I’ve recently been detailing some new thoughts on how we engage in service, local missions, social justice, etc., borne from my amazing job where I get to think about these things and how to help our church’s members participate in them even better. (You can see all the entries in this series here.)
Last month was our church’s big “Hunger Month,” and I had the awesome chance to run point on that project this time around. And since I’m musing on service ideas and it’s Fridea day, I thought I’d riff a bit on doing something like this in your college ministry.
A month-long (or otherwise multi-week) focus can be effective. If there’s a particular cause your ministry has chosen, why not use multiple weeks to highlight it or engage in it? For us, the multi-week aspects included a 3-week food drive and multiple trips to help at the local food bank. For you, it might mean four Saturdays at the homeless shelter, or three different nights connecting with three different justice activities.
We can (and should) teach about the issues. Far too often, we push students to serve without teaching about the why and the best practices of what we’re doing. But in a multi-week effort, it gets easier to tie in some teaching, perhaps a documentary, some small group discussion, and more.
But there are other facets we can cover, too. Besides a chance to learn, holding a long-term focus means we can cover multiple facets of the issue. For us, that meant our members got to donate food directly, got to help sort food at a “middle man” food bank, got to help deliver food to a frontline food pantry, and got to feed kids directly. Likewise, a multi-faceted effort with a local school might mean tutoring kids, meeting teachers in a poorer school, talking to administrators, and serving parents.
Events should be tied to process. What we have to remember about big events, including multi-week ones, is that they still need to be tied to a process. In some cases, that process may come afterwards – small groups studying the issues raised during the month, for instance. Or the process may be something ongoing in your ministry – it’s a cause you’ve been connected to for awhile, for instance, and students have a chance to continue plugging in long after “Mission-ganza” or “Service September.” This is important for both our students and the people we’re serving.