I moved home after my college graduation. I started a real job with a regular schedule. I was ready to jump in and serve.
But where? How? When I was in college, God called me to ministry to young women. That narrowed my focus. I had spent my free time reading, researching, and writing, but I didn’t know many teenage girls. So I wanted hands-on ministry with young ladies. Should I jump in to helping with high school youth group? Maybe leading small group? Or would junior high be better?
And then I learned that my church needed a teacher for the 5th grade girls Sunday school class. That’s younger than I pictured when I said “young ladies.” But here was a need. And here I was, a young woman who could fill that need. So I said yes.
That yes began four years of teaching the 5th and 6th grade girls Sunday school class. Not just teaching, but investing in them and serving them. We had tea parties. We memorized chapters of the Bible as a class. I supported some girls through tragedy that shattered their worlds. I celebrated birthdays, attended school performances, and shared the Gospel of Jesus with them.
I started teaching at 21 years old because I didn’t want to waste my short (so I thought) single years. Because I was young and single, the girls in my classes watched me closely and carefully. I had a unique influence that other mom-type teachers didn’t have. I wanted to use that influence to point these girls to the Jesus I serve.
I could serve these girls because I was following Jesus’ example. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). In serving those around us, we obey Christ and follow His example. Service is an opportunity to love those around us, our neighbors, as Jesus called them in Matthew 22:39.
Part of the way we do this is seeking ways to serve our neighbors, both inside and outside of the church. For those of us who are single, we have a special opportunity to show that love to our church and communities. We have a freedom of time and energy that enables us to seek service more fully because our loyalty is often less divided.
In 1 Corinthians 7:35, Paul points out that singleness enables us to serve in “undistracted devotion to the Lord.” I want that. I want to be undistracted in my devotion to Jesus. At 28 years old, I still don’t want to waste my single years, however long they last. I want to serve my God faithfully now as a single woman, and just as faithfully in the future when I am married.
Serving looks different for each of us. It looks different in different seasons of our singleness. Sometimes it’s formal “ministry” (i.e. Sunday School teacher, youth group leader, welcome team at church, etc). Sometimes it’s less formal (i.e. hosting a small group, babysitting kiddos so their parents can go on date, raking leaves for a neighbor, giving a college student a ride to church, etc). Sometimes we get to choose our ministry. Sometimes our ministry is assigned to us.
For more than three years after college, I chose many different ministries to serve in: teaching Sunday school, singing in choir, helping to lead the singles group. But then my sister had a back injury and couldn’t easily live by herself. We became roommates and for two years God gave me the ministry of taking care of my sister. I ran the household (grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, snow shoveling), gave her massages to ease the pain and tension in her back, and helped plan her wedding before she married and moved away.
Because of these responsibilities, I had to pull out of some of my “ministries.” It seemed like I didn’t have the time and energy for ministry any more. But that wasn’t the case. Rather, my ministry changed. God called me to serve my sister. While this wasn’t the glamorous ministry I dreamed of for my mid-twenties, God knew what He was doing. Looking back, I can see some of the benefits. Because of the skills I learned and the ways He refined my character in those years, I will be a much better wife when I do marry someday.
In our single years, we have unique opportunities to obey Jesus’ command to love our neighbors by seeking to serve those around us. The ways God has gifted you and the opportunities He gives you to serve will be different from my stories. The variety of gifts and skills He gives each of us displays the beauty of the body of Christ. I encourage you to seek a way to serve those around you using the skills God has given you.
What are some ministries that you have been a part of? What’s a creative way that you have served those around you? I’d love to hear your stories of ways you seek service!