Five Lessons I’ve Learned from Church Service

A little context before I jump in.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has many unique things about it, but a notable one is that there is no paid clergy. The local congregations, which we call wards, are run entirely on a volunteer basis. The leader of the ward is called “bishop” and members of the ward are asked to serve in callings, which are assignments to serve in a specific area. These callings range from teaching Sunday School to counting attendance at worship services.

Last Sunday I was released from my calling to serve as a counselor to our bishop, a calling I held for almost three and a half years. The leader who made the release invited me to share a few words with the congregation. I decided to share five lessons that I learned from serving in the church.

1) Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about

While serving, I spent a lot of time with people I had previously admired from a distance. They had good jobs, good marriages, a beautiful family, etc. I looked at these individuals and their families and assumed everything in their life was perfect.

As I spent time with these individuals, sometimes serving alongside them, sometimes serving them directly, I learned that no one is invincible. Everyone has challenges. Those challenges may not be apparent on the surface, but they are there, they are real, and quite often they are severe.

It’s been said that everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. I’ve found through experience that this is spot on.

2) Assume good intentions

It’s easy to look at imperfect people and fixate on what they’re doing wrong and how they can do better. While correction has a place, so does kindness and support. In our church, service is 100% voluntary. No one gets paid to serve. Everyone is trying their best. Replacing criticism with a helping hand can go a long way. Assuming good intentions should apply to all, not just those serving.

3) Talents are magnified when serving others

Somehow, someway, when we use our talents to help others, those talents are enlarged.

4) Service is not always convenient

The first Sunday of May 2016 will always be a memorable one. I took our two older kids to church while my wife stayed home with our newborn daughter, who was three weeks old at the time. After the first hour of church (we met for three hours then but have since moved to two), one of the leaders pulled me into a room. He asked me if I would serve as a counselor to our bishop, a calling that would require a substantial commitment of time and energy.

With three young children and a busy job, I thought of several reasons why the timing wasn’t right. However, I felt strongly that accepting the invitation to serve was the right thing to do and my wife was fully supportive. Sundays were no longer a day to sleep in. I had 6:30 AM meetings and didn’t get home until after lunch. Every Sunday my wife got the kids ready and took them to church on her own.

Six months later I accepted an offer to join DoorDash. It would prove to be an even more demanding job than my prior one and required a commute to San Francisco. Once again, I questioned whether we’d be able to make it all work. And life certainly didn’t get any simpler when we welcomed our fourth child earlier this year.

Over the last 3+ years there were a lot of balls to juggle and I thought church service may need to be the one I let drop. My wife, on more than one occasion, helped me see things from a long-term perspective and we were able to keep moving forward.

5) Serving others may bless your life more than those you’re serving

I won’t detail them here, but I’m in awe of how many blessings our family has had over the last 3+ years. While I hope that I’ve been able to help others, my life has likely been blessed even moreso.

In Matthew 16:25 Jesus said, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.”

This has to be the most counterintuitive advice out there, but it’s true. Are you overwhelmed by all that’s going on in your life? Pause what you’re doing and go help someone. Doing so will both bless your life and put things into perspective.

I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to serve. While these lessons have come from serving in a formal capacity, I’ve learned that you don’t need to wait for someone to tap you on the shoulder. The opportunities are endless and the blessings of service come to all who are willing to extend a helping hand.

5 thoughts on “Five Lessons I’ve Learned from Church Service

  1. Good article…thanks for sharing. Btw, I’m in my dream job and have people like you to thank.

    Hope all is well.

  2. Nathan,

    Awesome insight here! Thanks for being willing to share your experiences serving in the church even though being open about such things in the professional world is sometimes looked down on. Makes me want to be better at doing the same thing.

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