As church leaders, we know the joy and satisfaction that can be found through serving others. Not only do we bless others through our service but also we create a community with those we serve alongside.
We encourage our members to serve in different roles at church, but we also want to lead well by connecting them with ways to serve others in our community. We want them to take the love of Christ beyond the four walls of the church and into the streets of our cities.
Many churches have recognized the power of coming alongside organizations that are already successfully serving the community.
Instead of creating new programs or starting from scratch, it makes sense to link arms with other people who are already doing it well.
Each community has non-profit organizations specific to their area serving their citizens. They welcome help and support from the faith community. It simply takes church leadership communicating with these non-profits and establishing relationships with them to find out their needs and ways their church members can help.
- Contact school guidance counselors to find families that have specific needs that the church can help meet. It might be buying groceries, fixing a leaking sink, getting a car repaired, or paying an electricity bill.
- Reach out to your local pregnancy center to see if you can help with any maintenance needs. They usually have a resource closet to help new mothers with infant needs such as baby clothes, blankets, car seats, diapers, etc. The center gladly accepts donations for the resource closet. They also welcome volunteers who are willing to make a commitment to help teach parenting classes and build relationships with the clients.
- Visit a homeless shelter/soup kitchen in your area to find opportunities for volunteers to help serve food, donate needed items, or help make repairs. They also look for people willing to help the men and women as they try to get back on their feet by applying for jobs. These individuals can use support through learning soft skills like how to act at a job interview or how to budget money.
- Many afterschool programs that serve children also function as homework centers. These programs welcome volunteers willing to help tutor or assist with homework, as well as just spend time with the kids. So many of these students need an adult willing to listen and invest some time into building a relationship with them.
- Some cities have clothing closets through a non-profit that exists on donations from the community. They need people willing to donate clothes but also volunteers to help sort and organize the clothes.
- My city has a Foster Care Clothing Closet. This non-profit exists to help meet the needs of foster families when they receive a placement. Most children in foster care come to their foster families with just the clothes on their backs. Many families will have an immediate need for clothing, car seats, backpacks, shoes, etc. This organization accepts gently used donations and cleans, organizes, and stores them so all a family has to do is call with their need. They also hold events during the year for the children, like a huge Christmas party. The closet receives donations throughout the year to hold this special event where each family receives gifts for their child but also a magical holiday experience. They need volunteers to donate, help sort and organize donations, deliver the items when a family calls with a need, and help plan and hold the Christmas party.
- Help 4 Kids is a feeding program in my community that packs brown paper bags full of food each week to go home on Friday with children who may not have food at home over the weekend. There are many children in my community who depend on their school for food, but this feeding program makes sure they have something they can fix themselves and eat during the weekend. Many cities have similar programs that rely on not only donations but also volunteers to pack the bags each week and deliver hundreds of bags to the elementary schools.
- If you have a prison in your area, there is probably an organization that looks for ways to serve the prisoners who are there. It may look like packing survival bags for men and women when they get out of prison or helping them navigate their way to finding housing and work when they are released. Some organizations also come weekly to hold Bible studies and allow the prisoners time for some positive interaction and encouragement.
- If you have a drug rehabilitation facility in your city, there are non-profits that seek to serve their patients. These adults need encouragement and support as they seek to become clean and maintain their sobriety. They need volunteers willing to help transport the patients to church or appointments.
- I have a church in my area that holds a weekly class that teaches English for free. This class is open to any individual who wants to learn or improve their English. This skill is so important, but many who need it cannot afford to pay to take a class. You may not feel capable of teaching the class, but the teachers need people to come and give the students opportunities to practice their newly learned English.
- The Bliss Ball is the name of a dance that one church holds in my city. It invites families that have children with special needs to come to a dance held in their honor. These children come to a beautifully decorated auditorium where they are celebrated. They get their picture professionally taken and dance the night away. This event requires many volunteers to plan, set up, decorate, organize volunteers, and train volunteers for it to happen. They love to have volunteers willing to help. If your community doesn’t have a Bliss Ball, they may have something like it or it may be something that needs to be started!
- A church in my city holds a monthly respite night for families with a child with special needs. A group provides childcare for 2 hours one time a month for parents to bring their children with special needs and their siblings. They arrange games, music, and fun led by well-trained volunteers. This time is such a blessing to these parents because it is often difficult to find caregivers for a child with special needs. This ministry gives these parents the opportunity to slip away for two hours and reconnect, knowing their children are well cared for and having fun!
If we take a moment to look around, it is amazing all of the opportunities in our cities to serve others. These organizations need people willing to roll up their sleeves and jump in to help.
We want our members to give and serve each other but also participate in serving the many needs in their community. We can encourage and facilitate this by making sure those in our church know about these needs and are connected to the organizations that are making things happen. What a blessing to see the church body love well both in the church building and in the community!