Building Block #3: Service

{Welcome back! Have you read the first few posts in this series? You can get caught up here. Go ahead: I’ll be right here when you get back.}

When I was in 9th grade, I attended a Christian summer camp. It was a formative life experience – not only because I met my dearest friend, Sean (remind me to tell y’all that story sometime) or because I learned awesome songs with killer motions– but because of a camp counselor named Thea.

After I’d gone back home, Thea and I wrote letters for a few months. At some point, I must have been complaining about my miserable, difficult, terrible (no it wasn’t, not at all) life… as 14 year old girls are wont to do. In her return missive, Thea sent me this gem, scrawled in bubbly script with blue ink on college-ruled notebook paper:

Thea Message

Her words have floated before my eyes over and over again throughout the last twenty years. God bless her; she likely didn’t know how deeply she would impact me! It’s just such a valuable truth. We are all, as Christians, told to serve others with love.

“You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.”
~Galatians 5:13

As Thea pointed out, when we are actively engaged in helping someone else, our hands and minds are too busy to “feel sorry for ourselves.” In other words, we shrug off the shroud of discontentment when we dig in to do good for another person.

Why might this be? Well, I certainly believe there’s a spiritual component. I believe that God blesses us when we keep His commands, and service is one of the things Jesus taught his followers about more than once. I believe that God desires for His children to be at peace – to be content – and He wants to give us unshakeable peace that isn’t dependent on our circumstances.

”Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
~Philippians 4:6-7

In His wisdom, God built these physical bodies for us, too. Last year, researchers published a neat study demonstrating the link between service and good health. Okay, now, I realize that there are no guarantees in this world – you may volunteer, serving with all your heart, and still get hit by a bus. But I think it’s beautiful that when we help others, the benefit to us isn’t just mental or spiritual; our physical bodies are rejuvenated, too. It’s “good for you” in every sense of the phrase to put your hands to work on behalf of someone else.

I understand WHY I should serve… what I don’t understand is HOW I can serve.
Fair enough, you say. There are lots of good reasons to get involved with service, Michelle, but how exactly am I supposed to do that?


It’s become a bit of a cliché in Christian circles, but this is one overused phrase that really IS A THING. There are seasons in your life when getting involved with service would be the straw that breaks your back. You’re pregnant with a toddler at home? You’re caring for an ill parent or grieving a death in the family? You have little kids and a spouse who works 80-hour weeks? I understand. Oh, sister. I’ve been there. During those times of my life, I wasn’t serving in any recognized, organized way. And y’know what? That is okay. It is alright to make your extended family or your babies or your own sanity your “service” for a little while. Just remember this, friend: seasons change, and when season you currently inhabit begins to wane, take care to stretch your muscles and get back into the swing of service. You will be SO glad, I promise.

In my early 20s, I was a married elementary-school teacher. No kids; medical school husband. We were poor as church-mice, but I had time on my hands. My service in those years was so much fun! I joined United Methodist Women at my church and formed a new “circle” for women my age. I helped with every mission project my Sunday School class and ladies’ Bible study groups dreamed up.

In my later 20s, life shifted. I was a stay-at-home mom to one baby, and my husband was an intern at Vanderbilt. We were new to a very big city, and no lie: that was hard. I attended a little church near our apartment, but I never got involved. No Sunday School, small group, Bible study, or women’s circles. No ways to serve and feel useful. I was barely keeping my head above water that year, and it took me a long time to give myself grace. I eventually remembered that God loved me no matter what – and if all I could manage was to sit in the “cry room” at the back with my baby crawling around eating Goldfish crackers, then He wasn’t up in heaven giving me demerits for lack of service hours. He was LOVING ME right where I was. Same goes for you, sister.

The next change was easier on my heart and my mind. Our move to Northern Kentucky and adding our second baby weren’t as jarring, and the four years of residency gave Chris slightly more family time than intern year had. We joined a church, we met couples and families, we found ways to become a part of the community. I was able to serve as a teacher in Vacation Bible School and help with mission projects once again. And for the first time, I realized that I could teach adults, too. I’ll share more about the group I started there in my next #ContagiousContentment post, but for now I just want to say that if you’ve never explored your spiritual gifts, it’s a great way to figure out what type of service is right for you.

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”
~1 Peter 4:10

At this stage (I’m in my early 30s, if you’re keeping track) of life, my service opportunities have blossomed again. With kids who are old enough to be involved in children’s ministry activities (and who don’t go to bed at 6:00 pm anymore!) I’m able to participate in more of the things my church offers. I love helping with the children – filling in as a Sunday School or choir substitute teacher – and I’ve started facilitating our adult Sunday School class, too. We’re in the midst of overhauling our church website and social media presence, so I’ve been able to pitch in and help with photography, copy editing, and Facebook posts.

Whaddaya mean, that’s not service? Sure it is. There’s a need… which lines up with some of my skills and talents… and I said yes.

It really is that simple. Service might mean joining a team at your church (serving meals at a soup kitchen or shelter; driving the bus to pick up kids who need a ride to your location; visiting prisoners in your local jail) but it doesn’t have to look like that. Your service will be unique to you – your “season” in life, your gifts, your personality, your community and its needs.

The challenge for today, then, folks, is to spend some time in prayer. Ask God to help you see where your natural gifts and abilities lie. Where can you put yourself to work? Where can you ease a burden, where can you offer love? Give of yourself – whatever is strong or abundant or unique or awesome about YOU – put that on the table.

I sort of feel like I’m being Captain Obvious again, but I’m going to make sure I state this really plainly. When you find your niche, your special place to serve where you know you’re making a difference, you will find your contentment growing. Thea knew what she was talking about twenty years ago: it’s less likely you’ll be discontented when you’re paying attention to filling the needs of someone else.

How are you serving right now? Or is this “building block” the one you need to add to your tower? I’d love to hear your thoughts! You can also read ahead to building block #4 right here.


2 thoughts on “Building Block #3: Service”

Leave a Comment

Skip to content