It’s no secret that our society is captivated by the ideals of social action and global awareness. Our culture has established these things to be of utmost importance. Beyond mass humanitarian response to tragedies like the Haiti or Japan earthquakes, we’re constantly presented with opportunities to build a home through Habitat for Humanity, provide clean water in a third-world country through Charity Water, or be a Big Brother or Sister. The mantle of social justice has almost become a mark of pop culture. But as believers we know the value of service runs much deeper than a temporary feeling of goodwill.
In God’s design, serving is one of His many tools for personal transformation. Ultimately, service should be the natural outflow of growing as a disciple of Christ. It’s an opportunity to put our knowledge into action! But serving together can also be one of the greatest catalysts to building community. Community can develop more in one day of serving together than in months of merely talking together.
If you’re wondering where to begin, here are a few suggestions to help you get started:
Establish a biblical vision.
For many who have served for some time, service has become just an act of habit rather than a spiritual discipline. Help your group develop a biblical view and theology of community on mission. From the prophets appeal to care for orphans and widows to the Jesus’ ministry to the establishing of the first deacons, God’s people have been marked by compassionate service. Ultimately, the purpose of serving is not merely to complete a service project, but living a life of service! As a follower of Jesus, serving others is an integral part of your identity and an important key to your personal growth. Consider using a study such as Gifts: Learning a Lifestyle of Service (Pursuing Spiritual Transformation Series), by John Ortberg.
Identify passion themes in your group.
Serving together can encompass much more than paintbrushes or soup kitchens. Be creative about service opportunities. What are you passionate about? What makes your group angry or cry or bang your fist on the table? Areas of shared passion and conviction will be far more compelling as you move forward in service.
Consider your neighbors.
Consider who your neighbors are—at the places you live, work, and play. How can you love them? How can you make their day? Send your group out on a prayer walk around some of your neighborhoods one night and the come back to the group meeting to share what you observed. Creative ideas are birthed in prayer.
Look for PV ministry partners.
Often the hardest part of serving together is finding the time to intentionally and strategically plan the service project. PV has identified strategic community ministry partners whose values and philosophy align with that of our church. There are often specific, pre-set scheduled service opportunities within our church ministry partners where your group can begin. The Leader’s Edge: Service Central will include regular listings of available areas of service through PV and our ministry partners.
Name a group service coordinator.
Remember that your role as a leader is not to do it all. Your job is to discover gifts and unleash potential in your members. Look for a group member that has a gift of service, mercy, administration, or hospitality, and appoint them as a service coordinator. Communicate clearly your vision for service in the group, how often you would like to see the group serving together, and how you would like to see them lead the group towards that goal. Then let them run with it!
Service has the potential to bring us closer together and closer to the heart of Jesus in ways you never could in a typical group meeting. So don’t view service simply as something your group does, but as a viable and catalytic means towards transformation together as a community. Never forget: the group that serves together grows together in their relationship to Christ and to each other!