Go Do Good – Do It

by Angie Klooster

SERVE 2019 was one of the most influential weeks of my life. Seeing the broken state some people live in is one thing but having the opportunity to help them and change their way of life is entirely different. We made a difference, even if all we did was weed a few rows of a community garden or paint the walls of a non-profit organization. And making a difference made a difference in me.

I was cautious to go on this trip. It was very out of my comfort zone. Then, when I found out no one from my church was in my SERVE small group, I was even more discouraged. However, as soon as I met my small group and spent one day with them, I knew I was here for a reason. The people I worked with and got to know were some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met, and I quickly realized God sent me on SERVE to do good.

God sent me to a small church in Muskegon, Michigan both to help people and to grow, myself. I learned more about myself in those seven days than I have in my entire life. I learned to not take things for granted. I learned that God works miracles in the strangest of ways. I learned to get out of my comfort zone and talk to people. And I learned to make friends, even if it’s just for a week and I might never see them again.

With each service project – every time we handed out yogurt at the church or cleaned a lot – we made a difference, and I was so encouraged. It might not have been much, but it was something, and it was hopefully enough to encourage others to follow our footsteps, too.

One little nudge can make a change in someone’s life, like the way my life changed at Muskegon SERVE. If the people of Muskegon saw us planting a garden and growing food, it shows them that it’s possible. If the kids at Muskegon Heights High School saw that people were willing to help them, it shows them they can help people, too.

Muskegon SERVE was just one week, but the people I worked with have been doing this for years. They have dedicated their lives to helping their community and are very passionate about what they do. They work so hard with so little. I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to see, and talk to, and help these people. It’s changed who I am, and I hope everyone gets a chance to have a similar experience. If you ever get the opportunity to go do good, do it. It will be beyond worth it.  

[This is an excerpt from the Fall 2019 Magazine. To read more stories CLICK HERE]

Spread Shalom

by Annika Bangma, Whitinsville SERVE Host Team Coordinator

In June of 2014, our town of Northbridge (of which Whitinsville is a village) had just voted down a hefty tax override that would give the local public school additional resources. Although there are many reasons why the override failed, a writer in the opinion column of our local newspaper argued, “The major obstacle we continually face is that an “organized” subgroup of voters does not feel the civic need to invest in things that enhance our public school system and town services. This subgroup of voters isn’t the only obstacle, but certainly the major one…. We understand that this subgroup has their own private school in town and does not rely on the public school system to educate their children. But we also know that it is our moral obligation to care for the concerns of others in a community.”

He goes on to suggest, “They also own many great businesses that we enjoy spending our hard earned dollars at. Let’s work diligently to bring this relationship to a win-win for everyone, so those of us who want the town to invest in our children and the public school system don’t have to become an “organized” subgroup of buyers and take our business elsewhere.”

Although many believe that the writer was looking for a scapegoat during a frustrating time in our town, it was not difficult to read between the lines of his insinuation. There is one private school in our town: the Whitinsville Christian School, founded by Pleasant Street Christian Reformed Church. Our church.

Essentially, our church was being accused of not caring for the concerns of others in the community, of not investing in things that enhance our public schools and town services and, in general, neglecting our civic duty. There was a clear misconception in our town about our church and our care for our community and town. We had an image problem on our hands.

Fast-forward to January of 2016. During our very first Host Team meeting, our leaders spent time talking and praying about what we hoped God would do through SERVE. Looking through the list of possible outcomes supplied by Youth Unlimited, we took particular notice of using SERVE to grow “personal relationships in the local community with gospel centeredness” and “Organizational/government relationships [thereby] expanding the congregation’s reach into the community.” Consequently, we made a very intentional decision to partner with as many town services and organizations as possible throughout our week of SERVE.

Our worksites would include the Police Department, the Fire Department, painting fire hydrants for the Northbridge Department of Public Works and the Northbridge Senior Center. We made the decision to use the showers at the Northbridge Public Middle School, instead of using the facilities at Whitinsville Christian, and worked to expand our relationship with the Superintendent of Northbridge Public Schools. In addition, we worked with the Blackstone Heritage Corridor, Inc/National Park Service to tackle one of the biggest jobs they have ever had volunteers take on.

