When most of us think about a group project, the first thing that seems to always come to mind is working in a local soup kitchen or a construction project. There is nothing wrong with these kinds of projects, but there are so many more possibilities if we just look. Here are some steps that may help you find the perfect service projects for your group.
- Get organized. Enlist someone in the group to lead the way. This person needs some organizational skills and a heart for people.
- Understand who is in the group. Identify who in the group can do what. Build on and utilize the skills and interests you already have in the group. If there are no carpenters in the group then why look for projects that require carpentry skills?
- Discover the possibilities. Ask the group to list possible things they would like to do in your community. You may even ask what role they would see themselves playing in meeting the described needs.
At the same time, scan the community for potential projects. Every community has different needs and opportunities. Here are some general places you can begin to look that will get you on the right path:
- Hospitals—while some may want to become “official volunteers” at a local hospital, there are other projects to take on. Talk to the hospital administration about the needs their staff have especially during holidays including July 4th.
- Local Schools—contact local school administrators about their needs. Don’t forget to look for ways of encouraging the teachers. You may want to join with other groups to provide a thank you meal or snack on occasion.
- Local colleges and or universities—many on-campus ministries provide meals and other support for students through the year, usually through volunteers.
- Public servants—your local police and fire departments are always on duty. Your class could adopt a precinct office or firehouse, doing special things for them through the year.
- Community organizations/events—there are all kinds of organizations in your community that depend upon volunteers to survive. Special Olympics, sports leagues, after-school programs, adopt-a-highway programs, annual parades, Red Cross, and other organizations are full of opportunities.
- Counseling centers and support groups—Abortion alternatives, financial help, grief support, cancer support, and drug rehab need volunteers. (Tip: Be aware that there may be some training involved in some of these projects. Most organizations will help you get the training needed or at least point you in the right direction. There may be background checks involved in some cases as well. You want to make sure that you meet the expectations of the group with whom you are partnering. If the organization is a faith based organization, you will also want to make sure that their beliefs and practices are in line with your church’s beliefs.)
- Select a project. Include the group in the decision, presenting them with two or three options. Be sure to explain the expectations for each project and why that project was selected as a potential project. It would be best to do one project well than to do several poorly.
- Get after it. Seek to fulfill the requirements of the project with excellence. Remind the group that they are doing this project as a means of representing Christ in your community. When asked by those you serve about why you are doing these things, explain that you are doing it because of the difference Jesus has made in your life. Be sure to take photos and encourage each participant to record interactions (journal) if you are aligning the project with a specific Bible study (for more on this, see the post on service learning).
Dwayne McCrary is a project team leader for ongoing adult Bible study resources at Lifeway, including the adult Explore the Bible resources. He also teaches an adult group and preschool group every Sunday in the church he attends.