Respectful Service in the Midst of COVID-19

We know you want to see students know God and participate in the bigger story of the Gospel. But with all of the uncertainty and constant changes that exist in our world today, it can be challenging to determine how to best care for the people around you and serve your community.

So much about your ministry has changed, but you still believe that students need service experiences to broaden their perspective and deepen their faith. This combined with the reality that service is still needed in your community today opens up a powerful opportunity for you and your students to reach out and serve your neighbors.

While you are planning and facilitating service opportunities with your students, remember that respectful service is still a necessity, even in the midst of this pandemic. Respectful service is expressed in the practices of listening before acting, looking to the community to learn about their needs rather than assuming that you already know what they are, and acknowledging your role not as a savior but as a humble participant in the work that God is already doing.

As you are seeking out service opportunities and volunteering with your group in the midst of this pandemic, keep the following guidelines in mind:

  • Ask questions and listen carefully. Whether you’re planning to bring a group somewhere, send supplies, or drop-off gifts, make sure that whoever is on the receiving end is aware and wanting your group’s assistance.
  • There may be organizations in your community that have changed their volunteer guidelines. Follow the instructions that are given to you – requirements and restrictions will likely vary with each organization.
  • Stay home if you’re sick or if you have come into contact with somebody who has been sick.
  • Wear face coverings and wash hands often.
  • Be flexible! Volunteer needs and guidelines may change from day to day.

These are uncertain times for all people. Carry extra grace and mercy to provide to individuals that you come into contact with while serving. Use these tips alongside our full Respectful Service Guidebook to guide how you plan and serve your community.

As we’ve said in our Respectful Service Guidebook,

“Respectful service is an understanding that you don’t have to travel hundreds or thousands of miles to be like Jesus in someone else’s life. You can serve in the same or similar ways in your own community.”

It is still possible to serve and care for others in the midst of all that’s going on! We’ve put together a list of service possibilities that you can try out in your own community:

16 Ways to Serve in the Midst of COVID-19

  1. Volunteer with a food pantry, soup kitchen, homeless ministry, or other organization in your neighborhood. Many organizations are still operating and still need volunteers, though certain guidelines and restrictions surrounding volunteering may have changed.

  2. Host a donation drive. Things like toilet paper and hand sanitizer have been challenging for all people to find, including organizations like these.

  3.  Make encouraging cards for residents of care facilities. Schedule a time for drop off.

  4. See if there’s an opportunity to call or video chat with residents at care facilities.

  5. Pick up trash outside.

  6. Mow the lawn for your neighbors or a local service organization.

  7. Wash windows for your neighbors or a local service organization.

  8. Play music outside of elderly care facilities, hospitals, or any open organization and pass out flowers and encouraging notes.

  9. Create a sign-up for people in your community or church who need assistance, and a sign-up for people in your organization who are willing to give assistance. Connect those who are willing to help with the requests of people needing help.

  10. Pray through your friends list on social media.

  11. Wash the dishes, sweep, or clean up around the house (even if it’s someone else’s turn to do so!)

  12. Connect with older friends, family, or neighbors to get their grocery list and pick up groceries for them.

  13. Invite someone over for dinner via zoom.

  14. Pay for the person behind you at the drive-thru.

  15. Send a mobile gift card to someone.

  16. Go on a prayer walk around your community. 

Respectful Service Guidebook

Deepen Your Understanding of Respectful Service

Through our experience facilitating short-term mission trips we have learned a lot of lessons about respectful service—sometimes through mistakes but also through success. We know that, without intentionality and thoughtfulness, missions can end up hurting the people they are intended to help. But we also know that this hurt can be minimized and avoided altogether.

This guidebook is a summary of the things we’ve learned about respectful service. We are the first to admit that we still mess up sometimes and fail to serve respectfully. However, it is our hope and prayer to intentionally lean into our value of respectful service and encourage others in the church to do the same.

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