I Don’t Have Time to Serve
We can get creative when we need to give a reason for not doing something we know we should do. For example, a well-known church leader asked other church leaders through Twitter what they had heard from parishioners as reasons for not attending church. Here are some of the more interesting “reasons” they heard:
“We were out of peanut butter.”
“Both of my girlfriends attend there.”
“The worship leader pulls up his pants too often. It’s distracting.”
“The pastor is too attractive. When I see him preaching, I have impure thoughts.”
“We got burned out on church and have been taking a break the past seven years.”
“I always get hemorrhoids on Sundays.”
As entertaining as these “reasons” are, they show that we can justify ourselves in lots of ways when we need to. The same is true for serving people in need. There are “reasons” people give for not serving even when they agree that serving people in need is a good thing. As many as 90% of Americans believe serving is good, but only about 25% actually serve. There are several frequently given reasons, but I want to focus on the primary one in this blog: “I don’t have time to serve.”
I Don’t Have Time to Serve.
About half of Americans cite the lack of time as their reason for not serving. What is interesting is retirees are less likely to serve than people who work and aged 35 to 44. It seems that if a pattern of serving is established prior to retirement, it is likely to continue into retirement. And the same is true for not serving.
The truth is it feels like we do not have time to serve. We are busy people—busier than ever despite forecasts a few years ago that technological advancements would give us loads of extra time. I have to admit there have been times when I have chosen not to serve people in need because I thought I did not have the time. But here’s the truth: I have as much time as anyone—24 hours each and every day—but I tend to fill that time with responsibilities and things I enjoy. It was when I made a commitment to serve and got that commitment onto my schedule that I did it. Would that work for you?
The issue of time to serve was verified in an unusual experiment conducted a few years ago by Princeton Seminary professors. They asked several seminary students to participate in an experiment without telling them much about it. They divided the students into 2 groups. They told both groups to prepare a talk on the parable of the Good Samaritan (not a coincidence) and told them they would be giving that talk later in the day. Then they arranged for a man who appeared to be in trouble—bent over, coughing, unkempt—to be on a bench on the way the students would go to the appointed place to give their talk. The professors told one group they had plenty of time to get to their appointment and the other group they were running late and to hurry. Of those who thought they were late for their appointment, only 10% stopped to see if they could help the man on the bench. Of those who believe they had plenty of time, 63% stopped. Having enough time mattered more than preparing for ministry or preparing to talk to others about the parable of the Good Samaritan.
Do You Have 5 Minutes?
I believe a lot of the folk who say they do not have the time to serve have assumed larger blocks of time are required to do that. Not necessarily. If you are able to carve out a block of time regularly to serve, good for you, but smaller amounts of time work as well. International charity OXFAM got serious about helping people find small pieces of time in which to serve when they posed the question: What can you do in 5 minutes? How would you answer that question?
- Can you listen to a colleague share about a problem at home or work?
- Can you pick up a few things for a disabled or elderly neighbor while you are grocery shopping?
- Can you pray for your server at a restaurant about whatever he/she says they could use prayer?
- Can you write a hand-written note of encouragement to a person in prison?
- Can you take food (extra from one of your regular meals) to a neighbor who is temporarily unable to cook his own meals?
Serving does not have to take a lot of time. If you will try doing one or more of the things on this list or something you come up with on your own, I guarantee you will be glad you did, and it just may inspire you to make more room in your schedule for serving. The important thing is not the amount of time taken to serve or so much what you do but doing it for the right reason—to meet a real need when you see it. No one has ever said it better than Mother Teresa:
The fact is we all make time in our lives for those things we enjoy even if it means delaying caring for a responsibility. Well, it’s a fact that serving people in need brings deep joy. See “Why We Feel Good When We Serve.” We ARE busy people… BUT if we can remember how happy serving makes us feel and if we remember how essential it is to being faithful to our calling to be Jesus people, we will find the time to do it.
What do you think about what this blog says? How can you find time to serve? How can you serve someone else in 5 minutes? Comment your thoughts and ideas.