunities to shine--Learning opportunities for serving others and giving of our available resources to promote the Kingdom
3. Helps us refocus on the Light--The Light of the World who is the basis for why we go to church and the basis of why we seek ways to shine for Him

There are a lot of excuses, er, reasons for not getting involved at church...
The church is too large. | The church is too small. | No one has asked. | They ask for help with the wrong thing. | Don't know who to talk to. | Don't feel called. | Someone else is obviously better/more qualified. | Don't know strengths. | Don't know where strengths could be used. | Too busy.

Do any of those sound familiar?

Getting involved doesn't have to be complicated, and looks different for different people at different times in their lives. Here are 10 ideas for getting involved at church...

1. Attend church.
Almost sounds too easy, right? Involvement in church simply won't happen if you're not already attending church. If you go to a large church, try getting into a routine of sitting in a particular area and get acquainted with the people you see on a regular basis. If you go to a small church, try sitting in different places to get acquainted with a variety of people that attend on a regular basis. Show up on time (or early), and stick around to mingle a bit when church is over. If there is a potluck, plan on contributing and socializing.

2. Attend Sabbath or Sunday School.
This is where you are actually more likely to become more actively involved. Contribute to the discussion. Get to know the people in the class. Volunteer to help with various aspects of the group. (Bake muffins? Lead out in the discussion? Set-up ahead of time? Assist in the kids' class?) Invite some of these people over. Tune in to service opportunities that come up in discussions or prayer requests. Meet other families with young kids.

3. Attend midweek groups.
Like Sabbath or Sunday Schools, this is another opportunity for getting to know people on a more personal level. If you're a stay-at-home mom, attend the church's mom's group. If they don't have one, find out how to start one by simply setting a time for moms to meet with their young kids in the church's nursery for adult conversation while the kids play. Go to the midweek prayer meeting, or other Bible study or support group that interests you. Or start your own (more to come on that next week).

4. Attend social events or special programs.
A holiday party, church-wide picnic or retreat, or seminars. These are opportunities to socialize and become comfortable yourself so you're in a better position to invite others to these events. There may also be special opportunities to volunteer or complete a training to shine brighter in your community!

5. Show up early or leave late and offer to help.
Many events require set-up and take down. Lending a helping hand is one way to shine your lil light, and a good way to get to know other people who are involved in the church.

6. Learn your strengths.
Some strengths are obvious--like someone that has a good voice or can play the guitar, or someone that loves children. If you're not sure what your strengths are, then spend some time discovering that. Journal about things that you enjoy or positive memories of being involved. Find out if the church offers a strengths test. Discover your God-given talents and abilities.

7. Dream up ways you want to be involved.
If you could be involved in any aspect of the church, what would you do? Don't think you have to be left with the grunt work in order to contribute to your church. Would you like to take on more of a leadership role or help out in the background? Do you like planning, or to be in front working the crowd? Knowing some of your interests and natural abilities, what would you do to have an active role in your church?

8. Contact the pastor or other church leader.
Let someone know that you are interested in being involved. If you already know your strengths or what area you would like to be involved, tell the pastor or the current leader of that department. Otherwise, volunteer to give the scripture or opening prayer, help lead out in a song service, or assist in children's or adults classes. Sometimes it can help to try doing a few different things, to find the one or two you are good at and enjoy.

9. Say "yes" when appropriate.
When you are asked if you'd like to be involved, say yes! Even if it's a role that seems a little out of your comfort zone, give it a try.

10. Say "no" when appropriate.
I already noted some might have a harder time saying no, but that's important to do at times too. If the involvement being requested of you simply does not fit (i.e., it doesn't interest you at all or it's too big of an obligation for the time being), then it is okay, even essential that you say "no." But don't leave it at that. Clarify that particular request doesn't interest you but you would like to help with another aspect, or clarify that you don't have the time for such a large commitment but would be willing to help with a smaller role. Or, if you've already over-committed, simply leave it at "no thank you" or suggest someone else that may be a good fit.

I asked my cousin-in-law Daniela from Sacred Glimpses about getting involved at church, not because she is an involved pastor's wife (she is), but because I've admired her involvement in ministry and service opportunities even before becoming a pastor's wife. I asked her to share how she lets her light shine by getting involved at church.

This is Daniela's response...

daniela + family
>> As some of you may know, my husband is a pastor. Church life is intricately weaved into our family life. My 3-year-old often holds “meetings” at home which often end with prayer. Because our lives are so connected to the church, I don’t often think of my service to the church as “letting my light shine.” But I am learning that giving to others, be it with time, energy, resources is what bringing light is all about.

When it comes to the church, I have learned over the years to guard my service. What I mean by this is that I have committed to only serving in the areas that I am the most passionate about and love. Although this may seem selfish at first, I have found that serving out of a place of joy is much better than serving out of a place of duty or guilt. I believe that when I serve with joy, my light shines the brightest.

Some of the things I love to do for our church is giving creative insight, facilitating small groups or ministry teams, directing/performing drama, contributing to our church website, and preaching on occasion. When I am faithful to do these things, God takes my service and adds His blessing. <<