After our week of SERVE was over, the front page of the local paper headlined: “Teens ‘SERVE’ a Week in the Blackstone Valley” – complete with a color photo, and two-part article about the “scores of students” that had been at work in town during SERVE, while being hosted by Pleasant Street. The town manager was quoted as saying “I can’t say enough about these kids. It’s been a real positive experience. All the department heads were positive about it. Oftentimes you hear the negatives; this puts hope back in what youth can do.” In addition, at least four other newspapers ran the photo of the signing of a three-foot-wide check, made out to the National Park Service’s Volunteers in the Parks Program as a symbol of the 3,168 hours of service that the Blackstone Valley received on behalf of SERVE, which the NPS considered to be worth a dollar value of $73,085.76.

Just as our Host Team was starting to regroup to start meeting regularly again to plan 2017, we received a phone call inviting us to an awards night in December, hosted by the Blackstone Heritage Corridor Inc/ NPS.  At the awards, we were blown away to be designated the “Outstanding Special VIP [Volunteers in the Parks] Project Award” for 2016.

On the award certificate, Suzanne Buchanan, NPS Volunteer Coordinator, had scribed “They came to visit, not to stay, but their impact is felt here every day.” Those words, which were written to acknowledge the drastic results that the visiting students had achieved on the worksites, are more true than Suzanne Buchanan will ever fully understand.

The impact of SERVE is not just felt through the physical work the students and leaders accomplished on the various worksites. It is felt every day in the way our church is understood in our community. It has enabled us to continue to grow relationships with town department heads, the Police Chief and the public school system. It has helped us to learn, communicate effectively our motives and efforts, further recognize gaps in the way our town is run and help fill them. It has helped set a trajectory of spreading shalom within our local community, and gaining momentum in other year-round efforts that our church seeks to follow Christ into. It has been the definition of a “win,” and we feel we cannot thank the visiting churches, leaders and students enough for helping us transform our community, and the role we, Pleasant Street Christian Reformed Church, have in it.

And this was only the first year.

Christian Community

by Adrianna Wimmers

Stress is mental or emotional strain caused by demanding or adverse circumstances. Stress can come from many different situations and can be overwhelming, leading oneself to not know where to turn to or what to do about the stress they are experiencing. Balancing school, friends, relationships, extra-curricular activities, jobs and everything in between can add unnecessary and often unwanted stress.

Stress and being overwhelmed can blind us to many things like the people who can and are willing to help us get out of our hole that we have stressed ourselves into. Our stress can also blind us to the other people around us that are stressed too. We become unable to see the world around us; we become too consumed with what we ourselves are dealing with.

We often take stress out on those around us, instead of turning to them for support and comfort. We believe that isolation is what we want, but we do not have to be alone.

Community is the feeling of fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests and goals. Building community is important to do, and a supportive community is helpful in so many ways. God even tells us this in Galatians 6:2 “Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” We can share our stress and burdens with our community and turn to them for support and comfort. We can also look around at those in our community and show them our support, show them that they are not alone and that others have felt what they have felt as well.

Community is where you can turn in all circumstances, not just in times of sadness or stress. We can rejoice with our community and celebrate together.

Romans 12 says, “Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble and keep praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other.”  Stressed and overwhelmed or joyful and prepared to celebrate, community is where we can turn to.

Turn to the community, build community and invest in community. Our God did not create us to live in solitude, but with people, who can help, love and support us.

Our God loves us so deeply and will never leave us, he will always give us strength for what we need, whether that be strength found within ourselves or strength gained from the support of our community.

Students this summer are learning and growing in Authentic Community. To find out more about what they’re learning, click here.

Why Use ThereforeGo?

The following is an excerpt from the ThereforeGo Fall Magazine. To read more, click here.

Life Changing – the single most important thing that can happen in a student’s life is that they form a lifelong relationship with Jesus Christ and commit to living for him.

In a world so full of noise and distractions, ThereforeGo’s SERVE mission experiences are incredibly effective at creating the space for students to encounter Jesus. We have testimony after testimony from students saying their SERVE experience was the moment in time when they first came to understand Jesus’ love, grace and desire for a personal relationship.

Because these experiences can be such an integral point in a student’s life, ThereforeGo is committed to having the following values as essential components of every one of our experiences: worship, reading scripture, introducing students to our broken world that needs Jesus, serving in the name of Jesus, fostering healthy adult/student relationships and encouraging students to live their life for Jesus.

