For many people, serving in the local church brings so much joy that there isn’t even a question of whether it is necessary to serve or not. But some, whether it be from shyness, busyness, or any number of reasons, may not be as quick to jump in and help. To answer whether it is necessary to serve in the local church, we need to ask ourselves the following question:
What does it mean to serve the local church? Serving the local church means to help the body of Christ as a way to glorify God, not ourselves. In this act of worship, we spread the love of Jesus to those around us. Serving the local church takes many different forms, though the Bible helps specify areas that we could serve in by defining our spiritual gifts (1 Peter 4:10).
When I first saw the question being posed as “is serving necessary,” I didn’t know how to answer it. At first, I thought the question was asking if serving in the local church was a requirement for salvation, which of course the answer is no. But after processing the question more, I came to this conclusion:
Is serving in the local church necessary? Serving in the local church is necessary in regards to helping in the church body. If no one contributes in helping to keep the church running, it will fall apart. We are called in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 to be one of the members of the body, and during our sanctification in Jesus, we are to serve like him.
I want to go into more detail on what both of these answers actually mean; what it means to serve in a local church, what spiritual gifts are and how it helps the church, why it’s necessary to serve, things to look out for when serving, and last, how to get connected to a local church if you aren’t already.
What it Means to Serve in a Local Church
A local church comprises of people coming together and worshiping the Lord. This is done in a variety of ways. Of course, attending the service to participate in singing and listening intently to the sermon is an act of worship. But there are so many other ways to worship the Lord in the church by means of serving. Serving at a church can either be at the church building itself, whether on Sundays or during the week, or it can be in ways that are outside of the church building.
Serving at the Church on Sundays
Sunday morning is, of course, the busiest day of the week for churches! This means there are many opportunities to serve around the building and with people. Some ways to serve at church on Sunday morning can include:
- Communion prep
- Slide operator
- Worship team
- Lights organizer
- Food prep before church
- Setting up or tearing down chairs
- Cleaning up after the service
All of these are important to keep the church running well. However, if you are not able to serve on Sunday mornings, there are many other opportunities to serve during the other six days of the week.
Serving at the Church Building During the Week
Churches often have other programs that happen during the week that are held at the church building. In addition to programs, the building also has to be kept up with in regards to cleaning and general maintenance. Ideas for serving during the week can include:
- Youth group
- Women’s or Men’s event gatherings
- Organizing other events
- Church building maintenance
- Children’s programs (like basketball, Awana, or VBS)
- Creating content like the weekly newsletter for Sunday morning
The church gathering place is always being used all week long! Talk with your pastor or other leadership in the church to see how you can get involved. In addition to the church building, there are also other ministries to go out and reach the lost and help others.
Serving Outside of the Church
Sometimes the local church will have other ways of serving outside of the building itself. They could have their own ministry or partner with other churches and ministries. This will vary from church to church, but some ideas may include:
- Handing out meals to the homeless
- After school homework help with kids
- Prison ministry
- Evangelizing around the community
- Group giving, like Operation Christmas Child
Ask your church what kind of outside ministries they have to get more involved.
A more extensive list of other ways to serve in any context can be found here.
Even giving financially to a church is an act of service and worship. A church needs money to pay for missions efforts, events being held, and wages for the pastor and other leadership members. This is a very important aspect of the church’s success, and the Lord wants us to use our finances to glorify Him.
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.– 2 Corinthians 9:7
Spiritual gifts are talents that God has given us specifically to further His kingdom. According to chistianity.com, “Spiritual gifts are something every believer is given when they receive the gift of salvation. Just as the gift of salvation is by grace through faith, so are the spiritual gifts.”
Here is a list that I’ve gathered from a few websites of some spiritual gifts:
- Speaking in tongues
This website gives more detailed explanations for each one of these listed gifts and some verses that talk about them.
There are many different tests you can take that can help you determine what spiritual gifts you may have, but ultimately, take some time to pray about this subject with the Lord. God gifts us with many talents, though one or two may be very present in your life; that’s great! Talk with your church on where they could use your gift, whether it is on Sunday mornings, small groups during the week, or with other ministries that the church partners with.
Verses that specifically talk about spiritual gifts are below.
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.– Romans 12:6-8
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, …– 1 Corinthians 12:4-11
Why Serving in the Church is Necessary
The Bible says that when we receive a spiritual gift, we are to use it to serve those around us. Spiritual gifts are not for our own gain, but for the gain of others.
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.– 1 Peter 4:10-11
We are also to be part of the church body as Christ has told us: “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. The whole passage is a metaphor of how each one of us has a different purpose but how we are all to be part of the church body.
My colleague summed up clearly why serving the church is necessary in this article.
