When we choose to commit to an area of service in our church communities, we can often notice a range of emotions. I have noticed as a parent and youth minister that through reflecting on my own experiences, I am better prepared to support my girls and youth as they navigate what it means to make a commitment, as well as discerning whether to continue or discontinue an area of service. The following are some of the discussion points that we can use with youth and adults.
Service is not about you. Though we often are drawn toward serving in ways that tap into our talents or interests, ultimately, we cannot only reflect on personal satisfaction as we serve. Instead, we serve to consider the contribution we are making to the overall community. How are we helping enhance the liturgical experience of others? How are we helping to inspire a deeper love of the faith? How are we helping others to better understand? When we engage in dialogue with our children about this aspect, we help them to think about laying our lives down for others and about being selfless as Jesus modeled for us.
Overcome resistance. Often serving means a willingness to step out of our comfort zones, to be vulnerable. We might be shy or worried about whether we will make a mistake in front of others. Sometimes we enjoy a certain type of service but recognize there can be phases when we are highly motivated and phases where we feel our motivation slipping. Yet, those moments of insecurity or decreased drive should not be an obstacle to our willingness to serve. Instead, when we recognize the resistance, we have the opportunity to acknowledge it and then make a choice to serve anyway.
Persevere through challenges. When there are new initiatives, a couple of typical patterns are that it either starts out small or it begins strong but then slowly diminishes over time. With either, there is the danger that based on discouragement those who are involved will also want to walk away. When my girls recently experienced this, I encouraged them to again think beyond themselves, in this case their desire to walk away when they are discouraged by overall participation, and instead focus their attention back to the purpose behind the idea. I encouraged them that sometimes it takes time for dedication to build and that by staying committed, with time they and the others who remain involved can help to slowly build participation. When we choose to commit when it is easy and stay committed through challenges, there are opportunities to grow in our faith as there is a parallel with maintaining hope whether in a state of spiritual consolation or desolation. There is also great opportunity to grow closer to God through prayer – sharing our hopes and dreams for the initiatives and programs, trusting in God that with time God can use us as instruments to accomplish his will for us and our parish community.
Serve with joy and without regrets. Whether the area of service we are providing is something that is easy or hard and whether we are highly motivated or lacking in motivation, we are called to consistently seek to serve with joy and without regrets. “Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). Recognizing that something is difficult for us and then choosing to do it anyway with joy is an opportunity to learn more about what it means to love and serve radically after the model Jesus patterned for us, which includes having been pleased to serve regardless of the outcome. We can use the liturgical seasons to help deepen an appreciation for this counter-cultural mindset as we enter into Scripture and the Traditions of the Church.
Service is not about you, but it is also all about you. Though service is not about us, ultimately if we approach it with prayer and a desire to align to God’s will for our lives, we will be transformed in the process. It will aid us in growing in the virtues and holiness. We will lean into God and grow closer to him. As St. Catherine of Siena said, “If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze.” Service, especially when intentionally fueled by a dependence on the Sacraments, is a vehicle to become who we are called to be.
Keeping these concepts and others in mind as we approach service can help us to commit and recommit over time, as well as provide encouragement to others as they navigate their own journeys to serve rather than be served (Matthew 20:28). In the process, we can try to align our lives to CS Lewis’ quote, “Don’t shine so that others can see you. Shine, so that through you, others can see Him.”
As you serve, reflect on how you persevere, on what keeps you going. Then consider how you can use that to nurture others.
Copyright 2017 Amanda Villagómez