I’ve had the same love-hate relationship with service projects that you have over the years.
On one hand, we love how a single day of selflessness can wake students up to Jesus-centered priorities that their normal routine stifles.
On the other hand, we hate how easy it is for youth to get a circumstantial high off the event and stop just short of turning into Jesus through the event.
Another tension is how serving has almost become cultural karma – we don’t merely serve, but we “give back” or “pay it forward.” Some students use serving to fulfill a community service requirement for school or puff up their transcripts. Others like the idea of making a difference, even if they don’t know how.
We can come up with a huge list of why we shouldn’t do service projects at all.
Still, I’d like to share why I believe you should fall for serving.
Specifically, why I believe serving should be a part of your fall calendar.
1. Making space for service in your ministry helps you personalize your own service to God.
It’s easy to think that all the Lord wants you to do is keep your youth program moving forward from week-to-week. He’s actually interested in transforming your heart along the way, too. As I shared in The Skinny on Service
“When you give up your time, you acknowledge that it was God’s time to begin with. Do you know what it means to operate with such submission and humility that you don’t even think about how submissive and humble you’re being? Have you yet mastered what it means to step in the spotlight to rally others, in order to quickly step out of the spotlight so they don’t follow you but follow Christ?”
2. Sometimes it takes a selfless choice to help a student think selflessly.
We know that the end goal is for students to “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” That’s the invitation to run a marathon—but so many of them first need to learn how to crawl, stand and walk first. Service projects offer bite-sized versions of what a Jesus-centered life looks like.
3. Anyone can serve… anyone.
Once when the disciples came to Jesus complaining how someone was doing things they thought only their group should do, Jesus replied, “Don’t stop him! Anyone who is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:50) That means there is no limit regarding who can serve or what a servant looks like. You can take a non-Christian kid on a mission trip and watch his heart enlarge for God as he sits in a pile of trash next to an orphan, just as you can take a churched kid on the same trip and watch him realize he’s there to lead his non-Christian friend to Jesus instead of you.
4. You gain a way to identify potential student leaders.
When a service project starts out grimy or gets boring, a number of students will find something to distract them. Others will stick with the project or rally their peers back to the cause at hand. This is a great way to figure out who you may want to invest some of your best energy into throughout the school year so that they may reach others.
5. Having serving opportunities on the front end of your school year creates a better question.
Raise your hand if you’re sick of hearing “What’s in it for me?” or “Who else is going to be there?” questions in your ministry. Now imagine if the new question becomes, “What can I do for you?” It seemed to be one of Jesus’ favorite questions—what if it became one of your ministry’s favorite questions?
Does serving really make a difference?
I’d like to hear your thoughts on that.
My spin is serving is about doing something for someone else without getting found out about it. It’s ultimately for Jesus Christ, and practically for the person or cause we’re attempting to further:
“For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.” (Romans 11:36)
Speaking of practical, let’s get real practical.
What are a few of your favorite service project ideas for your ministry?
Share them in the comments, along with any of the tensions or discoveries you’re coming across on this.
P.S. Check out The Skinny on Service!
Looking to make a difference in a community, and in the life of your students? Check out Group’s Lifetree Adventures mission trips! Click here for more information, or you can call us at 800-385-4545. We’d love to talk!