You have probably heard the definition of an expert being “anyone who travels at least 100 miles to speak.” I have, on many occasions over the years, had the privilege of being called upon to lead/speak in various locations around the country and it is true that the farther a person travels, the more expectation there is.
But, I have also found that serving in your home area often comes with a different set of expectations. I currently work in the same church I attended while in high school. I didn’t grow up in this church but moved in my junior year of high school. Following graduation, I was away from the area for about eight years before returning (though I actually remained connected there when I was home for breaks and visits). After moving back, I wound up working at the church as a part-time staff person in worship ministry.
It seems to me that the number of people who are serving in their home churches is increasing. Due to the popularity of internship programs, multiple church campuses needing leadership, the number of community churches who don’t have an official denominational structure and the decrease in young clergy, there are many opportunities for people to work in full-time ministry in their own churches. Many leaders believe that homegrown ministry staff is the most healthy way to develop a ministry team!
Here are five advantages I’ve discovered serving in my home church:
Knowing the background of how we got where we are has been helpful on many occasions. Watching the places God has been faithful over the years has also been really cool. Being able to celebrate how far we’ve come is another great advantage to serving in your home church. Relational history also plays a role in being able to serve effectively. It’s fun to watch generations continue to be faithful. The other night I was in a leadership meeting where three us talked about being in high school band together. I also know that God’s grace can work in spite of our history even when it’s not helfpul!
John Maxwell talks about the number of coins a leader has in his pocket. You start with a certain amount and as you lead and serve, you either gain coins or lose them, depending on the situation. When you run out of coins, you’re through as a leader. The more history you have, the more opportunity to fill your pockets to the positive! I would like to think I have more coins because of this being my home church.
There is a lot of joy in serving with the same people year and year. There really is a family dynamic in ministry and there’s a comfort level that paves the way for effective teamwork even through challenging times. Of course, every church can become family and it’s no totally distinctive to this situation. What may be distinctive is for so many in your church to know and remember your whole family!
Much like any family, the more people know you, the more grace is needed. Your backstory isn’t just shared, it’s been experienced by folks around you! Those closest to you know you the best – the good and bad. There’s no way to pull the wool over someone eyes when they knew you as a kid.
Traveling ministry can taint you to some degree. Everywhere you go it’s a party. You’re always in a special event mindset. You always seem to experience success. You don’t hear the struggles as much – conference, camp and retreat attendees often put their best foot forward for the few hours you’re together. Without the consistent foundation of a home church, leaders are likely to get a little skewed. I like being a place where you’re held accountable for learning new songs, sharing new messages and being a part of the everyday details of church life. Loving critique and criticism should be commonplace among church leaders doing their best to accomplish the mission of Christ in their communities. Being a part of your home church provides accountability for living a faithful life and leading an effective ministry – both at church at in the home.
Of course, like with anything, there are some obvious disadvantages to serving in your home church – many of the same ones I listed above could be argued the other way to some degree. Sometimes, I can see why Jesus said, a prophet is without honor in his hometown. It can be tough at times to cross the barrier from young adult to adult or volunteer leader to paid leader.
It boils down to calling… is God leading you? Is this where you need to be serving? Have these doors opened and are you enjoying it? Then work with all your might, giving 100% until your next assignment.
One of the blessings in my current situation is the opportunity to serve both in my home church and in the greater church through worship ministry and other leadership. I give God praise for the clear calling and direction as I have enjoyed the structure of home church ministry at Troy UMC and the opportunity to serve the greater church through Harvest Ministry. God’s provision and of this kind of balance has provided a framework for longevity I could have never have planned on my own. I don’t want to grow so comfortable that I dismiss new opportunities without prayer, but I know that God will lead me on when the time is right.
In addition, I have often wondered who else the Lord is growing up in our ranks of local church ministry who should begin serving in more official ministry capacities. As a word of encouragement, I serve in full-time ministry as a layperson, which means not as ordained clergy. I haven’t given that too much thought over the years, but it is a hallmark of the Methodist movement. We need Christians serving in all walks of life, but if you feel called to serve in ministry through the church, don’t dismiss the idea of taking on a ministry role in your home church.
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