Planning a Youth Service Opportunity

Everyday we are presented with forks in the road.  Every fork in the road changes the paths we take in the future, and sometimes a very insignificant-looking fork in the road results in a huge change in our lives.

So it was for me back in 1989 when I sat in a Directors of Christian Education meeting in Northern Illinois (cue dream sequence harp music) and listened to a presentation from a DCE about her trip to an Indian tribe in

Canada. She showed us some pictures from her trip and encouraged us to go on a Servant Event. I don’t remember going home that day “on fire,” but a new fork had been presented to me, and I decided to take it.  Now, more than 20 years later, I’ve been on more than 20 Servant Events (honestly, I’ve lost count). I’ve built houses in
Mexico and pulled teeth in

Haiti. I simply can’t get enough of them!

And now, I’m the one up in front sharing my Servant Event experiences so that you can come and join me on this wonderful path. Here are six steps to help you along your way:

Step #1
Discern the Need

What need has God placed on your heart? I believe every community has the potential to hold a Servant Event, whether it is a week-long LCMS Servant Event or an afternoon with your youth group. Your Event may be rehabbing houses, volunteering at a nursing home, canvassing the neighborhood, going on a medical missionary trip or doing prison ministry. The possibilities are as limitless as your imagination and the needs around you.

Step #2
Discern Your Passion and Gifts
What floats your boat?  If you choose a project that doesn’t excite you, chances are good that you won’t have the energy to see it to completion.  However, if you pursue the passion God has planted in you with the gifts He’s given you, the work will be a joy…and fruitful. God wants to bless you through the thing He’s equipped you for!

Step #3
Surround Yourself with a Team

We need to pursue our gifts, but we don’t have all the gifts in ourselves.  We need to surround ourselves with others who complete the picture.  Your team needs to include what we refer to in the Servant Event world as: a Project Coordinator (PC), a Community Life Leader (CLL), and a Work Director (WD).  The PC needs to be a detail-oriented person who handles things like team leadership, publicity, registrations, medical forms, budgets, housing and food provision. The CLL is what I like to lovingly refer to as the cruise director of the Servant Event. This person deals with the “people” issues on a Servant Event, like community building, covenants, integrating the spiritual dimension of the Servant Event and, in short, making sure everyone’s happy. The WD is responsible for the work dimension of your Servant Event. If it’s a construction project, the WD handles contacts with the work sites, permits, building materials, work crews, safety and tools. If it’s a medical Servant Event, the WD organizes things with patients, supplies, health risks, clinic facilities, etc. Obviously, the WD needs to adjust his/her specific job description to fit the actual work project that’s being tackled. I cannot over-emphasize the importance of getting the right team. I recommend thinking of the people who would be best in a given job and go after them with all you’ve got. Your team will make or break your Servant Event.

Step #4
Cast Your Vision

Now that you know what you want to do and who is going to help you accomplish it, you need to get people excited about actually doing it. The scope of your project will determine how far and wide you need to cast.  Start with getting your youth excited about the project. Then, get your congregation excited about it. You’re going to need the support of both your youth and your congregation to help your leadership team work “in the trenches” and accomplish your Event.  To get people on board, tell them the truth: They are going to have to give a lot of time, donations and “sweat,” but they will get far more than they’re giving.

Next, you need participants.  If you’re doing a local event for your youth, you don’t really have to go much further than your congregation.  If you’re doing an LCMS Servant Event, once you get your information in to Synod, they do the publicity and you just have to field inquiries to fill your registration.  If you’re hosting your own event, you need to get the word out to other congregations, fellow youth workers and whoever else you can find to partner with you on your project.

Step #5
Wade Through the Details

There is no question: When holding a Servant Event, this step is where the hard work is involved.  They say that the devil is in the details, but when it comes to Servant Events I think we should say that God is in the details.  (I’ll comment as we go along.) When you reach this step, you will begin receiving/acknowledging registrations (remembering that God has a purpose for each individual He brings to your Event). You will need to secure funding (remembering that God has abundantly provided every time there is a need). You will need to make sure you have the right insurance (OK, so the devil is in this one).  It would be way beyond the scope of this article to list every detail, but you get the picture: details, details, details. To help with this step, check out two resources:  It’s Your Serve from CPH, and the LCMS Youth Ministry Office. If you choose to do an LCMS Servant Event (of which I’m a huge fan), the Servant Events Committee trains you to handle all the details at a November Servant Events training, and they provide you with a binder full of helps and resources.

Step #6
Enjoy the Event (and try and get a little sleep)

Servant Events are the highlight of my year, and there’s nothing that changes youth spiritually like a Servant Event.  So when your Event finally takes place, enjoy it!  Sure, there will be things that go wrong; that’s what memories are made of.  (Should I tell you about the Year of the Showers?…no, we’ll leave that for another time.)  You’ll have a lot to do during the Event, but take time to reflect on what you’re doing, take time to talk with a youth one-on-one about what it means to them, take some pictures, journal and find something silly to laugh about.  Enjoy this time. God is working through it, you won’t be the same because of it, and I’ll see you somewhere down that road less traveled.

Published June 1, 2005

About the author

Greg Arnett serves as Director of Christian Education for St. Paul Lutheran Church, Caro, MI. Greg also served for several years on the LCMS Servant Events Committee.
View more from Gregory

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