Academic institutions often suggest that students volunteer their extra time, but for what purpose? You could volunteer to stand in a museum that you clearly have no interest in. Or… maybe you could dedicate your time to a purposeful ministry.
There is a distinct difference between ministry and volunteerism. You can volunteer—freely give your time—for any number of reasons. Maybe for the sake of your resume or because it makes you feel good. Ministry is volunteerism with a greater purpose: to glorify God through serving one another. The Biblical definition (which sums the word up perfectly) is “to attend to anything, that may serve another’s interests.”
When done with the right heart, ministry fulfills both of what Jesus calls the greatest commandments: loving the Lord your God and loving your neighbor. (Matt 22:37-39)
Here are three reasons why you should choose to not just volunteer your time, but do it in ministry.
1. It’s Biblical
According to Strong’s Definitions, the Greek noun diakonos is often translated as minister or servant while diakoneō is its verb counterpart meaning minister unto or serve. These words are used over 65 times in the New Testament, often describing service to Jesus or His service to us. (Mark 10:43-45) If we consider ourselves followers of Christ, shouldn’t we be serving as Jesus himself served?
In Galatians 5:13-14, Paul writes to the church, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Needless to say, ministry is a crucial aspect of the Christian faith. We are called to set aside our own desires for the service of one another! It is in this self sacrifice that we reflect Jesus’ character and glorify God.
2. It fosters interdependence
“No man is an island.” This quote by John Donne is used by Christians to describe the human need for connection. We are designed to need other people.
At first glance, this idea goes against what has become an American ideal: independence. At some point in American history, good work ethic evolved from a positive quality to an attitude of “I can do it all myself.” This is unhealthy and unbiblical! People must learn to freely give and receive service amongst one another, using American liberty as a means to choose interdependence.
Ministry fosters interdependence, and reveals the humanity in those being served as well as those who are serving. We all need to be on both ends, ministering unto as well as receiving ministry. A healthy body has all of its parts working in unity, giving to each other member what it needs to function properly. This is how the Church ought to be, and purposefully involving yourself in service will put you in a place to readily minister and be ministered unto!
3. It helps you grow
Ministry is not without personal benefits! When we obey God’s commands to love one another, He is faithful to better our own lives in the process.
- Valuable skills are developed. Whether it’s learning how to keep an organized filing system or keep the peace in stressful situations, ministry presents numerous opportunities to develop important life skills. If you remain teachable, God will use ministry grow you in ways you don’t expect!
- Spiritual gifts are revealed. It’s common for young people to be unsure of their spiritual gifts. Ministry is a fantastic way to explore what God may have gifted you with. When you get involved in ministry, you may tap into spiritual gifts you didn’t know you had.
- Specific passions are ignited. As you dive into ministry, you may find that your heart beats for a certain cause or group of people. Ministry has helped to refine and deepen my own passions. (Read more about my story here!) Ministering to others is extremely personal, and often stirs up interest and passion for those you’re investing in.
Choosing a Ministry
Now here’s the hard part: choosing where you’d like to be involved. Understanding why you should be involved in ministry doesn’t necessarily help you know which ministry to choose.
I don’t know about you, but I often get stuck thinking of ministry as involvement in a local church. While this is definitely a viable option, church ministries are not the only way you can serve God and others.
Maybe you want to tutor underprivileged kids in your community, change the oil in a single mother’s car, or go overseas to preach the gospel to unreached people groups. Ministry is not a specific action but condition of the heart. You’re free to minister to people in endless ways!
Finding a ministry that you’ll love
While you are not bound to a certain type of ministry, it is important that you commit yourself to regularly serve. As humans, we’re prone to distraction and laziness. Without commitment, it’s likely that we won’t serve as often as we ought.
Here are a few things to consider as you decide which ministry to commit to:
As a student, you already have a lot on your plate. The last thing you want to do is commit yourself to a ministry that you simply don’t have enough time for. However, don’t underestimate the time that can be put aside for service!
Studies have shown that you’ll feel like you have more time to spend when you give some of that time away. If serving God is your priority, your other responsibilities will surely fall into place.
I’ve previously mentioned that ministry can help to ignite your passions. But you may already have an idea of what your passions are
Is there a certain group of people that your heart breaks for? Is there a certain cause that you are drawn to? Many people desire universal access to clean water. Others want to teach people how to manage their finances well. Personally, my heart is with the fatherless. Any of these passions could bring glory to God and minister to others in remarkable ways.
What are you passionate about?
Everyone has different skills, whether spiritual gifts or practical talents. These skills can be a blessing to others if used for ministry!
Stop for a moment and think about what you’re good at. What do people applaud you for? If you evaluate what you can do, finding a ministry that fits you will be much easier.
Just dive in
At the end of the day, God is faithful to work in and through our service, whether or not we find a ministry tailor-made to fit our passions and skills.
If you are still unsure of what where you’d like to get involved, just pick a ministry and dive in! You may discover a passion you never knew before, or you may quickly decide that it’s not the best ministry for you—and that’s okay. It’s better to step out in faith and serve the Lord in the unknown than to be paralyzed by indecision.
Now it’s time for you to decide: how will you spend your free time?