Properly understood, Christian Service is a revolutionary concept. The notion of service calls individuals to lay selfish things aside for the needs of others. It is also an important value for all social relationships.
Words relating to ‘servant’ and ‘service’ are central in Christian theology. Some of the most important prophecies in Isaiah speak of the coming of the ‘Servant of the Lord’ and his role as a ‘suffering servant.’ That is why Jesus said that he “came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”.
The story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper is well known—this is where he takes on the role of the lowest servant rather than that of the master. Jesus tells us clearly what is the meaning of this action: ‘Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done.’ The action also symbolises the fact that Jesus himself, in his incarnation, has taken on the role of servant, the ultimate task of this servant being to give his ‘life as a ransom’ for many.
Serving God means serving others (Galatians chapter 5 verses 13f). Meaning is found in service rather than in self-centredness. It runs counter to the idea that life is all about competition, or that freedom simply means doing what suits me, or my group, best. It also means that we cannot serve other masters as well (i.e. focus on these as the things of greatest importance) – such as money and possessions. This service is given freely without expectation of return—as in the parable of the Good Samaritan, or in ‘going the extra mile” (Matthew chapter 5 verse 41).
However, Christians would say that service of Christ and imitation of Christ is not all about restrictions: “His service is perfect freedom.”
Service in School
- Many involved in the life of a church school will be able to describe their role in terms of service or vocation. Are pupils being inspired by the same notion?
- How do pupils show gratitude for those who help them in school., including helpers like the lollipop lady?
- How are people encouraged to ‘find’ their gifts and to use them for the good of the (school) community?
- How are pupils encouraged to serve others where possible?
- How are ‘acts of service’ celebrated or remembered in collective worship (celebration assemblies)?
- How is remembering Maundy Thursday and the washing of the disciples’ feet incorporated into worship as a model of service?
- How do different areas of the curriculum, or ways of working, support the notion of sacrificial giving and service?
- How does the area of citizenship promote the concept of serving community and country?
- What opportunities for serving others are built naturally into the curriculum?
- How do you show gratitude for those who serve / help your school?
- Is the notion of headteacher as servant leader in the image of Christ a helpful leadership model in school? Does it create any tension in your thinking? How would you resolve this?
- What are the characteristics of servant leadership in a school?
- How do you achieve a good work / life balance, and encourage other people to do the same?
- Does your vision for the school’s role in the community address the notion of service?