ideas to involve youth in Christ-like SERVICE TO OTHERS

By Fr. Michael Anderson

As   one of the four main elements (fellowship, education, worship, service) to any   youth ministry effort, Christ-like service is one of the most powerful ways   to show youth the Gospel in action. Taking part in a Christ-like effort to help   others can be a life-changing event. It enables us to experience what it means   to help people not because we want to be “nice,” or because we expect   to “get something back in return,” but because of a genuine connection   we feel to them as God’s children.


Below   are listed “doable” ways youth can reach out and help others in imitation   of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Please review these and make this kind   of ministry a regular part of your community’s youth ministry efforts. Above   all, remember the key to involving youth in Christ-like service (as with any   youth ministry effort) is consistency, consistency, consistency!   


1   Go through the teen study unit Reaching Out: Our Call   to Minister: Take the time to study and discuss the Church’s teaching on serving   others. This study unit includes discussion on the importance of our attitude   when helping others, discovering our God-given gifts, and provides a step-by-step   guide to planning a project. The unit is available from the Orthodox Christian   Publications Center [O.C.P.C. 973/ 694-5782). 

2   Review the Resource Handbook for Lay Ministries: Every parish receives   at least two installments per year full of articles, which explain successful   activities parishes have sponsored throughout the Church. Pick one and do it.   

3   Servant Saturdays: Plan a Saturday every six months when your youth group   will help people in the parish (elderly, shut-ins, single parents, etc.) Obtain   a list of people from your parish priest and call them to ask if they have any   tasks your group can do to help them. Make a list of all the people you will   be helping along with their addresses and phone numbers, the jobs requested,   and estimate of how long it will take to do them, and the number of people needed.   Schedule to do it on a Saturday. Meet at the parish with a bunch of bag lunches,   transport everyone to their assignment and meet back at the end of the day for   pizza and a movie. 

4   Community Cleanup: Choose an area in town to keep clean for the next   6 months. Contact city officials to ask if they would provide trash bags or   paint to cover graffiti-covered walls, etc. One Saturday a month take a team   of teens (it doesn’t have to be all of them every time) to clean up the area.   After, go back to the church for refreshments and relaxation.   

5   In Search of a Square Meal: Prepare a list of groceries needed to a complete   nutritious meal, including dessert. Choose a local agency that distributes food   to people in need. Form groups of 4 or 5 (include at least one adult in each   group). Give a copy of the grocery list to each group along with cloth grocery   bags and a supply of your church’s business card. Instruct the groups to go   door to door asking the people to donate one or more of the items on the list.   Be sure to supply the people one of the church’s business cards so that they   know this is legitimate. Have groups explain that the food is being collected   as a donation to (name of the agency with which you are working). Give groups   2 hours to collect all their items. Tell them that they are not to buy anything.   When they have completed their list or at the end of 2 hours, have everyone   return to the church to gather the food and debrief their experience over pizza   and maybe a movie. 

6   Storm Troopers: Form teams of kids to go to people’s houses to shovel   their driveway after a snow storm or clean up their yard after a bad wind storm.   Make a contact list of the “troopers” as well as the people that you   will be helping. 

7   Collect Recycle-ables: go to a recycling station get your deposits and   give to a local charity. You can even connect it to a project to help clean   up an area of town (see above). 

8   Start a Tutoring Program out of Your Parish: Parish youth can sign up   to help younger children with reading, writing, math, or science. Offer tutoring   services each month in the evening, providing a quiet, relaxing atmosphere that   is good for studying, followed by some fun. Contact local elementary schools   about offering your services. 

9   Committing to Community Service Hours: Go as a group to a local town/city   council meeting and offer to donate 200 hours of community service to any project   the council determines under “new business.”   

10   Prepare Meals for a Nearby Soup Kitchen: Contact a local soup kitchen   and offer to prepare a meal. Find out what to cook, ask for food donations from   people in the Church, and gather at the Church to prepare the meal.   

11   Prepare “Sunshine” Packages: Ask your parish priest for the   names and addresses of people who are currently in the hospital, sick at home,   or who are new to the community. Design a “sunshine” package that   would be appropriate for their situation, make and deliver it to them.    

12   Going out on Limb: As a group plan on extending yourselves to people   no one spends time with, the people no one really likes. Eat with them in the   cafeteria; walk home from school with them; invite them to an activity the youth   group is sponsoring; etc. Make it a regular part of your gatherings to discuss   as a group their difficulties, and successes. 

13   Closet Cleaning: Have everyone in the group go through their closets   to collect items in good condition that they would be willing to give to people   in need. Give it to a local service organization that distributes clothing to   people. 

14   Buy a Toy: Save money from allowances and jobs, go to a toy store, and   buy a fun toy for a child whose family might not be able to afford them. Bring   the toys to a local social service organization for them to distribute.    

15   Provide Worship Services for Residents in Institutions: Contact your   parish priest about joining him when he visits the local prisons, nursing homes,   and hospitals to help with singing the responses and reading at services. Vespers   and moliebens are great services to have since anyone can attend them and those   attending get to hear a large amount of biblical readings.   

16   Book Drive: Most institutions (prisons, nursing homes, homes for the   developmentally handicapped) have poor book collections for their residents.   Contact the director of an institution near you and ask for a list of books   that would be helpful for them. Make it a project to collect copies of the books   and deliver them to the institution, incorporating a visit with the residents.   Most institutions have persons who will help prepare your group for a visitation.    

17   Neighborhood Labor Day: Send out small postcards to everyone in the parish’s   neighborhood announcing that the youth of the parish would like to show their   appreciation for the church’s neighbors by a having a work day. Provide a    space on the postcard for them to indicate what kind of assistance they   would find helpful (mowing lawns, washing windows, etc.). Then indicate the   day and time you would be able to come, mentioning that there is no charge.    

18   Offer to help people who are sick with chores: When people are sick or   in the hospital, they are often not able to keep up with many of the day to   day chores in their home. Talk to your parish priest about offering assistance   washing windows, taking out the garbage, vacuuming their homes, weeding gardens,   getting groceries, etc. to people who are ill, or to those who are spending   a lot of time caring for someone who is ill. 

19   Sponsor a Child Overseas: Using money from jobs and allowances sponsor   a poor child overseas. Its an inexpensive but personal way to provide lifesaving   help to someone in need. Many agencies that have these types of programs (Save   the Children, UNICEF, etc.) advertise on TV.   

20   Do a Major Study of Poverty in Your Community: Interview city officials,   social service agency leaders, and persons who are homeless. As a group, discuss   possible recommendations to improve services to the poor and share them with   parish and community leaders.   

21   Participate in Project Mexico: Project Mexico is an Orthodox agency that   builds simple homes for the many homeless people in Tijuana, Mexico. The conditions   are very safe and everyone regardless of their knowledge of carpentry can participate.   They also run the OCA St. Innocent orphanage for boys. Plan to go as a group   during a school vacation. For more information contact them at 619/448-1368.