In order to make this happen, ThereforeGo works with a team – the SERVE mission experience is not created in some office and then packaged and sent to 30 different host sites across Canada and the United States. Each SERVE site is created and led by a planning team of volunteers who live, worship, work and raise their families in the community you will be serving.

Prepared & Organized – Each planning team is trained and equipped by the ThereforeGo staff, and each February, all of the teams come together to be trained, share best practices, network and worship together. During this weekend, there is also a lot of celebration for what God has done over the past year and a lively discussion about the coming year! Many of our planning teams have been hosting SERVE for years. From the lessons learned over 25 years of offering Serve and the sharing of best practices by all the planning teams, every site is well prepared and organized. From the speakers, worship teams, community life, food and meaningful worksites, we will provide a great experience for you and your students!

Intentional – Each SERVE site also uses and teaches from the same theme and devotional material. The 2016 material was written by the next generation of church leaders, students from Calvin Theological Seminary. To ensure it connected with students, they tested it by teaching it to a church youth group and then adjusted it according to how it connected with them. The material focuses on Mark’s Gospel, allowing students to see how Jesus Christ, walking through everyday life, identified in people and communities both the hurtful bruises this world has left on them and the incredible image of God in them and how they can do the same in their lives.

Customizable – If you feel your group could better benefit from the SERVE experience in a different way (i.e. for larger groups, those looking to build their own group dynamic, those planning a multi-generational trip or any others in a unique situation), customizing SERVE gives you the chance to set dates, modify the schedule, lead your own worship sessions, etc. while ThereforeGo supplies the key values found in all of our faith-forming experiences.

What does a SERVE day look like?

7:00 AM – Breakfast/Prepare Lunches | 8:00 AM – Devotions | 8:45 AM – Leave for Worksites

4:00 PM – Showers/Free Time | 6:00 PM – Dinner | 7:30 PM – Evening Session

9:00 PM – Small Group Discussion | 10:00 PM – Snack and Free Time | 11:00 PM – Lights Out

My 51 – Austin Serve

We, here at Austin Serve, were excited when we saw “The Other 51” theme for 2015 because it’s sort of what we’ve been doing here ever since we started in 2011. One of our stated goals for our site is to be a launching pad for young people to go back to their home contexts and home church as havoc-wreakers for the Kingdom. We recognize that one of our roles in our family of churches is to be a bit of a research and development (R&D) outpost on the front lines of Kingdom mission and so we not only want to invite young people into that experience but to give them ammunition to take that back to where they came from.

One of the things we tried this year during our Spring Break Serve (which was the first Serve of the 2015 season), was to use the tools afforded to us by Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD). ABCD was a concept developed in the early 90’s and used extensively in mission environments which try to help empower people rather than just do things for them. ABCD recognizes the image of God in all people and helps everyone play a role in community development rather than having the “haves” do the work and the “have nots” learn to be dependent. As facilitators of short-term missions, I think this should be especially important to us because they always run the risk of becoming “hit-and-run” scenarios.

So, in addition to giving them context for all of our worksites, we spent one of our evening sessions doing some community asset mapping. The process is super simple and it helps groups think through the connection between what they’re doing on your site and what they’ll do when they get home.

Materials Needed: Lots of Post-It notes, markers, three boards to post things on.

Step One: Ask kids to gather with their own churches, rather than their small groups. If it’s a good-sized church, split it into groups of 6 or so.

Step Two: Have the group brainstorm assets of the area five miles around where they live and five miles around where the church is located. Suggest some based on what people come up with – things like vehicles, farming knowledge, etc. are often not seen as assets at first. Write each asset on a Post-It and have them stick them to the board on the left (of the three). Challenge each student to come up with at least 3.

Step Three: Have the group brainstorm needs of the same five-mile areas or city centers, if necessary and write their ideas Post-It notes, sticking them to the board on the right side (of the three). You may have to get the ball rolling with some suggestions. (This activity is often harder for people who come from rural or more affluent communities where needs are not as forefront).

Step Four: Read as many of the Post-It’s out loud. There’s bound to be some humorous ones. Then ask the kids to use their groups to throw out some tangible projects that could use the resources of the community to meet the needs in the community. Be as creative as possible. Our Host Team also formed a group and just took an outsider’s crack at combining the two lists – which worked really well.

