Depth vs. Breadth


Jamie Hughes and Linda Canup discuss the numerous ways that Churches provide opportunities to serve—so many, in fact, that it can be hard to choose just one!


Research shows it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at anything. If we break that number down into a more manageable chunk—say, an average workday—it means a person would have to practice eight hours a day for three and half years to be truly skillful in a task.

Perhaps you can hear your old piano teacher’s advice coming to mind: Yes, practice does indeed make perfect. So, why is it that more Americans today spend their time darting from one thing to the next like frazzled hummingbirds?

Our world moves at a frenetic pace, and most Christians are just as busy as their non-believing counterparts. Think about the average week of church activities available to a congregation these days: it’s not uncommon to find someone spending Sunday in the nursery, Tuesday in Bible study, Wednesday in choir, Thursday in a homeless shelter, and Friday with the church softball team. Often, the end result isn't a believer who has a deeper relationship with God, but a bone-weary soul who’s unable to hear His voice.

Perhaps this is why the apostle Paul told believers, “There are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons” (1 Cor. 12:5-6). Sadly, in our attempts to operate as one-man Christian bands, not only do we rob ourselves of happiness, but we also deny fellow believers a chance to bless others with their gifts.

Rather than quantity of service, we should provide God with quality. Consider choosing one or two areas where you feel you can gain and provide the most with your time. Doing so will allow you to feel a sense of genuine competence as well as a greater ownership of what you do.

Unlike the race Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, which could have only one champion, we run not against each other but against ourselves as we strive to overcome the “sin which so easily entangles us” (Heb. 12:1). Taking the routes God has chosen at the right pace guarantees both our victory and our joy along the way.


Learning exactly where God wants us to focus our gifts and talents can be a challenge, especially if we don’t yet have a clear sense of what they are. In that process of discovery, sometimes we need to dig more deeply into a ministry and spend time cultivating relationships. But, at other times, it’s more helpful to serve a little in a lot of areas.

Perhaps you’re not able to make a big commitment right now. Or maybe your current responsibilities already feel overwhelming. Responding to a number of little opportunities may be just what the Lord has in mind for you.

As Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 reminds us, there’s a time for everything; you don’t have to dedicate yourself to one ministry forever. It’s okay to use your talents and skills across multiple platforms. For example, if you have the gift of service, you might use it cleaning up after midweek kitchen duty, setting up chairs for a special program, and helping at an outreach event in your community—all without having to be in charge or attend meetings.

Being involved in multiple ministries allows us to do three things:

Make a big difference in little ways. Sometimes it’s a matter of doing the right thing—in the right place and at the appropriate time. A simple prayer, a meal during a time of need, or a merciful response in a moment of vulnerability can mean the world to someone else.

Experience the full extent of our giftedness. If we focus only on one ministry, we may have to put some of our other talents on the back burner. By occasionally doing a few little things in other areas of giftedness, we can keep from fizzling out in our main area of ministry.

Find a place to plant roots. The only way to know if you’re good at something is by giving it a try. You may end up volunteering in several ministries before finding one that really draws you in and makes you want to stay.

As with all things, keep praying and asking God to show you His will for each day. Then, as you accept new opportunities to serve Christ, you’ll find the way to a life that more fully glorifies Him.


This article was selected from In Touch magazine. 

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