…if you attend an institutional style church, serving is required. In order to keep the building, ministry, facilities, lights, plumbing, etc. there must be people giving money and time. This type of service exists to keep the church running. Without it, the building will go into foreclosure, or the church will have to cut back on child care, events held, etc.
I do believe, that these types of service should not be the only kind of service. Serving the Body of Christ in these ways is good but we cannot neglect the command to care for widows, orphans, and the other types of needs that are within the church. If we focus too much on the upkeep of the building and being able to maintain a Sunday service, we are doing something wrong.– Faith Lawyer, Just Disciple
Faith is absolutely right in saying that both parts of serving in the church, behind the scenes work at the church building and working with people, are necessary. But the joy is that when the church body comes together, all areas of need in the church are able to be fulfilled!
The Great Commission
Jesus commissioned us in Matthew 28:18-20 to spread the gospel to all nations.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”– Matthew 28:18-20
Jesus wants us to make disciples of all nations. By serving, you are helping the church with this purpose. Not only are they discipling the people who regularly attend, but people even come to Christ by attending the church. On another level, choosing to serve is a step toward being a better disciple of Christ, and is a sign of faith that you’re a Christian.
The Great Commission is a command to serve others around us. Serving in the local church is necessary, whether the local church is where you were born, where you moved, or in a foreign country.
What to be Careful of When Serving at Your Church
When serving in the local church, however, we need to be careful that we have the right reasons while serving. The two wrong ways to serve include having the wrong reasons to serve, and burning yourself out. You also need to check the integrity of the church.
Have Your Heart in the Right Place
When serving, check your reasons for serving. Are you serving to fulfill yourself or to glorify God? We should be serving the local church because of our love for God and to follow Jesus’s example. Matthew 20:28 “…even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve…” Churchleaders.com gives a great summary of where our hearts should be:
Jesus was saying (in Matthew 20:25-28) that His followers are to serve others not because it’s the right thing to do, not because we’d feel guilty if we didn’t… We serve because Jesus has served us. His service should melt our hearts and cause us to serve others out of sheer gratitude to Him.
If we’re not careful, serving can become a way we try to earn the love we’ve already received from God, to “pay Jesus back” for His generous grace. While churches preaching the grace of God would never suggest that serving or volunteering contributes anything to a person’s salvation, a subtle tendency among us leads us to believe that serving is a way to stay “in good” with God. Therefore, unless serving is continually and unapologetically connected to the gospel, it can become a burden, a manipulator, a guilt reliever or a backhanded method we employ to just keep serving ourselves.– Eric Geiger from Churchleaders.com
Do not fall into legalistic thinking when serving at a church. Instead, focus on the Lord, and extend the love He has for all of us to the people around us. That is what He wants for the church, and for you. Ultimately, if you cannot serve with the right mindset, you may want to abstain from serving to pray for the Lord to change your heart toward serving in the church.
Avoid Burning Yourself Out
We also need to keep in mind that rest is an important part of being a functional human being, and that rest is glorifying to God. If you serving every single week at church, no matter how much you enjoy it while you’re there, you will eventually burn out. The Lord has blessed us with a day of rest (the Sabbath day) because resting is healthy and important. When committing to serving at church, be sure to schedule weeks you have off from serving, or find ways to include rest into your schedule.
So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.– Hebrews 4:9-10
The Integrity of Your Church
In addition to checking the integrity of why you’re serving, you also need to check the integrity of the church you want to serve at, especially if they are hosting events that affect the community around them. Are they approaching serving as an act of service to others in a way to worship and glorify God? Are they using biblical standards for serving? Make sure you ask questions to ensure they are looking to serve as a way to glorify God in a way that aligns with the Bible and not to uplift the church or a way that demeans others around them.
Finding a Local Church
If you aren’t already part of a local church, there are many resources to finding one! There are many websites to finding churches that can direct you to a church in your area just by typing in your zip code or city name.
- Christian Bible Network
- Even just googling “churches near me” will bring up results.
When joining a local church, ask yourself some questions about the integrity of the church. My colleague wrote an article about 8 Questions You Must Ask Before Joining a Local Church, which goes into depth some things to look for, in which these questions are from:
- Does the church teach from the Bible?
- What is the church’s involvement in global missions?
- What is the church’s strategy for discipleship?
- Is the church activating and engaging all the members to use their gifts for the good of the church?
- How does the church define success?
- How are the finances handled?
- How is the church’s leadership set up?
- Does the church have a commitment to loving correction?
If you’re looking to serve in the church, especially take note of question 4. Be sure the church is exciting about the people serving and looking for different opportunities to help in the community and abroad.