Faith

Don’t despise the small things: Why size is not everything in ministry

by Kimberly Tan // January 5, 2021, 4:03 pm

Don't despise the small things

In her previous article, Kimberly Tan confessed how her motivation to “do big things for God” had resulted in burnout after 4 years in full-time ministry. In this reflection, she shares how she has come to realise that making known the greatness of God doesn’t necessarily require big and fancy expressions. 


“Do great things with some love.” – Not Mother Teresa

What she really said was: “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

However, I must admit that in my years of being involved in youth ministry, the former was probably what I used to do… up until around a year ago.

After all, the bigger the ministry effort, the greater the potential impact, right?

It’s like casting a net – the bigger and better the net, the more fish I can potentially catch. And if we all cast bigger and better nets over time, we can conquer the whole ocean.

Sounds logical. But I’ve come to realise that things don’t always seem to work that way in ministry! There can be fruit – even when you don’t seem to see it first, even when others don’t see what you’re doing. 

Here are three ways I’ve seen God doing His big work in the “small things”.

A SEED SOWN

In the course of youth ministry, I’ve tasted fruitlessness over and over again. I’ve poured out time and effort into many young people, only to yield apathy and rejection to the gospel. There have been times I would get so discouraged, where my work felt meaningless.

However, in 2019, I discovered that what I thought was a “failed” ministry effort with small results had yielded fruit unexpectedly.

I had spent a year befriending and journeying alongside a group of 11 non-believing youths, but none came to know Christ.

I remember standing next to one of them during an evangelistic event that I had thought was rather impactful, sorely disappointed when she appeared to have no reaction to the songs or the altar call.

Four months later, however, as I was having a casual conversation with this same girl about meeting up on a Saturday, she told me she couldn’t make it because she had to go to church.

I was so surprised, I think I asked her to repeat herself at least two times.

Burnt out within 4 years: The full-time ministry worker who is glad she “failed”

I asked her when she started believing in Jesus, and she told me that she had actually already considered responding during the evangelistic event I brought her to, but she didn’t feel quite ready.

It was only when her friend brought her to a Good Friday event that she decided that she was finally ready to accept the gospel!

This isn’t the only time this happened. There have been other occasions too. 

A LIFE TRANSFORMED

2020 was the first year that I wasn’t active in any church and parachurch ministries because of my sabbatical.

As such, I didn’t have to intentionally update anyone about the relationships that I continue to pour time and effort into nurturing.

After serving for many years, I realised that I had grown accustomed to people being aware of my ministry activities. While this was necessary for accountability, I also derived a certain sense of security in having my work publicly acknowledged.

And yet, I’ve come to see how my unrecognised ministry opportunities have borne sweet fruit.

God is at work even in my simple and unseen service.

Over the past year, I have been meeting a young friend for Bible study and candid conversations about faith. She had been struggling with unique issues that she felt other Christians did not understand or empathise with.

During a recent meet-up, she thanked me for being the one person who journeyed with her and gave her a safe space to share authentically about her struggles. I was filled with so much joy and gratitude, not just because of the affirmation.

To tell you the truth, the honest sharing, reflection and pressing in to seek God’s will in grey areas has been a two-way ministry. Some of the issues she struggled with were reminiscent of my own.

We bore one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), and witnessed God working through our struggles to help us come to a deeper understanding of our human limitations and flaws, as well as a deeper trust in God and surrender to Him.

This fellowship that developed organically built us up during a tumultuous year. Through it, I realised that God is at work even in my simple and unseen service.

A CHANGE IN HEART

More importantly, I’m thankful that God changed my heart to be willing to serve even in quiet ways with gladness.

A few weeks back, I received a text from an acquaintance who was desperately looking for logistics help for a youth day camp happening over the next few days. I instinctively wanted to brush it off as it was not an area I usually served in. Moreover, I already had a few things to do.

However, I decided to pray about it before saying “no”.

Are you serving for affirmation?

Within a matter of minutes, God brought to my mind all the times I organised ministry activities and had to scramble to find volunteers to provide thankless logistical support. I had always been so grateful to these hidden warriors who plugged the gaps.

Furthermore, I was also reminded that ministry doesn’t just include the act of befriending non-believers or sharing the gospel. It also includes ministering to the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ (Matthew 25:31-40). And so I agreed to help out.

I don’t know how helpful my presence was, but I’m thankful to have the opportunity to meet the needs of fellow believers, especially as they were serving their youths.

Making known the greatness of God doesn’t necessarily require big and fancy expressions.

Through these little experiences, I’ve realised that God cares about the small and mundane.

He is interested in how Christians treat each other. He is concerned about the feeding of the hungry and thirsty. His desire is for us to be set apart in how we conduct our day-to-day activities.

Making known the greatness of God doesn’t necessarily require big and fancy expressions.

After all, God defines the greatest thing as love (1 Corinthians 13:13). If we lean into growing in and pouring out His love, in big and small ways, we become God’s channel for making his greatness known to others.

THINK + TALK

  1. How have you seen God at work in the small and mundane things that happen in your life every day?
  2. How much is love a determining factor in how you relate with others?
  3. What do you understand by the phrase ministering to people’?
About the author

Kimberly Tan

Kim drinks arguably more coffee than water. Her secret aspiration is to be a serial escape (room) artist.