A Question: Where’s the Joy?

I’ve got a question.

“Do you have any articles about serving with joy? I feel some of our teams around here are in a slump.”  — from Carolyn at a church in Wisconsin


Thanks for asking, Carolyn. It’s an excellent question; I suspect this situation exists in many churches. There could be many reasons for a lack of joy in serving, among individuals or teams. I’ve never seen any studies on the issue, but the reasons I’m listing here, in reverse order of occurrence and importance, would likely cover most situations. I’m also suggesting what you (what anyone–pastor, leader, member of the team or an outside observer) can do in response.

5. Unaddressed problems.

Something may be going on under the surface that no one’s talking about, such as a crabby team or a conflict or lack of staff support.

What can you do? One on one, ask some of them, “How’s it going?” Describe what you see and express concern. Give them permission to talk about it and communicate your willingness to help solve any problem that exists.

4. Mismatch of task and gifts

For each of us, there are certain tasks which drain us of energy and other tasks that recharge our batteries. Working in the area of our giftedness brings pleasure and satisfaction; in other words, joy! Working out of sense of duty is necessary at times, but can lead to resentment and just plain grumpiness as we see others who don’t seem to be doing their ‘duty.’

What can you do? Continually aim to discover people’s gifts and help them serve primarily in places that use those gifts. Bring questions like these into a conversation: If you could do anything at all to strengthen our church, what would it be? What would be your perfect job? Invite people to do a spiritual gifts inventory and compare the results to where they’re serving.

3. Needing a break

In the church, many (most?) are serving because they felt too guilty to say no. They may need a break but there’s no one else to do it so they keep on carrying on. But just as we need breaks from our jobs, we also need breaks from volunteer tasks.

What can you do? Give ‘em a break! Tell them it’s okay to take some time off, or even to retire from this or that position. Even if there’s no one stepping up to replace them. the world won’t come to an end and our Lord’s church will not cease to exist.

2. The blah’s

Even people who enjoy what they’re doing and are not overworked sometimes get in a ho-hum, so-what slump. They’re bored. The task is routine. They could do it in their sleep and it rather appears that they are.

What can you do? These two ways to get people out of a slump are things we should intentionally be doing all the time!

First, remind each other of the purpose behind our tasks, the reason beyond “it needs to be done.” How does this task impact lives? How does it connect to our church’s mission, our Lord’s mission? Tied closely to this is telling volunteers the results of their work. What was its impact? Share compliments and positive comments. When you thank people for serving, tell them why their work makes a difference. There’s no joy in serving if your effort has no impact.

Second, have fun! There’s no better place anywhere to have fun than in the church; we’ve got more reasons to be happy than anyone. Inject a little fun into serving. Bring a snack to the activity; everyone enjoys food! Throw a party for your team every so often. Or change the routine; have the meeting at the coffee shop instead of the church meeting room. Be silly sometimes; wear a funny hat or a fake mustache when you next serve (unless you’re reading the lessons in the worship service). Throw a beachball around the room. Laughter is the best medicine.

1. We’ve forgotten the Gospel.

While we haven’t forgotten the Gospel literally, we can get so involved with tasks that we rarely recall the Person we’re serving and all He’s done for us. If we don’t have joy in our serving, it may be because we don’t have joy in our lives.

What can we do? We can evaluate our own level of joy. Most of us could use an upgrade! The good news is that we don’t have to work at being joyful. Joy is God’s free gift to us; our joy comes from his never-ending river of joy. But we can be more open to it and mindful of it. We can increase our time in God’s word, noting the many occurrences of joy and the great reminders of the good news, the reason for our joy. (See a starting list below.) We can write down these words of joy, display them, memorize them, drinking deeply and often. We can find joyful songs, hymns and other music. As it grows in us, we’ll naturally share it more with others, in planned and unplanned ways, sharing scripture, music, prayer and conversation especially with our fellow volunteers.

May Jesus’ joy overflow in all our serving!


A life of joy!

Psalm 100:2, Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.

Deuteronomy 16:15, For the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete.

Nehemiah 8:10, The joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Psalm16:11, You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Psalm 28:7, The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.

Psalm 51:12, Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Psalm 90:14, Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

Psalm 126:5, Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.

Habbakuk 3:18, Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

John 15:11, I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

Romans 15:13, May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Phil. 4:4, Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

Why are we so joyful?

John 3:16, God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16)

Psalm 46:1-3, God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.[c]

Romans 8:31, If God is for us, who can be against us?

Romans 8:38, For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I Corinthians 15:57, But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 1:18,  I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

Ephesians 2:8-10, For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Isaiah 40:31, Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.


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