This process not only gets people thinking about assets and needs in their community but it also begs the question: why isn’t your church already doing these things? Use that as a springboard to talk about some real things that a youth group or church could tackle in the next 6 months. Talk about what role serving the community has in their youth group back home or their church back home.

Some good stuff is bound to bubble up!

Community Assets

If you’ve got more questions, please feel free to contact Mark at mark@sunriseaustin.org or @markhilbelink on Twitter.

Think Spring: Community Garden Toolkit

As a part of a national movement, many non-profits, schools, churches, and neighborhood organizations are considering community and cooperative gardening. Community gardens can provide sustainable ways to supplement food pantries, improve school lunch programs, increase neighborhood food security, create welcoming green spaces and build relationships.

ECHO exists to reduce hunger and improve the lives of small-scale farmers worldwide. They work to identify, validate, document and disseminate best practices in sustainable agriculture and appropriate technology. They provide agriculture and technology training to development worker in over 165 countries.

A unique perspective that ECHO brings to the domestic community gardening movement is a perspective of agriculture shaped by their work with small-scale farmers in many of the poorest regions of the world. They seek to provide an opportunity for practical and affordable ideas to be shared and communicated across the globe. This often takes the form of low-cost and low-input recommendations, which typically include the use of nutritious tropical perennials and subtropical plant varieties as part of a sustainable agricultural system.

Download the ECHO Community Garden Toolkit.

This resource was designed to help you discover the diversity of resources available within your community, to meet the felt needs of your community, as well as promote intercultural understanding of issues regarding hunger, poverty, and justice in sustainable agriculture around the world. You can use it to better assist you in the organization and implementation of particular elements crucial to making a garden project successful.

Be creative. Get dirty. Have fun with your students.

Community at Community CRC

Fulfilling the Great Commission is the desire of most churches. After all, what church would say they didn’t want to reach out to the lost?
However, fulfilling the Great Commission is easier said than done. How does a church become part of the community rather than just reaching into the community?  For a church to be recognized as a positive and valuable influence, even by those who do not attend, speaks volumes to the church’s efforts to be part of its community.
Community CRC has always had outreach as part of its DNA. Established as a mission chapel over 50 years ago in Roselawn, Indiana, it has always sought to connect with the community.  Now, Community CRC is a growing church and is still asking the question, ” What can we do for our community?” or, “What will this decision do to help reach the lost and hurting?”
Hosting a Serve week is a natural extension of an already full slate of outreach events during “the other 51” weeks of the year. In the summer, a free Christian rock concert is held in the parking lot of the local food store. In October, a Fall Festival Trunk or Treat attracts 800. January is time for a Wild Game Dinner that draws over 500 and in the spring, there’s a Celebrate Marriage event with a comedian and a prime rib dinner. Other community outreach methods include Kids Hope, VBS, Food Pantry, Thanksgiving baskets, Stephen Ministry, music concerts for all types of music lovers, scores of phone calls and follow-up contacts. Our growing list of community outreach methods makes Sunday morning worship filled with a mix of seekers, new believers, people rooted deep in their faith, people with addictions, people recovering from addictions, very poor worshippers and very wealthy worshippers.
For more information on The Other 51 and Serve 2015, click here.
Big events are important for attracting people to our church, but what happens on Sunday morning is really important. Community CRC has been known for welcoming everyone and anyone when they walk through the doors. A casual and blended worship style helps people feel at home. Our Connections Coordinator makes sure a welcome bag is presented and contact information is gathered.
The Roselawn, Indiana community is not well off. Many families deal with broken homes and addictions. Hurting people matter to our Lord and they matter to Community Church. Help us connect with families that need an expression of love through home improvement projects and other services.
Roselawn Serve 2

Keeping the Flame Alive

We’re all about faith for life and don’t want to see students or youth leaders riding a roller coaster of emotions on a mission trip or faith forming experience. Here’s a great article by a well respected leader in the short term mission movement on fanning the flame of life change once you return home.


