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  • Understand that God made us with a variety of learning styles, and different people will have different modes of engaging.
  • Recognize that there are external and internal circumstances that impact how fully a person might be able to participate.
  • Be respectful of individual choices and personalities in order to create a safe space for people to come and go as needed.

Anchor verse: Mark 10:17-31

J esus does not say it’s impossible for a rich man to enter heaven. But here we have a story of a man who found it difficult to give it all away. He was wealthy. He was a man who had all he needed. He had worked hard for it, and he obeyed all the laws. He was a good man. Yet, giving it all away seemed impossible. I know I can relate to this story. When we work hard for something, it can be difficult to give it away. But sometimes, like he did in this story, Jesus asks us to do just that. 

This passage is also about participation levels. Not everyone is called to be a pastor, teacher, evangelist, or front-line worker. No one is called to serve everywhere. Each person has their own God-given gifts and abilities as we discussed in week 2. And God uses those gifts for particular service. Everyone has a different place to serve, a different ability in service, and a different timeline.

Jesus had a genuine love for this man in Mark 10. He knew this man and how God had created him. He was speaking specifically to this man, accounting for his personality and uniqueness.

Personality and experiences can affect participation

Have you ever put pressure on yourself to serve more? I have listened to people who see so many needs in the world, they are overwhelmed. They want to serve and are serving, yet to them it does not feel like enough.

Over the years, I’ve begun to learn about personality types. There are many different types of personalities. There are also many types of experiences. It’s important to acknowledge these differences and how they might affect a person’s participation. Get to know the different individuals who come into your community, then find out where and how they can serve.

A person who has experienced trauma and pain might not quickly jump in to serve. They are a part of your church, they come each week, but trusting is difficult. Pain can cause fear. Serving in a church to them might mean they must fully trust the community, which they are hesitant to do. When they do trust, it might take a while before they are ready to serve. You might think it’s just about sacrificing a few minutes on a Sunday, but to someone else, it’s a big step in commitment and trust.

For those who love to connect with people, possibly because they are extroverts, serving in church and outreach is easy and actually fills them up and brings energy. For others, being a greeter is exhausting. Yet, an introvert might find joy in writing or be better at actively listening and sharing their thoughts with others. Many introverts have been known to find joy in creating, and that is service, too. Part of respecting others in your midst is getting to know what fills them up and what brings them joy.

For a time, our family had international students living with us. One of the students mentioned that, being in the United States, it was difficult to make friends with English-speaking students. Because her English was not quick, she came across as a quiet person. In reality, she was an extrovert full of energy. She wanted her English-speaking friends to understand that many thoughts and ideas were in her head; they just did not come out quickly out of her mouth! She ended up spending most of her time with those who spoke the same language as her. After spending all day translating, she was exhausted.

For this student, it was easier and took less energy to be with people who spoke her language. But she was determined to make English-speaking friends and learn American culture, so she persevered. She tried to volunteer as a greeter at church, and at school, she helped set up for school dances. As she put herself out there, she felt cold shoulders all around. I often wondered, If she was in a community that understood how to truly welcome a stranger, would her experience have been better? Would she have wanted to participate more in church, helping build a diverse community, if people had been more welcoming and considerate? The community had expected her to fully assimilate, yet the people rarely came to her to understand her. We need to consider what can be done to welcome in individuals, knowing they come from different backgrounds.

Time is a true limitation

It’s also important to acknowledge different seasons in people’s lives. There are seasons in everyone’s lives that are more busy than others. When I was young with no children, my husband and I volunteered everywhere. We were working with runaway teens at a boarding school. These youth took much of our time. We desired to be with them and grow with them. We also served in a retreat ministry and at our church. Then we had kids. I could barely get to church, let alone volunteer at church.

Over the years, I watched families feel guilty for not being at church enough or volunteering in children’s ministry enough. They had a hard enough time visiting elderly family members, let alone volunteering anywhere. Once children leave the home, time is often freed up to volunteer. The busiest time in most people’s lives is when their children are mid-elementary through high-school aged. These 10-15 years are exhausting for many families. This is a wonderful season for them to pour into their children while those in other seasons can volunteer and care for them.

It’s also more than different phases of life. Some people have seasons where they volunteer at a food bank, then they feel a nudge to volunteer as a greeter, then maybe they start writing. I heard a saying once years ago: “You can have it all, just not all at once.” To me, this was freedom. No one person is called to solve all of the world problems, nor volunteer everywhere. If so, then we would not be allowing others to also volunteer and use their gifts and personalities to bless the world. When I say “no” to something, or “not right now,” I’m actually giving a gift to someone else to volunteer in that area. If I jump in and do it all, I’ll most likely experience burnout, and I am not allowing others to have joy in that area of volunteering. 

Everyone has their own participation levels. For many, simply coming to church each week is a big deal. Let’s respect that effort and respect the individuals. We often have no idea what is really going on at home, work, their health, etc. We must show grace to all and seek to understand and know each person; then we can work together to see where and how their personality, gifts, and experiences can be used best for God’s church.

Respecting participation levels in those in our midst is a key value for equity-based hospitality. Be encouraged (thrilled, even) if people just show up each week and keep showing up. 


  1. Read Romans 10:11-12. What do you learn about respecting others’ participation levels? 
  2. Read Proverbs 3:27. How can you serve those who are not participating or participating very little? What do they need from you?
  3. What can you do in your personal life or your organization to create spaces where people can just come and go without expectation to participate? 
  4. Spend time in prayer, meditation, and journaling about how respecting participation levels can bring equity-based hospitality.