When a youth group comes on a YouthWorks mission trip, all of the details and logistics are managed for them. This allows a group to completely throw themselves into the service aspect of the trip with service partnerships already lined up.
In this brief devotion to service, groups are routinely surprised by how easy and enjoyable serving can be. As staff, I always made sure to explain that I did very little in advance to aid them other than organize the service opportunities. I’d build a relationship with a local nursing home, but groups would create a list of songs to perform shortly before we’d arrive. I’d explain how Kids Club operates, but groups would plan and enact each day. We would find work projects, but it was the groups who would build and paint and serve.
That said, valuable service opportunity usually just take a little forethought and a heart to serve. Here are six easy service ideas that you or your youth group can do.
1. Music at a Nursing Home
Go to your local nursing home and ask to speak with the Activities Director. Generally speaking, they are always looking to fill their calendar with different events and activities and music is a perpetual favorite. Find a talented group of friends and put your music skills to work.
2. Volunteer at a Food Bank or a Homeless Shelter
Organizations like food banks and homeless shelters are often looking for volunteers. Contact a director at a similar organization and ask them when it would be most beneficial that you help. There are often too many volunteers at large events, distribution times, or at meals, but too few on “off” days when more cleaning or stocking may be necessary.
3. $1 Car Wash
This service opportunity is an excellent opportunity to share the radical love of Christ in a very tangible way. Advertise that you are having a $1 Car Wash–people are more likely to come to a $1 Car Wash than a free one. With each customer, wash their car and then give them a dollar before they leave. Accept no money. People will be beautifully shocked and wonderfully confused when they encounter people who not only love Jesus but love like Jesus.
4. Volunteer to pray for others
Go downtown or to another busy locale. Walk between restaurants, bars, stores, and other venues. As you see individuals, explain that you are out praying for people and ask if there is anything that you could pray for on their behalf. Then ask to pray with them. Even nonreligious people will appreciate someone being concerned about their problems and taking them to a higher authority.
5. Volunteer to mow lawns, rake leaves, or shovel snow
My high school friends and I would capitalize on snow days by shoveling driveways for money. We always made a few dollars and had fun in the process of spending a day together around our neighborhood. But we needn’t make money for it to be a valuable, enjoyable experience. Go door to door explaining that you want to help people by volunteering to do yard work. Take this idea further by working with your local church to compile a list of elderly folks, widows, and disabled persons within the church or in the surrounding neighborhoods who need assistance.
6. Have coffee with the homeless
Giving money to a homeless person could be a fruitful deed, or it could a very destructive act. The problem is that without a relationship with the individual in question, you’ll never have any idea where their money is going. Given this criticism, a lot of people have ceased financially assisting the homeless; the issue is that they have done nothing else in its place. Start building relationships with the homeless. Learn their stories. Be their friend. Visit them often. And this can all start by offering to get coffee with them! Just make sure to ask before you act, as some individuals will appreciate something other than coffee more.