Parents often have a difficult time finding service opportunities for their family. Many organizations do not allow children and even teens to volunteer because of liability issues. Even churches sometimes make it difficult for a family to do a service project together.
The good news is that it is very easy to plan your own service project. If you follow the steps below, your project should be successful. Someone in need will be served, your family will learn the value of serving others and God will be glorified. As an added bonus, your children will learn a lot of practical life skills that will help them in other areas.
Involve your children in the planning process. They will enjoy the activity more and will learn important planning and organizational skills. As your child grows, let him take on more of the planning responsibilities. By your child’s teen years, he should be able to plan an entire service activity for your family with minimal assistance.
1. Decide who you want to serve. Be as specific as possible. It is fine to start out with “the hungry”, but since you can’t feed every hungry person in the world, which specific hungry people do you want to serve?
The Bible is full of scriptures commanding us to serve various groups of people. If you pull out your concordance and your Bible, you will probably find a scripture that covers almost any type of person you might want to serve. If you have the time, also read scriptures that discuss why God wants us to serve others and what our attitude should be when we are serving. The problem with most service projects is that they lack spiritual training while serving. It is as important for our children to understand why and how we are to serve as it is for them to actually serve.
2. What is the specific project you want to do for the people you want to serve? Try to think of as many specific details as possible. “Feed the homeless people in Grant Park.” might be a fine start, but you need to be more specific. “Take the homeless people near the fountain sack lunches next Saturday” is a project that is easier to do.
3. Where will we serve them? Are you going somewhere to do the project? Are you bringing the people to be served to a specific location to be served?
4. When will we serve them and how much time will it take? If you don’t put the project on your family calendar, it will probably never get done. Always overestimate the amount of time your project will need to be completed. It is a rare project that takes less time than you think it will.
5. How many volunteers do we need for this project and where will we find them? For your first project it is probably better to find a something that is easy for just your immediate family to complete. After you are more experienced, you may ask friends or your church to help you with larger, more complicated service projects.
6. Do the people we want to serve really want and need us to serve them? This is a step most people forget. Do some research. It is really a waste of resources to take food to people who are already being fed by someone else. You may even want to call an organization already serving a particular group and ask them what their needs are. Maybe your family can fill a specific need for them.
7. How much money or “stuff” do we need to do this project and where are we going to get it? Make sure your project is something your family has the resources to complete or that you have contacts that will help you with the resources you need.
8. How are we going to let people know about God/Jesus and His love for them while we are serving them? This is a very important step that even a lot of churches forget to do when they are serving others. We can’t assume everyone knows about God. The people you are serving may or may not be open to hearing about God, but you can perhaps plant at least a seed about God’s love with them.
9. What follow up do we need to do after the project? Do we need to go back and clean something up? Should we write someone thank you notes? Do we need to get more information about God to people who showed an interest?
10. Make sure to take pictures and make notes as you are serving. Discuss as a family what you learned during the service project. What worked and what didn’t work? What would you do differently next time? What is your next project?
Don’t wait for someone else to plan your next family service project. Gather your family and plan your own. I would love to hear what you do and what you learned in the process. I know a lot of people will be blessed by your family and God will be glorified.