Church’s have a lot of volunteer spots to fill, especially when the questionable metric for a church’s vitality is how busy it is. From worship participants to potluck facilitating, volunteers keep the church running. Attendees who don’t get involved are called names (pew warmers) and respect is reserved for “active” members. People who like getting up front are valued because they fill roles that make many uncomfortable. Extroverts are admired for starting conversations with visitors.

As a young church-goer, I heard, “He’s such a nice guy! He does so much for the church. He’d do anything for anyone,” and this set the standard. I can’t just show up, I thought. I have to DO stuff. It reinforced my Type A belief that I needed to perform or nothing would be okay. So I started in, doing things to beat the band. People caught the scent and moved in. Some tried to sell me on a job they hated because they were desperate to be done. Some lit up when I expressed interest in a task, only to joke that I’d be sorry I took it on. I felt used and betrayed. I felt like a commodity.

Once, I’d really nailed something and was basking in a sense of accomplishment. I was happy to be able to contribute and make a difference in my church. These feelings dissipated when I got three new requests to serve. Church felt like a dog you could throw a ball for a hundred times and she’d still want more. As someone who stressed over satisfying the people around me, this was hopeless and exhausting. I was caught in a vicious cycle that transformed people, but not for the better. Church burn-out was common and left people discouraged, petty and sometimes, downright bitter.

Church seemed like a dog you could throw a ball for a hundred times and she’d still want more.

What I needed then, and still need now, is for church to be a place where spirituality, human connection, and personal well-being are considered most important. This would create a countercultural refuge for Type A souls. It feels yucky to be wanted for what I can do anywhere, but it feels especially yucky at church.

So how does a Type A navigate an environment where our natural stress makes us susceptible to all requests, not just the ones God is making? It’s wonderful to be conscientious unless you’ve lost track of Who you should be conscientious to. God is our boss and Her interest is in the well-being of all people, not just others. If an activity is sabotaging our spirituality or our family life, we need to reevaluate. This little light of mine is hard to tend when I don’t have any time alone. My love flame burns low when I’m too busy churching to soak up God’s love. If you’re in a tizzy, getting quiet with these truths can help you reorient.

  • We are worthy of love and belonging before we contribute anything
  • Not every church request is a God request
  • There are seasons of life when being a pew warmer is perfect. It becomes a beautiful, practical demonstration of grace. (Grace to give; grace to receive.)
  • What breaks my heart?  (This is likely the best indicator of where you’re meant to serve.)

(Also helpful: surround yourself with people who value your contributions to the world, even if they aren’t connected to a church office.)

God is your boss and your well-being matters to Her. Walk in grace and allow requests that would take you away from your purpose to roll off. You are wonderful, but you are not everything or everybody. When you worry it won’t work out if you don’t do it, remember anything that ever worked out was because God worked it out.

Praise be.