And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. -Hebrews 13:16
As an idealistic college student, I remember the moment when I met “my people”–the 20 somethings who cared about the same causes and had the same grand ideas to save the world as I did. We connected over a common purpose. Yes, I hear you as you say that loving God is our primary purpose as humans, but so is loving others (Golden Rule anyone?).
A component of rooted community is doing good together. As Christ-followers, we recognize that one of the ways God uses our community resources is to serve the needs of others–to share and receive. Sometimes building community can start with a group of people who work to find a cause they can all care about. Here’s how:
1. Let your group of friends serve out of their unique gifts
When I was in high school, God led my friend group to a downtown church where we served the urban poor. What I loved most about this experience was that everyone performed the same service activity, but with our own flair. For example, I have always loved teaching and would often give the Sunday message. Others were great at worship, making new friends, interpreting Scripture, praying with others and serving food.
It’s not fair to assume that everyone is going to have the same passions or want to serve in the same way. We have a diverse God who meets the needs of others through our diverse gifts.
When we serve in community, we use each member of the body to make a full and generous gift to others while building friendship and shared experiences among ourselves.
2. Use the time you and your friends are already spending together for good
We spend a lot of time with our friends eating food, having game nights or getting together on Wednesdays to study the Bible. So why not take a few of those hours to serve at a local nonprofit or raise money for a cause? Have you ever thought about hosting a dinner for a nonprofit where you raise awareness about their work and offer people the opportunity to donate or volunteer their time?
I’m a hostess by nature, so it would be natural for me to use my party planning powers for a good cause. Perhaps prearranged service even looks like helping an older couple next door move into their new home because our group of 20 can do a lot more than the two of them. Or maybe we serve in small moments like making a monthly meal for a pastor and his family. Try starting the conversation with your Bible study group or a few friends and see how they feel led and gifted to serve.
3. Make sure serving together never involves a guilt trip
Whenever someone brings up the idea of service, I imagine all the mental groans happening while everyone simultaneously nods their heads and says “great idea.” Internal monologue: “Sure, let me give up my precious Saturday morning to stuff slightly dented food items into a box. Don’t they make machines for that? If not, they should. Oh well…one can of beans for the Lord and two heavenly pats on my back.”
Service is never meant to be a guilt trip because “each one must give as he had decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 2:7). Instead arbitrarily imposing a service outing on your group, I suggest appointing someone (preferably someone passionate about social justice or local nonprofits) who can bring opportunities to the group. Meanwhile, start praying as a group about how you can serve where you live. In time, God will move in the hearts of your friends to plug into a community that needs your Jesus-loving care.
God is pleased when we do good and share with others. Why? Because our ability to do good to others exemplifies the good Jesus has done for us. Your tangible acts will show God’s intangible qualities of compassion, hope, and love.
Take the time to find out what works for you and your community. Let’s gather to do good together!
Questions for your community:
How can we use all of our gifts to serve a less-fortunate demographic?
What are healthy ideas to hold one another accountable to serve?
Host a nonprofit prayer night. People who feel led to bring a nonprofit or service opportunity can come prepared to share their cause. Afterwards, your entire community can pray over where they feel most led to serve. Plot your first service opportunity on the calendar.