[This is the 7th in a series of Top 10 Misconceptions some MKs face.]
As much as I don't like labeling people, it's just a fact of human nature that we tend to categorize people. And I'm sure we all have "those people" that we can put into the category of...shall we say..."needy"?
Growing up in a pastor's home, I discovered that pastors end up helping a lot of "needy" people. And sometimes the whole family gets involved, whether it's inviting people into our home, giving someone a ride to a doctor's appointment, giving people a place to stay, etc. And it IS important to help people with their problems, but we shouldn't view "these" people AS problems.
Why would I view a person as a problem? Again, I need to ask myself the "why" question. If I am honest with myself it could be because I value my own personal comfort instead. Spending time with a needy person may involve getting my hands a little dirty on occasion. This may be uncomfortable. I remember times when I was younger and I just wished people would just leave us alone and we could have our house and our family to ourselves. (As long as we're labeling, I tend to be an introvert so I value my alone time.)
We need to find the balance in our priorities. I remember hoping at some times that we as pastor's kids could be just as important to our parents as the people they were "ministering to" in our church. I'm not saying this always happened, but this may in part be why I have so many fond memories of our family vacations growing up. We were away from the pressures of the church and were able to have the undivided attention of our parents. I think it is so important that the pastor's family makes their family a priority so they can be a good example of what an intact family can and should be. This means that we ARE involved with our congregation and with those who are hurting, but we also realize that we cannot be God in another person's life. We can't just drop our family responsibilities. One practical example of this is turning off your phone during supper and making that a time for your family to have uninterrupted time. I have a pastor who makes it a priority to attend his son's baseball game, even if it happens on Sunday. It can be easy to be so busy "serving" and "meeting needs" that the needs of our own family sometimes go unmet.
For myself I find that I like a scheduled life. In my busy schedule, I can also tend to view people as interruptions. Ironically I also find that I want to help people. You can't help people without spending time with them. One practical thing I've recently been trying to do is to "schedule in" free time in so that I can take a few minutes between things/walking down the hall to talk to someone who may need a listening ear. I need to schedule enough "down time" for myself away from people to recharge, but then listen to the Holy Spirit's leading in what opportunities He makes available to connect with people.
Of course I've had to learn this for myself through trial and error. When I first moved out on my own I was sure I did not want to share my living space with anyone else. I like to be independent and do things on my own, and it gets confusing when you add roommates. When I purchased a home in 2005, I took the step to make my home available for renters, as well as trying to make my couch available for those who needed a place to stay. And I can say that yes, it does add a layer of uncomfortableness, but it has also given me such a good opportunity to put into practice what God has been teaching me in my own life.
I had one roommate a few years ago who was dealing with some things. And I remember thinking that I really needed my sleep and there was no way I could talk to her, help her, and be coherent myself. What I learned was that God will give you the strength you need if you are willing to be used. Also it helped me to grow in my knowledge of God, because when you have people asking you questions about Scripture it causes you to dig into it more.
I've also learned that I've discovered that in my own thinking I tend not to want to get involved because I think it will be a long-term situation. When I feel God prompting me to do something, I just need to do it. For example, I saw a post from an acquaintance on Facebook that she wanted help getting a real Christmas tree. I had done that for a few years myself so I decided to invite her to go with me, and we had a nice time together getting to know each other better. This only took one evening.
God convicted me of my lack of love for others. The two greatest commandments are to "love the Lord your God" and to "love your neighbor as yourself." I am working on growing in my love for others. When an idea comes to mind (send a card to someone, send a text, bring coffee to a coworker, write a note of encouragement), I think that could be the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Find ways to connect with people. I need to portray the love of Christ to others without trying to BE Christ to them. My job is not to try to fix them, it's to come alongside, spend time with them. Get to know their interests. Listen to other people.
Here are some practical ways I've been learning to get involved in my community and DO LIFE with the people in my church. I am a member of the local music teachers association. I have volunteered at the Community Center. And I got a dog. Walking my dog has encouraged me to get out into my neighborhood and meet my neighbors.
People are opportunities for me to grow in my walk with Christ.
Reality: God wants to use me in other people's lives to ultimately bring glory to Himself.