It seems that every day we can learn about a new social problem and it is easy to get discouraged and depressed or to choose distraction and numbness, instead of bringing love into the situation. Learning and serving are activities that have been core to women’s and community care ministries, but we can still bring new attention to these values and new ways to engage in them. Whatever is going on in our lives at the moment, there is usually some way to go and serve.
What about providing service opportunities on a weeknight, during the weekday and on a weekend once a month? Or providing a monthly opportunity, but providing a quarterly opportunity for evening, daytime and weekend service? Would this enable more women to serve?
8:00 p.m. Close.
Note: Food should not be free (at least not on a regular basis). Keep it simple, low–cost and recommend a small donation ($2–5) to cover the costs. Lunch might be bring your own.
Example of a Morning Learning & Service Gathering Plan
12:10 p.m. Option to stay for simple lunch and fellowship.
Example of a Weekend Learning & Service Gathering Plan
9:15 a.m. Breakfast Buffet is Open
9:30 a.m. Welcome & Prayer
9:35 a.m. Welcome of Presenter
9:45 a.m. Activity
10:50 a.m. Reflection
11 a.m. Close (or continuation of project)
Example of a Longer Service Project
Start Time: Begin with opening prayer, presentation of presenter (5 minutes)
Learning Opportunity: Presenter tells about the concern, the efforts to address it and the purpose of the activity (10-15 minutes)
Service Opportunity: Instructions (5 minutes) + Activity (specified time)
Concurrently: Water, snacks, etc., might be made available.
Conclusion: If there is a collective finishing time, encourage people to come back. Thank them for their hard work, ask for 3-4 reflective comments, pray and conclude.
- “Check in” when arriving. If possible, the learning presentation can be given to a group (if everyone is arriving on coordinated shifts) or the registration person can provide instructions that might include watching a slide presentation (on loop) prior to beginning the activity.
- “Check out” before leaving. At that time, they’d be thanked and asked to share any highlights. They could send photos and text comments to a provided phone number. The collected documents would form the basis for the creation of a slide presentation to share at corporate worship and on other occasions.
Learning & Serving Together
- What are the mission and values of this organization? It isn’t necessary to be in complete agreement about everything, but it is good to know your partner in advance. Then you can make an informed decision about how to collaborate in ways that are consistent with Salvation Army values.
- Is it a non-partisan organization/endeavor?
- How is this organization perceived in the community? Knowing in advance helps to make informed decisions. (Every organization, including our own, can be well or poorly perceived with or without valid reasons. )
- What is the ministry opportunity? What will you be able to do? Can you do what they are asking you to do and within their parameters? If you need or prefer some adjustments, negotiate.
- If you are serving on their site, will they be able to provide a space for your group to gather before and afterward? Will they have a good representative able to explain the work they do? Will they provide a person to explain what you will do, its purpose and provide instruction, support or be available, if needed, during the project?
- Is their space able to accommodate the participation of children, volunteers with disabilities, etc.?
- If you provide child care at the corps (or at another site), then make sure those providing child care are Safe from Harm certified and reliable, whether they are consistent employees or volunteer staff or rotating volunteers from within the service project team. Providing child care will increase the likelihood that parents can participate. Weekday, daytime childcare is for infants, pre-school and home-schooled children, not sick kids who stayed home from school.
- What will be the best way to organize your group? Will you need to meet at the corps, at a project site or another location? Will participants be able to travel independently or carpool, or will you provide transportation? While a sign-up sheet or group text confirmations are a great idea, some events may be a strict RSVP and others may be more lax.
- Do you have a plan for the full sequence of events: contact, confirm, share information, coordinate, perform any additional preparations, participate, debrief, etc. ? Do you have — and have you shared —a realistic timeline and plan with participants?
- Since not all community presenters are equally adept, be prepared to complement presentations. If it seems necessary, be sure to share additional information without embarrassing anyone or seeming rude!
Potential Service Projects
1. Make it doable.
For all projects, have an accurate timeline and share it in advance.
Be clear about what will be involved (how to dress, how much physical exertion and mobility is required, etc.)
Provide childcare whenever possible. (This is also a volunteer opportunity.)
When planning a weekday service opportunity, bear in mind school hours. By what time will parents who pick up their children (or meet them at the bus stop) have to leave?
2. Make it a blessing, not a burden.
Keep it short (1 1⁄2 hours works best!).
For a longer project (more than 2 hours), give volunteers the opportunity to sign up for shifts.
3. Ensure variety.
Diversify issues and experiences.
People can’t all get excited about the same concerns, but there are plenty of needs to meet.
Contributing positively to something that concerns a friend will excite anybody who likes their friends, even if it “isn’t their issue”.
Different types of experiences require different types of skills. Someone who cooks poorly may be excited to paint or help with gardening and vice versa. A variety of ways to serve shows clearly that everyone can serve.
Arranging service opportunities on different days and times helps to make the point that serving is inclusive. Everybody’s situation is different. For example, moms with day jobs may be available on the weekends and evenings. Those who work nights may relish the chance to serve during the day. To establish structure, you might aim to have a monthly evening and morning opportunity and a quarterly weekend service project. This is hard work and will require support and intentionality.
4. Get help!
When people lead, they are more invested and more eager to invite others to join in the service opportunities.
There are capable leaders in your midst; share the chance to lead.
5. Preparation is essential.
If your service project is happening o -site, make sure you have visited in advance and coordinated well. Be prepared to be flexible!
If your service project is happening on-site, make sure your ducks are in a row, including the ducks of your leaders.
6. Make the most of being together!
Encourage carpooling and conversation.
Food, food, food. When feasible.
Food should not be free (at least not on a regular basis). Figure out how to keep food low-cost ($2-5 contribution) and most people will be able to contribute. Have a wise person at the collection table, so she can indicate that whatever you can give today is ok.
Reinforce the value of the specific activity for the mission and of serving together. Help participants to be intentional by being consistent about the pre-activity learning and post-activity reflection processes. These precious minutes of expressing meaning are important.
Tell the story to the larger community!
Encourage participants to send photos and text comments to a provided phone number. The collected documents would form the basis for the creation of a slide presentation to share at corporate worship and on other occasions. Items appropriate for social media could be shared there as well.