I believe that God gives us many gifts. One of the gifts the Lord blessed me with is the gift to gather. Even as a little girl, I was always that child who got in trouble at school for gathering the girls by my desk to “talk.” Now I feel bad when I have to punish my 6-year-old son for doing the same thing; he totally gets that from me. As a 35-year-old mom of two young boys, there seems to be less and less gathering and more, well, just “surviving.” Recently the carpool lines, double baseball practices, work, and laundry seem to drown out the gift to gather.
When my pastor launched small groups at my church here in East Tennessee, my heart jumped. My husband and I signed up to lead one, God brought the six couples into our lives, and I realized that I was finally going to have the opportunity to use my gift to love on these families. Every week the Lord has shown us why He put us together: our stories intertwine with one seamless thread—the hope of Jesus Christ. The church encouraged us to serve outside of the church together to be God’s light. Ryan and I know that there are some hurdles that come along with trying to schedule something else in the middle of everyone’s week, but we also know that serving the community is what we are called to do.
In the next few weeks we will be meeting with our small group to go over what we can do as a group to serve outside of the church, but the first thing that needs to be addressed is the “why” behind serving together.
Sometimes you just have to get uncomfortable. It may seem like walking into a new small group with strangers is enough, but the reality is, getting out of our comfort zones can help us grow. Jesus is the perfect example of this. In John 13, Jesus gathered His disciples to wash their feet. They were very confused because they knew their feet were dirty, and they just couldn’t quite understand why their “master” would serve them. Jesus says this: “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:13-17).
This was one of the last lessons Jesus taught His disciples—a lesson about humbling ourselves, getting uncomfortable, and serving others. We don’t have to go out in our communities and wash people’s feet, but this shows the importance of stepping out for someone who has a need and serving them, even if you get dirty.
Now, it’s time to get inconvenienced. That sounds fun right? I know each family in our small group has a calendar and to-do list that is overwhelming, and it can even be a challenge to meet once a week. But we all make time for things we value. If you plan to go out as a group, choose somewhere in your community that has a huge need and share together how you can each use your gifts to make it happen. Whether you make meals for the elderly, visit a nursing home, feed the homeless, or serve at your local pregnancy resource center, your small group has an opportunity to make a huge impact on your community. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my family’s schedule that I don’t look up long enough to see a need in my area. Challenge your small group to look up and see the needs that the group can fulfill together.
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” 1 Peter 4:10
The last thing to do is to get into action! Put some dates on the calendar throughout the year that are “set in stone.” Today’s culture is a fast-moving and ever-changing culture, and it’s harder for people to stay committed. If you take the next year and commit to serve on certain dates, make it a non-negotiable. If you are a parent, aunt/uncle, grandparent, or have any influence on someone younger remember this: your children (or younger people you influence) often will do what you do, and they will not do what you don’t do. Involve your kids, grandkids, or nieces/nephews to be a part of this with you. Show them that serving outside of the church is important and that even the small things matter. “And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” Matthew 10:42
So go grab some cases of water and pass them out to a construction crew, make a hot meal for a single mom struggling, or offer to help trim up bushes for the elderly. Go be God’s light together, because we are always better together.
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31
Ashley Shepherd is a wife, mother, entrepreneur, public speaker, published author, and minister to women. The daughter of preacher, she was born and raised in Eastern Tennessee, where she lives today with her husband, Ryan, and their two boys. In the fall of 2015, Ashley launched an online Bible study that quickly grew to more than 9,000 women in just for weeks. Today, the Beautifully Designed community is composed of over 17,000 women who regularly join together to pray, study the Scriptures, and give one another hope as each discovers their true identity in Christ.