“What are you passionate about?”
It’s a common question, at least in church world. And it’s a good question. You should do what you’re passionate about. (There are bounds to this, but we’ll leave them alone for now.)
But it’s also not the only question to ask… or perhaps it’s too narrow a question.
Some needs exceed the passion to fill them. For instance, chairs that need to be set up present a regular need, but rarely ignite a passion. Same for dishes that need to be cleaned. In most places, I’ve seen that the number of children who need to be cared for exceeds the number of adults passionate about caring for them. (That one is a sad reality to me. I get it––it’s taxing, and for many, intimidating. But I still hope for a day that our passion for kids exceeds any need.)
For some necessary things, we may need to supplement passion with sacrifice––people who do something not because they wake up excited to do it, but because it’s important and needs doing.
This is where we might broaden our questions about passion. Someone may not be passionate about washing dishes, but she’s passionate about community meals. And she’s willing to wash the dishes to make it happen. Someone may not be passionate about leading children’s ministry, but he’s passionate about children being ministered to, so he volunteers.
Whatever church community you’re a part of, let me urge you to do two things:
1 - Ask yourself what you’re passionate about. And be sure the leaders in your community know. Ask if there are ways for you to give in one of those areas.
(Also be aware that there are some areas where passion exceeds need. These tend to be the more visible roles. Don’t be disappointed if there’s not as much opportunity to serve in those areas of passion as you’d like.)
2 - Dedicate yourself to one thing that’s a need, even though it’s not a passion.
Look around and see what areas of need you can identify. If you can’t find them, ask the leaders in your community, “Where are the places you could really use more help? If you could have someone show up regularly and faithfully to do something, what would you ask for?” They’ll be able to answer those questions with ease.
Find one of these things and do it on a regular, scheduled, disciplined basis. When you do this, it’s not because you love doing it (though maybe a love could grow for it), it’s because you’re passionate about the larger mission of the church. And that small act of service is essential to the bigger mission.
Occasionally #1 and #2 go together. That’s the person who truly has a passion for setting up chairs (have I met you??) and does it faithfully. If that’s you, I hope you know how special you are to the community. Same to that children’s Sunday School teacher who has been doing it for 20 years and loves it.
“I don’t have time to do both,” you say. “Do I serve in the area of need, or passion?”
Let’s start with a question: Is the thing you’re passionate about something where passion exceeds need in your community (i.e. if you gave up your spot, people would rush to fill it)? If so, I’d recommend you stop doing the passion thing for a time and only fill the need.
Otherwise, you’re leading in a coveted role without demonstrating the servant leadership of also leading in a needed role. Also, when you stay away from that area of passion until your time frees up, you’re likely to find a way to free some time.
Every great movement is a mix of passion and sacrifice. People do things they love, and they’re excited to be part of a great cause. People also make sacrifices to do less-interesting things, because they know those things are part of the larger mission.
The church can and should be the greatest movement on earth––the greatest mixture of passion and sacrifice that our world sees.
To the many, many, many of you who already exemplify that––thank you! Those small things may not seem like much, but that chair you set up, or that diaper you change, is what makes it possible for the rest of this great mission to happen.
To any of you who wouldn’t yet be described as a model of passion and sacrifice in your community, there’s still time to sign up.