by Kathleen Baugh
Dear Sister in Christ,
The seminary years can be a time of rich fellowship as you join with others in the same experience, and a time of rapid growth in the faith because of the abundance of scriptural learning. Eventually, however, you will leave the Westminster community to join a new congregation. You may wonder how to become involved in the life of this new congregation. You may wonder where you will fit in. You may fear that you won't fit in. Rather than focusing on your fear and uncertainty, I suggest you ask yourself this: How can I use my talents and interests to show love to fellow believers, or to pave the way for corporate activities to go smoothly. With this question and my own congregation in mind, I offer the following three ways of serving in a congregation: fill a niche, respond to a need, and promote fellowship.
Fill a Niche
Every congregation has activities that occur regularly, and these activities are where you can serve according to your abilities. Do you play the piano? Offer to join the accompanist rotation. Do you enjoy teaching children? Join the Sunday School rotation. If you like writing, editing, and computer work, perhaps you could start a church newsletter. Like to read? Organize the church's books and start a lending library. Suggest other titles for the church to buy. Or start a book club. Enjoy trying new recipes? Sign up to bring snacks on Sunday and share your new creations. Serve new mothers by working in the nursery, thus giving them the chance to participate in worship. Help prepare the Lord's Supper elements. In a church plant, set up and take down chairs. And on and on. When you first arrive at a new congregation, it may seem as though these niches are adequately filled, but many hands make light work, and working together creates and strengthens the bond of fellowship.
Respond to a Need
Our congregation recently experienced its first widow-making death, leaving behind a young mother of two small children. Women of all ages began spending time with this young widow, and their service included and went beyond meal delivery. Two retired women took the grieving family on excursions to local attractions, giving them something to look forward to. A young mother made an exercise pact with the widow, meeting her at the YMCA for exercise and childcare, giving her a break from her mothering role. When the widow expressed the desire to learn to garden, an experienced gardener began that project with her. One woman kept the widow company for several months every evening after the children were in bed. Another woman sat with the widow in church in order to help with the children. Another regularly brought her own children over to play with the widow's children. Though accidents and death create sadness and loss, they are also opportunities for you to show love to a fellow saint.
Times of fellowship give us the opportunity to strengthen the bond of support that we have with one another as we go through this pilgrim life together. Here again your own talents and interests may guide you. Offer your interest as an activity for the congregation, as two people in our congregation have done, one planning a monthly hike and inviting others, and another starting a summer theater activity to promote fellowship among the youth. In these cases, not only will you enjoy fellowship, but you will be creating an opportunity for others to benefit from fellowship also. In addition to such activities during the week, the snack times on Sundays and the monthly congregational meals are also important fellowship times when you can get to know and support your fellow saints.
Don't resist love and service
Our society is a mobile one where people regularly change jobs and move away from established friendships. This aspect of life may lead you to resist loving and serving the new people in your life. “I won't be here long,” you may think, “so I won't get involved.” If you find yourself thinking this way, recommit yourself to loving and serving, as the outworking of your faith. Love and serve your fellow saints, and friendships will follow.
Fill a niche, respond to a need, promote fellowship. May God bless you richly as you seek to love and serve your fellow saints.
KATHLEEN BAUGH is a retired teacher who spent her career teaching her three children at home. She lives in Valley Center, California, with her husband, Dr. Steven Baugh (Professor of New Testament) and a large yard and garden.