Service Project Ideas: Make a Local Impact
This post is all about local service project ideas for your youth ministry.
Local service projects can be a powerful way for your youth ministry to make a lasting impact in your own backyard. At YouthWorks, our hope is that every student (and adult!) will take what they’ve learned on a mission trip and live it out back home. Whether you’ve been on a mission trip recently or not, there are plenty of ways for you and your group to serve at home.
Some quick links before you dig in:
- Looking for a quick resource to plan your own day of service idea? Check out this free Day of Service Planning Guidebook HERE >>
- Need a partner to organize a local week of service for your group? Serve at Home mission options start at just $149 per person. Check out more info HERE >>
- Want some quick ideas for your own local service projects? Read on…
Where do I start?
Sometimes it can be hard to find these places to serve or know where to start. Here are some ideas about how you can serve at home and some things to keep in mind as you set up partnerships in your own community.
Good news! You can serve in a variety of ways. For example, you could…
- Work with food and clothing banks
- Do construction or manual labor
- Visit nursing homes or homes for those with disabilities
- Partner with soup kitchens
- Serve with Boys and Girls Clubs
- Partner with community beautification projects
- Partner with church ministries in tutoring, VBS and facilities management
These are just some initial ideas to get you brainstorming. What types of places have your students served before? Which service projects have they connected with and which ones were more of a stretch? Think through what you or your group is excited about doing and see if you can find existing local service that fits your group’s passions. Still stuck? Ask your students what they’d like to do!
How do I find service project ideas or local partnerships?
We have a lot of experience finding, contacting and building partnerships with local service organizations in all types of communities. From that experience, we’ve compiled the best and easiest ways to find local service opportunities that can utilize your students in meaningful ways.
- Use a Volunteer Database. There are many databases that can be incredibly helpful to find service opportunities. You can make your search specific to your location and adjust the search filters based on the service you’d like to do. Be aware that not every service organization accepts teenage volunteers, so be sure to include that in your search parameters.
- Look it up on Google. If you are looking for a specific type of service experience for your students, simply look it up on Google. For example, if you wanted to search for service opportunities at a food shelf, you could google something like “food banks in St. Louis”.
- Ask Around. Talk to people at your church, friends or neighbors for recommendations. People may have personal connections to small ministries or non-profits that need extra volunteer help – places that wouldn’t necessarily come up on a Google search.
- Don’t Forget About Relational Service Project Ideas. Many organizations need volunteers simply to spend time visiting with residents/clients. Great places to look for service opportunities are adult day centers or children’s programs. These facilities typically welcome teenage volunteer groups. You will need to determine if relational service is safe during COVID-19.
- Get in Touch. Once you have found an organization that you think may work, call the contact listed on the website, ask to speak to a volunteer coordinator. We’ve found that calling service organizations is much more effective than emailing them.
How do I turn service project ideas into actual projects?
It all comes down to the strength of the local partner you’re choosing to serve. Once you find a place to serve, keep these things in mind while you talk through and set-up your service projects:
- Meet key service contacts. Get to know the staff of the organization. Hopefully you will be working with them on a regular basis, so it is important to build that relationship.
- Understand their mission, vision and policies. Take time to hear the story and history of their organization. Ask questions to help you understand their role in the community. There may be certain policies and restrictions that will limit the tasks that you take part in and it is important to understand and respect these boundaries.
- Find out how volunteers will be used. Ask what you will be doing so you can set your team up well for appropriate clothing to wear, what to bring, what to expect, etc. Also find out any miscellaneous tasks that need to be done in case you have extra hands or finish early.
- Clarify expectations/details. Communicate and confirm the times you will be serving and how often. Find out what staff members will be present and who will be giving an orientation to your team once you arrive. Ask about any additional details or things that you need to be aware of.
How do I plan local service projects with COVID-19 in the mix?
Lastly, it’s important to understand and follow the current laws, regulations and recommendations around COVID-19 in your community. As you seek out local service project ideas, you may find that some types of partnerships may be put on hold during this season, while others may be more conducive to serving during a pandemic.
Our hope is that you will live a lifestyle of service and find ways to serve in your own community back home.
Remember that the example Jesus set was not to show you how to live for one week but year-round in every context and community – especially your own!
Remember Jesus’ words:
“I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (John 13:15)
Interested in organizing an official Day of Service (or multiple Days of Service) in your hometown?