We at Excellerate believe very strongly in the power of serving the community to grow the church. Serving isn’t some trick to create growth, or some way to tie God’s hands and force Him to grow your church, serving is a way to treat people the way God wants to see them treated, and it’s the very essence of God’s personality. That’s why it’s so powerful.
Of course, the hardest part of serving is figuring out what to do. That’s why we’ve collected these ideas for serving your community. For more ideas, we’d like to recommend a great book, Servolution by Pastor Dino Rizzo. His church is one of the best when it comes to serving the community, and his book will give you lots of ideas.
Community Service Idea #1 – A Free Store
The idea is that you collect new and gently used clothes, or really anything else you want to include, from your church members and from donations from the community. Then, once a month or so, depending on your supply, go to a poor neighborhood and allow people to come in and select a set number of items. There’s no charge for the items, but people can only get so many per person or maybe give out bags at the entrance and each person can only take what they can fit in the bag.
Also, remember to contact local stores and ask if they have any donations. Or, better yet, local clothing manufacturers. Many factories end up with clothing that isn’t good enough to sell, but is still perfectly good, it’s just that the logo is crooked or the legs on the pants are of different lengths and the factory isn’t going to pay someone to re-hem them.
Just be warned that some donated items will be ready for the trash heap when they arrive, so plan in advance how to politely decline or dispose of those items. It is possible to get rid of them without hurting people’s feelings, so long as you plan ahead and figure out the best way to handle those cases. And, I would suggest disposing of poor quality items rather than just hoping they get taken fast. You want a reputation for amazing service and love, not as a place to get stuff no one will ever wear.
Community Service Idea #2 – Shuttle Services for the Elderly and Ill
Naturally, you can’t just call someone and be like “You’re old, do you want my church to drive you to the doctor?” Aside from being offensive, it would be creepy. People don’t have any way of knowing for real if you’re from a church or not. Aside from the humor factor, that’s why I mentioned such an inconsiderate offer of help: to make the point that this method of serving the community requires special care, since you have to prove your reliability to those you seek to help.
That’s why the best route is to contact places that might know of people interested in your church’s help, such as doctors offices, physical therapy clinics, maybe a grocery store in a part of town where a lot of elderly people live, etc.
There are plenty of people that have trouble running errands, or who need so much help that they wear their friends and family out with driving them around (just imagine what it would do to your work schedule if your spouse had to get chemo every week and you had to take them, or if your sister couldn’t drive because she lost their leg in a car crash but she still needed groceries and her kids still needed to get to soccer practice). So, find areas where people like that would pass by and tell the doctors or staff working there that you would love to help and that they should feel free to give out the contact information to the church to anyone interested in scheduling a ride somewhere. That way, the doctor or the manager of the store will get to know you and can vouch for you as a safe person to rely on. Plus, they’ll also have a better idea of those who really need the help.
Community Service Idea #3 – Bring Gift Baskets to the Police and Firefighters of Your City
Tons of people go feed the homeless on Thanksgiving or send thank you cards to military personnel stationed overseas who are away from loved ones, but few people remember that there are police officers who are working and risking their life while their child is having their first Christmas. When you bring them gift baskets or candy to share around the office, it means a lot. Of course, before you do this, it would be a good idea to call ahead and
- make sure you’ll come at a convenient time and
- find out about any rules that govern how you can serve.
As government employees, police and firefighters may not be able to accept certain things as gifts, but I’m sure there’s something you can do that will meet them where they are.
Community Service Idea #4 – Look for People that No One Ever Thinks About Serving
A good example of this would be that for Christmas last year, my church went to give gift baskets to the nurses at St. Jude Hospital in Memphis. St. Jude is a hospital that specializes in cancer research and focuses primarily on helping young children who have cancer. Naturally, everyone is eager to do something for the kids and their family, especially during the holidays, but no one ever does anything for the doctors, nurses, and staff of the hospital. I doubt they mind too much, since they want to see the kids happy, but when our team showed up and said they came to serve the staff, it touched a lot of people because they never expected to be remembered and even doing something small for them really had a huge impact. Other people that are often overlooked would be: trash collectors, case workers for child protective services or welfare, employees of a store (can you think of the last time someone stopped by Target and gave the workers a gift). You can find forgotten people everywhere.
Community Service Idea #5 – Free Carwash
No donations accepted, just serving the community.
You will need a sign saying no donations accepted, and people will try to donate, but just tell them you only want to serve.
