When I went through Confirmation in Jr. High, one of the requirements for graduation was to do a service project. I didn’t really want to serve anywhere let alone commit to serving by signing up. I thought that was crazy, but I wanted to graduate and in order to graduate I needed to serve. It would have been pretty bad if I would have failed confirmation so I signed up to serve at the local food shelf. The reasons I signed up to help at the food shelf was less than noble. I signed up to help at the food shelf because it required the least amount of commitment. It was close to my house which meant I could get in, get it done, and check the box on my confirmation commitment which put me that much closer to completion. In my mind, it was a win-win solution to stupid requirement.
As soon as I entered the building I noticed the racks full of food. There were no dirty, poor people with screaming kids, nobody jumped me, and nobody smelled. It was a clean room that smelled just like the grocery store. A nice woman helping to bag groceries noticed me walk in and came over to greet me. She was smiling and happy to be there so I figured she must have been making a ton of money because anyone working for free would be frowning like me.
Linda introduced herself and gave me a tour of the facility. She said everyone at the food shelf was a volunteer who wanted to help people. That caught me off guard because she seemed so happy. On the tour I noticed vegetables, canned goods, bread, and a thousand varieties of Hamburger Helper. I also noticed other workers helping people fill up their baskets with food. After the tour Linda asked me what I would like to do. I said that I was open to doing whatever, so she said what they really needed was someone to restock the shelves with food. It seemed like an easy task so I agreed to do it. She took me into the back room where the shipments came in showed me where to find the food needed to restock the shelves. For the next two hours I stocked shelves with food. As I stocked the shelves, I watched person after person come in and fill their baskets. These people didn’t look any different than my family. They dressed like ordinary people, talked like ordinary people, and I would have never known they were struggling if I saw them walking down the sidewalk.
After I had been there for an hour or so I noticed a woman looking around so I approached her and asked, “Can I help you?” She said, “I’m looking for Hamburger Helper.” I knew exactly where that was, so I led her to the shelf and tried to read all the varieties we had. She smiled and said thank you then I went back to restocking the noodles. That was the moment I realized that I actually was enjoying what I was doing and I wasn’t even getting paid for it. After my shift was over my mom came in the store to get me. I handed Linda my apron and asked if I could come back again. She said I could so I signed up come back the following week.
As a teenager, my world revolved around my priorities. I had never really thought much about serving others until I was forced to in order to graduate. Turns out, it wasn’t a lame idea at all, it was actually a really good idea because it helped open my eyes to the needs of others. Once I saw the difference that one basket of food made, I wanted to serve more.
We want to be a serving church. We want to make a difference by looking beyond our priorities and serving others in Jesus name. That is what “A Summer 2 Serve” is all about. It’s about providing opportunities to make a significant contribution in the lives of others. The biggest barrier to serving is selfishness. As a teenager, I was so preoccupied with my own agenda and priorities that I didn’t have the time or energy to serve others. By requiring me to serve in order to graduate, it helped me see the value of serving. My attitude was bad to begin with, but it changed as I saw practical needs being met. Now, I understand Jesus when he said “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Prior to serving at the food shelf, I would have disagreed.
You are most like Jesus when you’re serving others because serving is a kingdom principle. After washing his disciples’ feet, Jesus said, “I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you” (John 13:14–15).
Over the next couple weeks, I want to encourage you to sign up for something whether you are a serving veteran or a rookie. If you have kids, sign up for something you can do together like the Waconia Band Festival, the Carver County Fair, or the Teen Challenge event. You can also sign up to be an usher or greeter with your kids. My 12 year old loves serving in the nursery and my son loves to serve with the tech team. Our family values serving, it’s something we make time for. Serving others has helped us to grow in our faith and I want to instill the value of serving in my kids. The best way to do this is to serve with them.
If you are already serving in some capacity, I want to challenge you to try serving in a new capacity. If you currently serve outside the church in the community, I challenge you to serve within a ministry at church. If you currently serve with a church ministry, I challenge you to serve in the community. If you currently don’t serve in any capacity, I want to encourage you to take a baby step like I did when I signed up to serve at the food shelf. It changed my life for the better, and I pray that it will do the same for you.
I also want to encourage you to invite someone to join you for whatever you sign up for. Ask a friend to serve with you. Invite them to serve the community or serve with a ministry. At Freshwater, we value serving together because we believe we are better together. Someone once said that a single drop of rain doesn’t make much of a difference. But a thousand drops of rain will create a lush garden. There is something about serving side by side that brings us joy. This summer our family is committed to serving others, I hope you are too. You can register for A Summer 2 Serve online, on our app, or on paper at one of our campuses.