How, when, and where you can best serve in local missions are big questions for many Christians. After all, there’s many ways to serve the Lord, your neighbors, and your city to share the good news of Christ’s love and the Kingdom of God.
When thinking about how I could best serve in local missions (and even within my church), I have found the “three-circles” approach helpful to thinking this all out.
I don’t know who originated this, but I’ve come across it several places, including from pastors and missionaries I respect.
I have found it an extremely helpful tool for thinking out how we can best serve. As you’ll see, it’s pretty self-explanatory.
CIRCLE #1: TALENTS & SKILLS
In the first circle (in your head or on paper) list your talents and skills. These may be vocational skills, hobbies, natural abilities, and practical skills you have. This could even be certain resources you bring to the table.
What are you good at? What do you do better than most people? What would those close to you say if you asked them, “What do I do well?”
CIRCLE #2: PASSIONS
What are you passionate about? What gets you excited? Emotional? Motivated? “Fired up”?
Another way to think about this is to ask yourself: What do I spend a lot of time thinking about? Reading about? Talking about? Learning about? What websites do I visit regularly?
CIRCLE #3: OPPORTUNITIES
What opportunities do you have around you to serve - whether through your church or elsewhere? Is there somewhere people are already doing good work - and can you join in? What needs do you see around you? What are the needs of your coworkers, neighbors, classmates, and gym-buddies? Where is there darkness where you can be light?
Ask yourself: What needs to be done that no one is doing?
THINKING IT OUT
Okay, once you have thought out your “three circles,” do a little more thinking: If two of these circles overlap - sweet! - maybe that’s the right place for you to serve. But what’s missing also helps you think things out.
For instance, let’s say you’re skilled at fixing unicycles (Circle #1) and there’s opportunity (Circle #3) to bless your clown neighbor by fixing his unicycle. Excellent! Do it!
But what if there’s also an opportunity to work with a church that has a unicycles ministry, where they fix up donated unicycles and give them to people in need. The problem is, you work at a unicycle repair shop (and you can’t stand it!) and the last thing you want to do is leave work after messing with unicycles all day to go work on more unicycles! Obviously, you’re missing the passion (Circle #2).
Despite you thinking that a unicycles ministry is an awesome way to bless people (especially clowns), participating regularly at a unicycles ministry probably isn’t a good fit for you. On the other hand, helping one clown in immediate need right in front of you is something you can put your disdain for unicycles aside for.
Let’s say you live in a strange town were all of the high school students were abducted by aliens. Let’s also imagine you have the talents (Circle #1) and passion (Circle #2) to mentor high school students, but there’s no opportunity (Circle #3)! Well, you basically have two choices: (1) You find something else to put your heart into (perhaps until the opportunity does arise - i.e. the aliens bring the teens back) or (2) you go out and search for opportunity - you “create the opportunity” (by perhaps driving to another town not devoid of teens).
What if you have the passion (Circle #2) and opportunity (Circle #3), but not the skills (Circle #1)? Well, how do you get the skills? Is there someone that could mentor you? A workshop or online course you could take? Some way to gain experience?
So, as you can see, having two of the three circles helps guide you.
But what if all three of your circles overlap? Jackpot! It’s a no-brainer! What are you waiting for? Go do it!
To give a personal illustration, I’m involved in a ministry right now where all three of my circles interlock. My skills and talents (and experience) have to do with teaching and working with teens and young adults. I’m also a former skeptic, a former self-proclaimed atheist/agnostic. My passions are the Bible, theology, and apologetics (using logical arguments to defend our faith). And the opportunity was an apologetics-based campus ministry at Rutgers called Ratio Christi. The opportunity first came for me visiting the campus club as an occasional guest speaker. Then, the founding chapter director retired, and I became a chapter co-director for the Rutgers chapter.
Likewise, a good friend of mine is an herbalist and vegan. These interests and passions make him unusual in most Christian circles, and being Christian makes him unusual in most herbalism and vegan circles. Thus, he’s decided to use his interests and passions as an opportunity to be a Christian presence in these subcultures.
So, what are your talents/skills, passions, and opportunities? Think it out. Don’t forget to pray about it. Then, go “seek the welfare of the city.” (Jeremiah 29:7)