Serving in various capacities has had a huge impact on my faith journey and has shaped my path in life and in professional church ministry. I have served locally, nationally and internationally and have seen the benefits and challenges of all three options.
I have served among friends, repairing roofs and making connections that I will never forget. I have served in areas where Christianity is not widely accepted and Bibles are hard to come by. I have served in areas where natural disasters have struck and changed lives forever. Most importantly, in every situation, I have served the LORD and the people in each situation with an open heart and mind.
Preparing for a mission trip, servant event or one day service opportunity should be approached with a similar mindset and servant attitude. There are variations and more tasks with trips depending on length, participants, location, etc. But each type of trip is important and valuable.
There are many benefits to serving locally. There is Scriptural foundation for serving in various places as well as physical, emotional and spiritual benefits. Here I will outline six responses to the question: “Why serve locally?”
1) We are called.
One of my favorite pieces of Scripture to use when I am discussing mission trip/serving opportunities and why to take advantage of them is Acts 1:8, where Jesus says,
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
For the disciples, who Jesus was talking to, Jerusalem was close by: Judea and Samaria were farther away. And the ends of the earth? Well, I think you get the picture. We are called to witness the faith we have in Jesus Christ and serve others in our homes with our families, in our neighborhoods, at our places of worship, at the grocery store and so on. Basically, we have many opportunities to serve others and be witnesses to God’s love!
2) It’s EASY!
When the question is asked, “Why serve locally?” a response could be, “Why not?” In all of my experiences, serving locally is the easiest because:
- You are in familiar surroundings and it’s somewhat of a comfort zone for participants.
- You have local networks and opportunities to partner with various organizations and stores that may provide donations.
- Inviting students and families to serve for one day or for one week is equally easy because it’s close by.
3) It’s inexpensive.
Serving locally is the most inexpensive out of all the options. Serving in other settings has been worth every penny, but if you are just starting out, trying something new or just don’t have the funds, serving locally is a great, inexpensive option. If it’s a one day serving opportunity, it may even be free (ex. Habitat for Humanity). A new, inexpensive opportunity is more likely to draw parents and students to get a taste of what it’s like to serve.
4) It’s impactful.
Serving in general most certainly has a positive impact on everyone who is involved. Serving locally can have a great impact because it changes a person’s perspective of his/her surroundings. By serving in a familiar area, we are able to connect service with relationships built, as well as making connections for the future. When participants are able to see how easy it can be to serve right where they are, it provides encouragement to try again. Serving locally impacts how one sees his/her community and how they can make a difference in the future. Serving locally, similar to other serving opportunities, with the help of the Holy Spirit, instills desire and
consideration to serving professionally in church work or various other helping professions.
5) It’s relational.
We all know that life is about relationships. Relationships are vital in ministry to our families, in our workplaces and in sharing God’s love in our everyday lives. It is easy to forget when we are at work in an office environment during the week. But in the setting of a service project or mission trip, relationships are everything! The relationships that are formed among the group serving and with those who are being served is a significant component and takeaway in the experience. Whether the relationships formed last beyond the experience, they will have an impact and shape those who are serving.
6) It benefits future serving experiences.
In my own experience, a small taste of service provides a desire to serve more. Serving locally provides the opportunity to try something new, take a small (or large) step out of your comfort zone and do so in an affordable manner. If the experience is a positive one, participants are likely to crave more opportunities.
Perhaps a one day service project with your congregation turns into a week-long experience, still in the community, but partnering with area churches. The next step may be traveling to another state to serve alongside participants in the same age group who are also learning about their faith relationships and the impact of serving. Serving locally can provide new lenses when serving in other settings. A first-time serving experience can shape how service happens and a person is impacted in the future.
Again I respond to the question, “Why serve locally?” with the answer, “Why not?” We are called, we come with open hearts and minds and God’s love overflowing in our lives! The opportunities to serve are many and great and the outcome will positively impact all who are involved!