Developing Servant Hearts: Creating a Youth Service Club
by Beth DeJungh
2021 Woman of Influence Award Winner
“We wish you a merry Christmas, we wish you a merry Christmas, we wish you merry Christmas and a happy new year!” I watched as my children laughed and giggled while they sang this song in a stranger’s home. This little scene of my children singing joyously with a person they had never met before represented the true meaning of Christmas and it all started because of a church service club project. Our service club project that month involved decorating miniature Christmas trees for people in the community who could not leave their homes. Each of my three children decorated a tree and then our pastor accompanied us as we delivered the trees and visited with the people receiving them. At the last home, a kind older gentleman asked us to join in singing Christmas carols.
Shortly after our visit, we received a card from him and he titled it, “To the little Christmas carolers.” He thanked my children for the beautiful tree and told them how much their visit meant to him. Sadly, he died shortly after Christmas and his death hit me so much harder than I imagined it would. I only met him one time and it was only for a brief period of time. However, the loss felt significant because of the way he made my children feel and the gift he gave to us. It was then that I felt called to create a youth service club.
When I created the service club, the quote that came to mind was:
“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”
– John Bunyan.
And Scripture is clear about the need for servant hearts:
Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”(Matthew 20:28)
In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ (Acts 20:35)
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh ; rather, serve one another humbly in love. (Galatians 5:13)
So, in an attempt to create servant hearts in my children at a young age, I developed a youth service club at my church, Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church in Mequon, WI. The club was created in 2017 and was designed for children 2-years-old through 8th grade. The children participate in monthly service projects from September through May that benefit local, national, and international organizations.
Starting a service club is fairly easy and the impact on the participants and recipients can be profound. Therefore, I encourage individuals with an interest in service to form youth service clubs in their churches.
There are two key factors to consider when creating a successful youth service club: congregation support and involvement and the type of service project.
Congregation Support and Involvement
Here are some simple steps to follow to help create and organize a youth service club:
Step 1 – Talk to your pastor to ensure support for this type of initiative.
Step 2 – Identify a service club coordinator. Responsibilities can include coming up with ideas for the service club projects, contacting organizations you wish to partner with or donate to, sending out monthly emails to the service club families to make them aware of each project, collecting responses from those able to attend service club events, and recruiting other members of the congregation to help organize and lead each project.
Step 3 – Support project leaders. Having different project leaders helps distribute the work among several different people and allows others to be involved. The project leader may be responsible for purchasing all necessary items for the service project, assisting children during the service project, and helping with the delivery of the donated items.
Step 4 – Apply for Thrivent Action Team grants. Each Thrivent member can apply for two grants per year and each grant is $250. The grants can be used to purchase supplies for the service club projects.
Service Project Type
I wanted very young children to participate in this club and learn what it is like to serve others. Therefore, it was necessary to find service projects that were meaningful, yet simple enough for a 2-year-old child to complete. While a variety of projects have been tried over the years, most projects involve some type of assembly line or making of crafts/cards to be donated. Here are some projects that have worked for us:
Assembly Line Projects:
- Back to School – fill backpacks with school supplies for children
- Birthday Bags – fill bags with cake mix, frosting, and party supplies for children at shelters
- Operation Christmas Child – fill boxes with toys and personal hygiene items for children around the world
- Healthcare Hero Bags – fill bags with snacks and drinks for healthcare workers
- Welcome Home Baskets – fill laundry baskets with cleaning supplies for women transitioning from shelters to their own homes
- Pumpkin Pals – paint and deliver pumpkins for nursing home residents
- Blanket Buddies – make fleece tie blankets for children in shelters
- Christmas Cheer – decorate miniature Christmas trees and deliver them to people who cannot leave their homes
- Give Thanks – decorate coffee mugs with markers and fill them with hot cocoa and coffee packets for Veterans living in group homes
- Cookies for College Students – Decorate Valentine’s Day cookies with frosting and sprinkles and send them to college students from the congregation
- 30-Day Challenge – Collected one item of food for each day in November and donated items to a food pantry
- Blankets, Books, and Bears – Collected new blankets, stuffed animals, and books and donated them to police officers to give to children they interact with during calls
- Clothing Drive – Collected new and gently used clothing items for a clothing pantry
- Adopt a Seminarian – Made cards for Seminarians and collected gift cards to allow them to go to dinner
- Baby Baskets – Collected baby items, put them in baskets and donated them to mothers in need
Collection projects allow a greater number of people to participate individually, if unable to join scheduled meetups. Members of our congregation have been extremely generous with donating items to these supply drives and enjoy helping the service club children reach their goals. The children in the service club pick up items from the porches of congregation members’ homes and then assist with the delivery of the donated items to the recipients.
Overall, the service club has been an extremely rewarding experience for all involved. Children as young as 2-years-old quickly learn the meaning of service and it has been an excellent way for families to spend time together serving others. Please consider starting a youth service club of your own!WLI