Did I sign up for this?

April 30, 2018

In counseling with troubled couples, I’ve noticed something that keeps them together when everything else is falling apart — the power of commitment.

I know, commitment doesn’t seem like an exciting subject, but it’s more powerful than most of us think. Most of us learned about commitment from our parents who drilled it into our heads not to quit when things got tough. At its core, commitment means making a choice to give up other choices.

Take marriage for example. When marriage gets tough – and it will at some point – we need to remember, “I chose this; I’m going to do whatever it takes to make it work.” Otherwise, it’s too easy to say to yourself, “I never really signed up for this.”

Commitment comes in two forms, devotion and obligation.

Devotion is a decision to give your best because you care deeply about someone or something. It motivates you and moves you forward.
Obligation is the idea that you have to do something whether you want to or not. It’s a force pushing you from behind. This is the kind of commitment parents usually talk about. But it’s difficult to stay motivated doing something long term out of a sense of obligation.

However, if you can get devotion and obligation working together, you will have a powerful, super glue-like bond that’s hard to break. Consider Jesus’ journey to the cross. Was it devotion or obligation? Both. (See Luke 22:42.)

Now, let’s apply this to life in the church.

If you’re a church leader you may be discouraged because you sense commitment to your church is declining. You’re not imagining it. It’s real!

Although there’s not one simple reason for this, it’s easy to see that a younger generation isn’t as willing to give as much as older generations gave to support their church. The reason for this continues to confound many church leaders who often find themselves without adequate lay leaders.

It’s not that people don’t care, nor that they are a bunch of commitment-phobes. They just don’t think the same way earlier generations did about church. Actually, they may not be thinking about church at all. Why? Because young families today are overcommitted, but under-connected, especially to each other.

So if you’re a church leader you’ll have to think carefully about what you are asking for If you want to see young families involved. The good news is they are generally willing, but our approach will have to change. Here are four considerations to keep in mind.

1. Encourage commitment to family.
Help young families learn to connect and make a stronger commitment to their own family before trying to get a stronger commitment to the church family. Get this out of order and you are only contributing to the problem.

2. Pray, then ask for a commitment.
Too many of us have grown accustomed to bulletin announcements asking people to serve, then growing frustrated when there’s little reaction. Praying, watching God work and then asking for the right kind of commitment is far more effective in creating a strong church family.

3. Define the time frame.
Instead of asking someone to serve for three years on a committee, how about asking them for a short-term commitment? Better yet, consider asking them to serve on a task force for a specific reason to resolve a specific problem.

4. Answer the question, “Why would I sign up for this?”
It’s best to answer this question before it’s asked. People today want to know “how will this make a difference?” before they give their time. We all want to know that our time meant something.

If your church doesn’t look and act like the church you know it can be, don’t give up. Model and teach on commitment. It really matters.


by Eddie Thompson 
Pastoral Ministries  /  Baptist State Convention of North Carolina

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