The church I attended while in college looked for ways to reach out and serve the community we lived in. Situated right on “Frat Row” in one of the most educated cities in the country, our church had a unique position to serve.
While I was attending this church, it held “Sending Sundays.” These were abbreviated worship services (meaning they had a much shorter sermon), after which we would all head out to serve locally in some way. Sometimes this meant yard work, sometimes it meant driving to one of our partner churches to serve, and other times it meant serving as a group in any other way we could find on that particular Sunday.
These servant events were pretty well received and decently attended. I remember one particular Sending Sunday when I was raking the yard of a frat house across the street; the mother of one of the brothers come up and asked us if she could pay us. In that moment, we got to share about how as a church we serve because of Christ. I’ll be honest, at the time, it seemed like an awkward situation. Did she or her child end up at our church? No—not yet, at least. Was that the goal? Again, no. But that moment illustrates how outreach through service can happen.
Yes, service can facilitate outreach! For some, it’s actually the most comfortable way to do outreach! That being said, the point of service isn’t to grow your church’s numbers—it’s to follow Christ.
On Their Schedule
My church from college actually no longer does Sending Sundays. Why? Because, by their nature, they required a certain amount of selfishness on the part of our church. We needed our community to bend to our helping wants. On this specific Sunday, they had to have a need for a group of people to come help. That’s not how the world works. That’s not how need works. My former church now asks local organizations to let them know when they need help. When they hear of these opportunities to serve, they send people.
I’m not saying that this method is wrong, I just want to remind others that not every model works for every organization. Check with local organizations to see when they might need you, not when you need them.
In-House Service Projects
Projects that can be done on site are good ways to serve while also being involved in fellowship. Tasks could include making blankets for a hospital or creating homeless bags to hand out on the street. I know one church that makes jars of hot chocolate mix to give to visitors. These services are awesome and appreciated. When you provide the opportunity to do something in house, all members of your congregation can join in. Not only that but in-house projects are also a great entry point for people who may be intimidated by a church service. It’s an easy invite: “Wanna come help us tie some dog toys for the animal shelter?” From the youngest to the oldest, participants of all ages can help, whether it’s by bringing supplies or by putting a bottle of water in a plastic bag.
I tend to not think of fundraisers as service, and that’s a bad thing! Sometimes the best thing to do for a person or organization is to give money. Creating fundraising events and donation drives is work, and it is service. In my experience, a successful fundraising event can be a great way to raise awareness while also raising funds.
One successful fundraising event that I’ve seen is a “parents’ night out.” Recruit people (your older youth can make great chaperones, but also make sure there is at least one adult present) to watch kids for a three-hour stretch one evening. Offer childcare for a small donation. You can plan activities for the children, such as watching a movie, or learning some Sunday school or VBS songs. My college roommate’s home church took this a step further: not only did they have a childcare night but they also hosted a fancy dinner for the parents! Some youth stayed with the children, while others served with the waiters and waitresses! But simply providing childcare at a donation price is a great way to start.
Another way to raise funds is through a donation drive. A donation drive is what I personally think of when I think of a fundraiser. During a drive, you set the monetary amount that you want to raise as your goal, and then you simply ask for donations. When you ask, be sure to explain where the money will be going and what it will be used for! Put a notice about it in your church announcements, and publicly tell everyone about the drive.
Jesus calls us to serve our neighbors and the world. As the Church, we are asked to care for the needy and brokenhearted. When outsiders to Christianity see us serving and caring for others, they will learn more about who we are. It provides an opportunity to share the love of Christ in more than one way. Service on a large scale, involving most members of your church, takes some planning, but I hope these ideas will help you to think through some ways to serve, both locally and in far-off places.
Help us support those who facilitate outreach in our own country and around the globe.