So often we look at ministry as a series of individual events – even if they are held loosely together by a theme for the semester or the year. Some events may be annual or monthly or even weekly while others may be “special” events that aren’t repeated. I’m not criticizing this paradigm, but I wonder if we could do better by our students if we were fiercely intentional with our planning throughout the year. Intentional planning based on the vision and mission of your ministry (if you don’t have vision and mission statements get some STAT) will help guide your students along the path that you believe God has put before you. A quote from Tony Campolo helped shape my early ministry philosophy and continues to today. “The age of youth was not meant for pleasure, but for heroic service!” Okay, great, now what? I had a lot of work to do!
I started by researching the benefits of acts of service in young people and I came across the concept of service learning. Service learning happens when we combine educational concepts with acts of service to provide a learning experience that also meets societal needs. More and more school districts are including service learning requirements for graduation and it is a cornerstone of the National Honor Society program. Benefits of service learning include leadership development, diversity awareness and positive community outcomes. In addition, the educational concepts taught as a part of service learning seemed to be retained at a higher level than ones that were taught on their own.
As people who minister to students, we are one link in a long chain of adults that help to educate kids and grow them into people ready to launch into the world. Therefore combining the biblical concepts we want students to learn with acts of service seems like it would be an effective ministry tool. The 30 Hour Famine fits in perfectly with this philosophy because it combines teachings about the heart of Jesus for the poor and marginalized with fasting and serving others. It is the trifecta of service learning! Service learning opportunities can’t be few and far between if they are going to be effective, so I suggest that you build regular service events into your calendar and make them the cornerstone of what you do with students. Not just a mission trip in the summer or a weekend during the year but regularly scheduled (once a month is a good place
to start) events that give you the chance to teach your students, in word and deed, who we are called to be in a hurting world. I have seen over and over that if given the opportunity, students will rise to the occasion and their lives will indeed be beacons of heroic service. If you try it, I hope you will too.
Guest post by Beth Ruzanic (originally published on 30hourfamine.org)