Article by: Chris d’Costa, Middle School Youth Coordinator
Growing up, I viewed those who served in the church as the congregation’s special elite. To me, the front door greeters were the masters of the handshake, the ushers were the multitasking experts of the sanctuary, and the sound techs had a special seating area with more buttons than I knew what to do with. Any position of responsibility in the church seemed more important (and fun) than just coming to church to sit and learn. When I grew out of Sunday School, I immediately asked my mother if I could volunteer in the Children’s Ministry whenever she was serving. She said yes, and I was ecstatic, eagerly anticipating the following Sunday. I had decided that I was done being a student and ready to stand out as a ministry volunteer! Needless to say, I was in for quite the awakening about what serving entailed.
My distorted expectations of serving in the church stemmed from my incomplete understanding and training as a student. I had already learned a fair amount of Old and New Testament history, but I still did not know much. From a studying perspective, I was merely skimming through the textbook without taking notes or doing practice questions. As a church servant, I was flunking. I made mistakes in serving on Sundays and needed to be faster in learning from them. Being students of God and learning His Word is essential to our walk with Him, but it takes humility and practice. I was trying to go from student to servant for all the wrong reasons; I wanted to be a helper in the church so that I could have authority instead of submitting as a student. In Luke 6:40 Jesus says, “The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.” I love this verse as it both reminds students to submit to their teacher and describes the benefits of completing their training. My mother told me that if I still wanted to help her in Sunday School, I had to read and practice the lesson plans for the classes she taught. Moreover, outside of serving, I had to listen to the Pastors’ messages and prove that I paid attention. At first, I was disappointed with the amount of learning and listening that serving required, but I wanted to be an impressive Sunday School volunteer like my mother and the other teachers.
If we love God and seek to follow Him, we must learn from Him through diligent study. Learning and training are prerequisites to teaching and leading, especially in the church. Just as Jesus taught and trained His disciples before sending them out, we must be brought up in the instruction of God’s Word before we can properly share it with others. Looking back, I saw that I was needlessly disassociating learning and serving from each other. In reality, learning and serving go hand-in-hand. Every effort to learn God’s Word will reveal it’s fruit in serving others in the church. I began to love serving in the church out of love and humility for others instead of status and recognition.
By the time I finished High School, I had been regularly learning and serving in the church for many years, only to encounter a new problem. When I began my post-secondary education, I prioritized my student life over serving in the church. While I was fortunate not to have lost my faith during those college years, I felt it stagnate. Though I took every available chance to learn more about theology and Biblical history alongside my regular course work, I did little to serve. James 3:13 says, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” Not only was I letting my studies and experiences in Christ waste away, but I was also betraying my training by putting myself first and not acting in humility. My biggest regret during my four years at university was not being more active in the church community and minimizing my serving. Just as academics use quizzes and tests to ascertain a student’s learning ability, we must actively test our knowledge of God’s Word by putting it into practice. Not only does serving ensure that we are doing our part to share and model God’s Word, but it also furthers our learning. Similar to how tests and quizzes show where we excel and where we are weak, serving will show us where we are as students of His word in terms of strengths and weaknesses.
When I was at a crossroads in my life, God led me back to the church and provided me with an opportunity to learn, serve and ultimately grow in my faith to a greater extent than ever before. Being a student and servant of Christ is not without challenges, but the benefits reaped make it beyond worthwhile. Learning and serving in church develops us as people, strengthens our faith, and brings us closer together as the unified body of Christ!