If you’re like most youth programs, you probably offer a crowd pleasing array of programs such as Bible studies, retreats, and wacky special events. Kids attend, knowing they’ll be with their friends in a fun and safe environment. How about adding an additional element to your normal activities? Instead of doing a once-a-year missions project, incorporate volunteer projects on a year-round basis. Many youth leaders have a vague feeling of, “I know our group should volunteer but don’t know where to start.” Instead of simply collecting warm hats at Christmas, check out these opportunities to help the environment, other people or animals throughout the year. Your students will learn what it means to demonstrate Christ’s love as they participate in various volunteer activities.
Build A Neon Birdhouse
According to the Teenage Marketing and Lifestyle Study, teens rank volunteering, the environment and eating healthy as top three activities they consider “cool”. Take advantage of the coolness factor by having teens build birdhouses. One youth group built and painted a variety of birdhouses in wild colors, complete with neon paint. For many of these teens, using a hammer was a new experience. Afterwards, the teens attached the birdhouses to trees around their church parking lot. The teens frequently pointed out “their” birdhouse to friends. Another youth group donated their funky and oh-so-cool birdhouses to a senior center. You certainly won’t end teen crime by offering a bird house building program. You will, however, get some teens to spend a few hours interacting with staff while participating in a volunteer activity. It might just be the catalyst to have a teenager say, “I guess there is more to life than video games!” It’s easy to buy pre-cut birdhouses from S&S Worldwide www.ssww.com
Collect Sports Equipment
Think about the soccer balls, baseball bats, gloves, rollerblades or basketballs you use in your youth programs. Most of us take it for granted that we can always easily find a basket ball to play a pick-up game. But not all kids have the money to buy sports equipment. Sponsor a drive to collect sports equipment and donate it to a Boys and Girls Club or other organization for underprivileged kids. Pass out flyers at church softball games or in church bulletins, asking people to donate sports equipment in good condition. Parents willingly donate extra sports equipment when they know it goes to a good cause. Your youth can decorate donation boxes as well as inspect and clean all donated equipment.
Get your youth group to take part in Make a Difference Day. This is the most encompassing national day of helping others. Everyone can participate, by themselves or with a group. Created by USA WEEKEND Magazine, Make A Difference Day is an annual event that takes place on the fourth Saturday of every October. In 2007, over 3 million people volunteered on one single day. As a bonus to participating, ten people or groups are selected to win $10,000 for their favorite charity. Paul Newman donates the money to encourage volunteering. Could your youth group use an extra $10,000?
The rules are simple: Plan a volunteer project that takes place primarily on the fourth Saturday in October.( If some people can’t participate on Saturday for religious reasons, they can volunteer on Sunday.) Organize a pet food drive to donate to a senior center. We all know the importance of pet ownership to people living alone. Food stamps don’t allow pet food purchases, so seniors appreciate getting free dog and cat food. Ask artistic students to spruce up all the church bulletin boards. Get your high school athletes to volunteer to teach a sports clinic to underprivileged children. Plan a recycling carnival to raise awareness about the need to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Need more ideas? The Make a Difference Day website has an idea generator guaranteed to give you inspiration for a project. After the event, fill out an entry form at www.makeadifferenceday.org to be eligible for the $10,000 award…and a chance to meet Paul Newman!
Sponsor a Shoe Collection Drive
Some researchers with too much time on their hands came up with this statistic: the average woman in America has 30 pairs of extra shoes in her closet! I’m sure you guys also have some seldom-used shoes also. How about asking all your youth group participants and their families to donate their gently worn shoes to Soles4Souls? This amazing 501 3c agency distributes one pair of shoes every 28 seconds! Their goal is to impact the lives of as many people as possible through the gift of shoes. Publicize a few drop -off points for participants to donate shoes throughout the church. After you’ve collected the shoes, simply pack them in sturdy boxes and ship to a Souls4Soles warehouse in Alabama or Nevada, whichever is closest.
315 Airport Road
Roanoke, AL 36274
Foreign Trade Zone #89
6620 Escondido Street
Las Vegas, Nevada 89119
They will sort the shoes and ship them to orphanages, flood or disaster victims and other needy people around the world. So far, millions of shoes have been sent to Russia, Romania, Africa, Guatemala, and locations around the US. Get more details at www.soles4souls.org
When the Katrina catastrophe hit, people quickly volunteered to help. They saw a need and did what they could to improve the situation. In the same way, people often want to volunteer, and simply need to be asked. By incorporating volunteer opportunities in your youth programs, you set the stage to encourage people to share their resources and talents.