Today I want to share a little about serving where your heart sings. I’m going to share a bit of my volunteer story but before I do I thought I’d share a few things I started…and promptly quit.
*Diet Soda...I drank it in college because all my friends did. I’d go to HyVee runs for diet Dr. Pepper but I truly hated the stuff. I graduated and vowed never to drink diet again. Full force Dr. Pepper for me from here on out.
*Wide leg jeans…Junior high was a time full of bad fashion choices but jeans with leg holes the size of jeep tires was really not the style for me.
*Knitting…I wanted it to be my thing. I tried. But after making three coaster-sized knitting samples I decided I didn’t have the drive to really make something worth the time.
*Bleach blonde hair…I thought blondes might really have more fun but when my hair started breaking off and falling out I gave it up for my brown roots.
*Cake Pop baking…I went through a phase where I spent hours molding cake into tiny balls. Turns out it’s a lot of work. Do you know what’s just as good? Cake.
Not everything we start is a good fit for our personality. Some things are good to try but aren’t best for us. Some things are worth evaluating for a better fit. That includes volunteering. We value every volunteer in Crossing Kids but I know some people are serving in a place that’s a perfect fit and others, well, not so much. So how do you know if you’re in the right spot and what do you do if you aren’t?
In their book “Not Normal” Adam Duckworth and Sue Miller encourage potential volunteers to start somewhere. Even if it’s not where you think you’ll come alive, just start and see what happens. They ask readers to ask 3 Questions to Start:
- What am I Good At?
- What Do I Enjoy Doing?
- What comes Naturally to Me?
In my professional experience in Crossing Kids, there’s been more than one time I’ve had to email or call someone to ask if I could move them to an area of greater need. I’m sure some of these people weren’t thrilled but they responded to the call. Personally, I’ve been on the other side of that call too. I’d like to share a few places I’ve served and what I learned, as well as how I knew I was in the right spot for me
When I was 20 years old I heard Keith speak from the front of Rockbridge Auditorium about how we needed more people to serve in Crossing Kids and, like many of you, I filled out a little card that said “wherever needed.” Turns out, fours and fives were the place of most need. I served for two years with four and five year olds. I learned a lot about what they like (giggling, crawling on the floor, Disney shows), how they learn (giggling, sitting in laps, songs and stories), and how to motivate them (make them giggle, get on their level, give them donut holes. I kid. But seriously, donut holes). I made friends with other people in church. I liked serving in fours and fives and kept doing it. I don’t think I even knew it wasn’t what made me tick until I found the area that really was my sweet spot. Looking back, I needed these years to prepare me to lead the preschool ministry. I’m so glad I could shape young lives and I found they shaped me and my faith as well. But deep down I knew I wasn’t destined for 50 years of ministry to these kiddos. I needed to keep searching.
Eric and I got a call one day. Being a young, fun couple who were team leaders at Kids Club, when The Crossing decided to open a new class in elementary for kids staying for two services, Eric and I became guinea pigs. We committed to give it a shot. For a year, we spent an hour with Kindergarteners through 4th graders who were sticking around for a second service. We played games, ate Cheez-Its, built relationships, watched more Veggie Tales than I can begin to describe to you, and played lots of games. My favorite? Silent ball. Because when you have 35 wide-eyed, energetic children, playing a game where you win by being quiet is really the perfect solution. I kid. But really. We served faithfully for a year. I have great memories of teaching kids Bible verses and listening to their stories. At the end of each day, though, I felt drained. Tired. I wanted to serve because I knew it was needed. And I wasn’t going to give up. But it definitely wasn’t life-giving for me. Still, those kids still come to me sometimes and ask me if I remember our times together in multi-age. Being a pastor’s kid I wanted to have a heart for kids who spent hour-upon-hour at church. And I gave it my all. Ultimately when there came a time to switch, I jumped.
I spent some time subbing in different classrooms, feeling out the waters in different rooms. I subbed once in the walkers room (now known as Toddler Blue) and fell head over heels in love. Tiny people. Who needed snuggles. And loved to be sung to. And who I could really make a difference with. I mean, you want to feel needed? Go into a room where kids start out crying and help them feel safe and comfortable. More importantly, convince their moms and dads they are safe and comfortable and church is a good place for them. I knew from that first Sunday this was my sweet spot. This is where I could use my gifts and talents to make a difference in our church body. The funny thing is, I’ve talked to so many people who tell stories of feeling drained and worn in the toddler class. They couldn’t listen to babies cry and wipe noses all day. But for me (and, my husband found out later it was for him, too), this was where God called us. He built us for snuggles and the fishy song and bubbles. I got asked to do a couple of other things before I really made toddlers my home but I pretty much knew it was where I would always feel the best.
So what’s the point?
Well, I think you can take away a few things…
- No matter where you’re serving, you’re making a difference.
Strive to live Colossians 3:23. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as if working for the Lord and not for men.” As long as you are serving with all your heart, it’s worth it.
2. If you don’t love where you’re serving, keep your commitment but keep looking.
I see many former early childhood volunteers serving in different areas now. They started with us. They kept their commitment. And when the time came, they found somewhere they loved more. Maybe you’re holding babies but you have the gift for welcoming new people and registration is your thing. Maybe you can’t hear one more 5th grader talk about Minecraft but reading books to preschoolers sounds like a blast. If it’s not bringing you life, try something else.
- If you are serving in a place that makes your heart sing, don’t take it for granted.
Once I found the toddlers, I assumed everyone knew it was the best place in the whole world. Man was I wrong. As a team leader, I had many, many volunteers come and go a semester later, saying they just weren’t a good fit for crying babies and changing diapers. They were wonderful volunteers but it wasn’t for them. I couldn’t understand. It’s the perfect spot!! For me. If you have found the spot that you are good at, that you enjoy doing, that comes naturally to you (as Duckworth and Miller describe), keep doing it. You’re right where you are supposed to be.
No matter where you are serving, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. We can’t make Crossing Kids go without the people who lead motions, hug babies, and listen to the not-so-funny jokes of 3rd graders.
And if you aren’t serving right now, why not? Start somewhere. What do you have to lose?