Community Service Idea #6 – Meet to Pray for Others
This could be meeting to pray for those in a particular ward of the hospital, or maybe meeting to ask God to show mercy to those with a court date that today, or really any form of interceding for another person’s needs. This may not give a lot of publicity, but God wants to see the sick healed and sinners forgiven, so when you line your heart up with His and ask Him to do the things He wants to see happen anyway, your church will move forward, and the community will be changed.
Community Service Idea #7 – Sack Lunches for Day Laborers
Depending on where you live, sometimes day laborers will congregate in various areas waiting for people to come by and hire them. If that is common in your city (and it probably is if you live in a medium or large city, you just have to find where), consider packing sack lunches for them and then going out that morning before the laborers get hired and giving them all a lunch to take with them.
Community Service Idea #8 – Think of What You Would Do if it Were Christmas, and Do Those Things When It’s Not
This is a great source of ideas for serving. It’s amazing how many cool service ideas people come up with around the holidays, and most of them would be even more meaningful if you did them when serving wasn’t a fashionable thing, like it is during holidays. It could be something as simple as making more of a conscious effort to smile at others (which we all try to do around Christmas, even when we are angry over the mall parking), or feeding the homeless, or donating gifts to the less fortunate (there are birthdays to consider, after all).
Community Service Idea #9 – Mowing Lawns for People in Your Community
Community Service Idea #10 – Offering the Skills of Your Members to the Community
Do you have several teachers in your church? Set up tutoring once a week. Do you have doctors? Ask a store if you can set up a table where people can get advice on dieting issues. Do you have college students? Call local high schools and offer to come in once a month so juniors and seniors can ask questions about the college application process.
Community Service Idea #11 – Collect School Supplies to Donate to Local Schools
This is a great way to serve because even the smallest gesture seems huge to the recipient. Trust me, I teach a few nights a week and you’d be amazed how many problems come up. Most are trivial, but, over time, they wear teachers down and make them feel unappreciated. If you do something even as simple as befriend one teacher, you’ll touch them deeply and other teachers will also take notice.
Community Service Idea #12 – Serve the Unemployed / Under-employed
Help them polish their résumé, look for jobs, etc. You can also help people with the paperwork needed to apply for unemployment and other government assistance.
Community Service Idea #13 – Water Give A ways
These are pretty simple, but fun. Get a group together, use bottled water, and find an intersection with a median you can stand on and be out of the way of traffic. Then, just hold up a sign saying “Free Water.” It helps if your team dresses alike (same t-shirt or something) so the event feels more planned and people will be more comfortable. Also, I would suggest you pick an intersection that is neither deserted, nor flooded with cars, because if the intersection is too busy you won’t have time to give out the water to everyone who wants it and that tends to encourage you to take risks and some cars will wait for you and cause a traffic jam, etc.
Community Service Idea #14 – Stage Plays, Talent Shows, etc. at Local Nursing Homes
This is also a great way to engage your youth, by letting those who are interested be in the plays and have fun with the shows, while also reaching out and serving those in the nursing home.
Community Service Idea #15 – Teaching English, Computer Skills, etc. to Recent Immigrants
You’d be amazed how easy it is to fill these classes. Many radio stations aimed at audiences that are primarily comprised of immigrants will be happy to carry an ad for these services for very little cost, and anytime my church has advertised their English classes on the radio, one ad run two times has been enough to get around fifty new students.
Another great source for filling these classes is local businesses. In my experience with teaching classes like these, many business owners have great workers that they would love to promote to assistant manager or even to the point of putting the employee over an entire location, but the person doesn’t speak English well enough to be handle the new post. Many employers will be more than happy to encourage their employees to attend your classes and will work with them to make it happen.
Community Service Idea #16 – Handout Roses to Every Woman Entering an Abortion Clinic
This isn’t an easy thing to do, because so many Christians feel so strongly about the rights of the unborn, but when you look in the Bible, Jesus healed a lot of sinners before he ever asked them to repent. If you’re reading this, he forgave you before you were even born, let alone before you decided to repent. That’s the power of the gospel, and the only hope for changed lives. If you show God’s unconditional love, with no condemnation for anyone, you’ll open many doors. You may not see anyone turning their lives around right then and there, but you will let every one of them know that they matter and they will never be disqualified from God’s love and mercy.
Variations on this include: roses for exotic dancers (probably best if you only send women to do this one), candy or water give-a ways to those in bars or at clubs, etc.