By: Katie Edwards, Junior High Pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA
One of my favorite parts about student ministry is getting my students involved in giving back to the community around them.
But if I’m being honest, it’s also one of the most challenging. Getting students excited about doing things for other people isn’t always easy. And coming up with new and unique ways for our students to serve, love, and share our resources can be even harder.
To help take just a little bit of that weight off your shoulders, let me share with you a few unique things we’ve done (and you can do, too!) to get our students involved and give back to our community.
Write letters to veterans or people in the military. This one is great because it’s short, simple, and makes a big impact. Have your students take just five minutes in Small Group to write a note of appreciation to the veterans or military service members in your community.
Create a care package. Fill a basket with anything from small home décor items to food to notes of encouragement. Then, deliver the care package to people in your community you know could use a pick me up. Think widows, spouses of military members, families who have lost a loved one, and more.
Porch drop. Leave Scripture, encouraging notes, small treats, or a bag of groceries on the front porch of a family in need in your congregation. A little act of kindness like this will go a long way in lifting their spirits.
Do a food pantry scavenger hunt. In Small Groups, have your students go door-to-door to collect canned goods for your local food pantry or for a family in need. Make a list of specific items they need to collect. The group with the most items check off at the end wins a prize!
Instagram campaign. Post a picture of your Small Group holding signs with words of encouragement to someone who needs it. In the caption of your post, write something like, “Today in Small Group, we were thinking about you, ” or, “We think you’re awesome because…” or, “Our small group loves you!” Be sure to tag the person you want to encourage so they see it!
Cook a meal for your family. Challenge your students to give back at home by taking charge of dinner. Have them buy the ingredients, make the meal, and even clean up afterwards.
Babysit. Is there a family in your church that you know could use a night off? Encourage your students to offer them one night of free babysitting. Or, host a Parent’s Night out at your church for families to drop off their kids for a few hours. Have the students in your ministry serve as babysitters that night.
Serve a nursing home. This one is great because there are so many ways you can do it! Decorate a room in a nursing home for a holiday. Bring treats to the residents. Host an evening of games or activities. Or simply send cards to residents from your student ministry.
Raise money to support someone going on a mission trip. So often students think about raising money to support themselves on a specific trip or student ministry mission, but why not give them the opportunity to do that for someone else? Have your students focus on raising money for another person in your church (maybe an adult, a family, or even a church leader) who is serving on a mission trip. It’s a great way to get them involved in supporting the work of others at your church.
Clean out your closet. What student couldn’t benefit from a little spring cleaning? Trust me, their parents will love this one! Get your students to clean out their closests and bring the items they want to get rid of to your church. Then, donate the clothes to a foster agency or Goodwill.
Bake cookies or cupcakes for a teacher. We all know teachers have one of the hardest jobs in the world. Get your students together to bake them some treats to show their appreciation. Be sure to include a thank you note with it, too!
Encouragement jars. Find a family in your church or community to encourage. Have your students fill a jar with verses, kind words, jokes, and other notes of encouragement to serve and love that family.
The $5 challenge. Give everyone in your student ministry (or every Small Group) a $5 bill. Tell them they have to use their $5 to do something for someone else. Encourage them to take pictures to share what they did.
Help coupons. What are your students good at? Have them create coupons for their trades or talents to give to members of your congregation. They’ll be using their skills to serve other!
What ideas can you add to this list?
I would love to hear them!