How Not to Serve Lemonade (or Jesus)

No one wanted my lemonade.

My husband, Travis, and I were serving at a soup kitchen, and my job was to serve the lemonade. I poured twenty cups, arranged them in a neat four by five rectangle, and waited for the thirsty patrons to arrive. And they came… but they all wanted water. I stood forlornly with my hand gripping the pitcher, a dismal failure as Chief Lemonade Pourer.

This is what Travis jokingly calls the “Serve with Shan” effect. Alas, it seems that whenever I participate in a service project there is no one to serve. Three hours volunteering at a donation center with but one lonely drop-off. Six hours at a food pantry with only three shoppers.

And here’s the one Travis teases me about the most: a nursing home visit during which not a single resident wanted to visit with us, despite how I was waiving around my three month-old baby. Didn’t they want to meet my smiling bundle of cuteness?


When we serve as Christ’s disciples, we do want to do a great job—we want to help people! But we can also find ourselves chasing after the good feelings we get when we serve: we want to feel needed, important, and special.

After all, we were chosen to organize, lead, or serve.  We’re the Discussion Group Leader, Mission Team Member, Care Team Volunteer, or Chief Lemonade Pourer. But God isn’t interested in our titles or positions, or how “effective” our service is.

He is interested in servant hearts. Jesus calls us to serve as He served, to see people with His eyes and love them with His heart. To help them up with His hands and to lift them up in prayer through His spirit. Serving is not about us; it’s about Him.


Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

—Colossians 3:12


Rather than putting on our leadership hat or servant’s robe, we should clothe ourselves in Christ.

How different that day at the soup kitchen would have been if, instead of focusing on serving lemonade, I had determined to pray for every man who came through the line!


Take the Challenge:  The next time you serve, what kind of prayerful, loving attitude can you don?

Is there a Bible verse you can memorize that would help your servant heart?

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