How can we find ways to make ministry opportunities when we already feel stretched to the max? One way is to reduce the stuff you are already doing – declutter your time by reassessing your priorities and dropping some of the stuff that is taking up more of your life than it should.
Another way is by looking for ways to extend the things you are already involved in to include others. I want to give you an example of something I’ve done a few times now that turned what I was going to do anyway into an opportunity to share with others: the Not-A-Bookclub.
At the time I first came up with this idea, I was reading a lot about balancing ministry and family. I was ordering a book on that topic when I thought to myself, "I'm going to read this book anyway. Why not see if anyone else wants to read it too?" So I emailed every woman in our church (yep, all of them) and asked them if they’d like to read the book and then have a cup of coffee to talk about it. I made it a one-off meeting because that's all I felt I could reasonably commit to and maybe people would be more likely to join in if it was only a single meeting time. I thought perhaps I'd end up meeting with one or two people but to my surprise about a dozen women responded. Instead of my original plan of a coffee at a cafe, everyone came over to my place and we had a grand time. Discussing the book with others instead of just reading it on my own was fantastic.
After that first experiment, I’ve gone on to do Not-A-Bookclub several more times. My mode of operating has been this: if I'm going to read a book I think might have wider appeal, and if it's not too soon after I've invited people to join in with the last book, I send around an email to every woman in the church directory (even if I don't know them!) and invite them to join in. I invite everyone so no one feels left out and also because having done this a few times I’ve worked out I’m a really lousy judge of who might be interested. It’s often people I wouldn't suspect! I always make it clear that it's a general invite, and if they're not interested to just press delete and forget about it. So no pressure. I offer to do the book ordering for them if they want, or they can chase their own copy.
I have also given myself a couple of rules about the books I choose:
(1) It must be a book I haven't read before. I don't want to start going down the path of reading a book and then thinking, "Now, the women in my church have a real problem in this area and I think they ought to all read this book." I'm working on "the plank in my own eye" principle. I do try to do some firm investigating into the book to check that it's not going to have dodgy theology but I don’t read the book first.
(2) I pick a book I'm going to read anyway. That links into the first rule - not choosing books because you think they are going "fix" other people - and also means that if no one, or only two, want to join in, it's no big deal to me. I was going to read the book anyway. So I don't worry too much about the book selection in the sense of trying to find a book that the maximum number of women in the congregation will enjoy. I just pick a book I'm going to appreciate, and learn from, and go from there.
I don’t set myself a schedule for frequency; I don’t feel obligated to do one every few months or even every year. It’s not intended to be a ‘ministry’ but just an opportunity to open up my life and invite others to join in. If I think about extending what I already do as an individual to include other people, I can manage to be more involved in God's work without driving myself into the ground. So that’s the Not-A-Bookclub. Maybe it could work for you too. Or maybe you have something of your own that you are already doing that you could open up to share with others.