Sometimes someone says something that suddenly shifts your way of thinking. And changes how you view the people around you.
Take, for example, a recent conversation with Donna Alexander, Shepherd Community Center’s director of volunteers. As we talked about a range of volunteer opportunities, Alexander repeatedly used a phrase that I love in relation to ministry:
As in, the people who receive services from Shepherd aren’t “clients,” or “people in need,” or even “the people we serve.”
They are our neighbors.
Ministry becomes even more about building long-term relationships and less about meeting temporary (although essential) needs. It becomes less about our need for validation and more about the needs of others – things like respect, dignity, and love.
Now, in case you think, I’m making far too big a deal out of a couple of words, just remember that Jesus had quite a bit to say about what we say to each other, including the fact that our words reflect our heart (Matthew 15:18).
He also left instructions about how we’re to live in relationship with our neighbors (that thing called love).
So, a simple phrase like “our neighbors,” and the thinking it reveals, matters. A lot.
A couple of questions to challenge you and me before we step back into the service line: How do we truly see the people whose needs we try to meet? Do we approach them as equal children of God? Do we carry even a hint of economic, intellectual, cultural superiority? Are we self-centered in our service (“It makes me feel good”), or do we persist when we’re tired, frustrated, and unvalidated?
Do we understand that it’s not about us; it’s about our neighbors? (And the One who loves all of us no matter our Zip code, bank balance, or job title).
Now, let’s go serve. And love. Together.