Have your plans changed this summer? Are you slowly scribbling out the days your kids would be away at camp? Or changing the location of your family vacation to somewhere other than Disney World? Maybe you’re cancelling the international trip you’ve saved over two years to afford? If you can say you haven’t had any cancelled plans for this year, you may be the only one.
In addition to making some major adjustments to your personal calendar, it is likely your church’s calendar has gone through a similar transformation. One church activity likely cancelled or postponed is your church’s summer mission trip. In the absence of a mission trip, it can feel a little like missions are cancelled, but really it’s just the trip that’s not taking place. This summer, one of the first things you can pencil back into your calendar is opportunities to serve and volunteer locally. What if one of the bright spots of this year is that we embrace the idea of being home more and lean into the opportunity to serve and love our local community more deeply as a result?
If you’re unsure of where to start, here are a few suggestions:
Reach out to your immunocompromised or elderly neighbors. As many states and communities begin to return to a new version of normalcy, many people may not be able to begin engaging with the public or even their close family and friends due to health issues. Have your kids make cards and art to drop off in their mailbox. Or with their permission, go by for a front porch visit at an appropriate distance. Make sure they have the essentials by offering to run errands. Most importantly, make sure they are not forgotten and know they are loved, but do so in a way that keeps them protected and healthy. If you don’t know of individuals in this group, reach out to your church for a list of people that could use a little extra care.
Support the church’s mission partners in new ways. Many churches have deep and ongoing relationships with mission partners all over the world. These ministry partners often receive teams to serve with them throughout the year. Although that travel may not be possible this year, you can find other ways to support them. Are they providing activities for local children that your church could help provide the supplies for? Host a packing party to gather chalk and put together arts and craft kits. Maybe there are even ways for you to serve virtually with them. Could you or someone from your church be a guest lecturer or trainer to provide ministry partners respite care during an exhausting time without mission teams? Always make sure to connect with your ministry partner to find out what their needs are. One of the most harmful things mission teams can do is mandate how they will serve a ministry partner.
Serve your local food bank. As unemployment increases, local food pantries and banks are seeing a higher demand of people needing access to food. This is a great opportunity for the church to help. Start by calling your local organization to ask them what they need. I know through a friend who worked at our local food bank that they are often in need of specific items during a given time. Once you identify the need, organize a food drive at your church or even on your street. You can also organize a small group of volunteers to sort food, if that is something you are comfortable with. Many organizations are suffering because less volunteers are able to serve due to social distancing guidelines. Always follow local guidelines and make decisions that limit your own risks.
Be creative. As I reflect on my personal time of social distancing, one of the happier things I want to remember is the creative and fun ways that the girls in my Bible study have supported one another. One of our girls was pregnant with her first child and facing the reality that her showers would all be cancelled. What should be a very celebratory season quickly turned into one of disappointment. On what should have been the Saturday of her first shower, we surprised her by having warm cookies from a local bakery delivered. We then scheduled for each of us to send encouraging texts to her throughout the day. Choose one person you know that could use a little boost of encouragement. Then write them a card and drop it in the mailbox or deliver a surprise treat to their home. The element of surprise and making someone feel known can go a long way to make them feel loved. It doesn’t have to be expensive either.
2020 has been a hard year for all of us, but let us continue to look for opportunities to give of our time, talents, and treasures. As you’re serving your community, always look for open doors to share the gospel with others. That may be someone volunteering with you or your neighbor next door.
We would love to hear how you’re serving locally. Let us know in the comments.
Jessica Best is the events marketing specialist for LifeWay Students and previously served over ten years for the missions organization, World Changers. She currently leads a Bible reading group of young professional women and volunteers in her church’s student ministry. Jessica is passionate about building community and providing a safe place for other women to be authentic and build their lives rooted in Scripture. She is a graduate of the University of Florida with a degree in Business Management. In her spare time, she is an amateur gardener and is often finishing (or not) a DIY project in her first home.