“Would you like to teach children’s Sunday School?” the director of children’s ministry asked me. “No,” I responded. Her stunned look was priceless. I don’t think she got very many direct noes when she asked for volunteers. Certainly her requests had been declined before, but I think there was usually more hemming and hawing. It wasn’t an unreasonable request; we had been at the church for some time, I was not over-stretched in ministry, and we had two kids in Sunday school. It was understandable that she would ask, but there was one problem: I am horrible with children. Don’t get me wrong — I value children, and I know Jesus treasures them. I just keep wishing they’d grow up. They wear me out.
You see, I love adults. Especially senior adults. About the time the children’s ministry director asked me to help that ministry, I had begun helping the church establish a new ministry that was directed at developing and supporting lay counselors for adults facing all kinds of transitions and challenges. I’m a psychologist, with spiritual gifts of mercy and encouragement. I had a definite passion for this new ministry, which used my gifts and gave me energy and joy.
Paul wrote to the church in Corinth:
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
— 1 Corinthians 12:4-6
He went on to write about various gifts of the Spirit, and about the body (the Church) and its parts. It was freedom to me to realize both that I have gifts to use to serve the church, and that I don’t have every gift needed for every kind of service. In addition, we also all possess different talents. My observation is that, when we serve in our areas of giftedness and talent, we have enthusiasm for our work and we serve well.
This is not to say we can’t or shouldn’t pitch in where needed now and then. I did help with children’s ministry sometimes. We had children who participated in those programs, and I felt like it was appropriate for us to lend a hand. My primary ministry, however, will always be in the few areas I serve best. We have not been asked to exhaust ourselves saying yes to too many things. When I say no to ministry opportunities, it leaves room for someone else to say yes — someone God has gifted especially for that service.