Most people like to play with fire. There’s something rewarding about burning long sticks until they’re short, melting things, roasting things, or just sitting and watching the flames. But if there is insufficient kindling, the fire will not ignite; and if there is too much wind, the flame will go out. Even so, keeping the flame alive is really not that tricky. By having the right resources and providing enough protection for the flame, it will keep burning (or even grow to a bonfire) and will give off light and warmth that people like to be near. If your experience in missions has allowed God to light a fire under you, or to fan the flame, then add more kindling, add more wood, and make sure you protect the fire from things that will put it out or slow it down.


“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).


There are many things you can do to keep the flame alive and to continue to be a LIGHT in the world. Here are some practical steps you can take to stay on track spiritually and in ministry.


L = Live Differently

Do you know what will keep your short-term mission from becoming just another mountain-top experience in your life? You. Only you can determine if you will continue the amazing journey of growing nearer to the Lord and of being a blessing to others. For this to happen, you must take on that responsibility and be intentional about your continuing journey.


“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do no conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:1-2).


You’ve learned valuable lessons through Scripture and experience. Putting these lessons into practice may cost you something, but consider it in light of God’s mercy as a living sacrifice and as an act of worship to him.


I = Invest in the Mission Field

You can be a great encouragement to your ministry hosts by keeping in touch with them. Write letters, send birthday cards, pray for them, and join their financial support team.


G = Guard Your Mind

The things you allow into your mind have an impact on the way you live. A steady stream of less-than-wholesome television, movies, books, and music will affect your attitude and will rob you of the joy you have in Christ. Since you might not see any effect at first, it might feel as if you are “getting away with it.” However, in the long run you will find that it is like a slow leak. Eventually there will be a blowout, and you will find yourself out of commission spiritually. Remember the old saying, “garbage in, garbage out”? The Bible says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7).


An open mind is good. So is an open window. However, we put a screen on the window to keep the bugs out. Treat your mind like a window and screen what you allow in.


“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).


H = Hide God’s Word in Your Heart

Stay consistent in the study and memorization of the Bible. A diligent effort to know God’s Word better will result in a vibrant growing relationship with him. In addition, you can read inspirational missionary biographies that will remind you of the great things God can do with a life that is totally surrendered to him.


T = Take Risks—Stay Out of Your Comfort Zone

Decide right now that you are not just at the end of your short-term mission but actually at the beginning of a new ministry. Plan to live in a way that will continue to stretch you beyond the level of faith you now have. Put your trust in God. Seek to hear his voice and to obey and put into practice all that you have learned. Radical living encourages radical faith!


Do you realize that walking actually requires that you set yourself off balance? As you put one foot in front of the other, you are literally tipping forward—off balance. If you never took the risk of being off balance, you’d be stuck in one place. It’s like that in life and faith. The act of “stepping out” and getting a little off balance is the very act that allows you to move forward spiritually. Think about the big steps you took in deciding to go on this short-term mission (STM) and look how you’ve grown! So keep taking risks, following God’s wild imagination, and being in the place where you will only succeed if you trust in him and him alone.


Do you need some ideas on how to proceed? Want to know what it looks like to step out in faith? The rest of this article will help you take the next step in ministry.


Outreach and Evangelism

“Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2).


“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).


We have a job to do here on earth. With love, patience, and respect, we are to speak up for what we believe and for who we are in Christ. Hopefully you have new found courage after your STM because you’ve spent time with people who are courageous and outspoken about their faith. Determine in your heart today that you will keep that fire burning in you and that outreach will become an ever-increasing part of your lifestyle.


When it comes to outreach and evangelism, there are two categories of Christians. The first category is those who are bound up in the activities and pressures of the day. They’re always on the backside of the things that they believe “happen to them.” They are wrapped up in their performance at work or school, running errands, fixing things, trying to stay in touch with people, but always too busy to do so. To them, life practically drowns out the fact that they are Christians. They are the ones who always say, “Spiritual things just never seem to come up at work.”


Then there is the category of Christians whose faith seems to just flow from life’s activities. They, too, live a hectic life, but somehow they have a fruitful influence in the lives of people around them. They are the ones who, because of their lifestyle, have people asking them about spiritual things.


There is a fundamental difference. To the first kind of Christian, Christianity has taken a back seat. To them, what they do is more important than their Christian faith. To the second kind of Christian, faith and responsibility to God are always in first place. Higher than a career. Higher than acceptance or fitting in. And higher than any circumstances. Ask yourself the following question by inserting your profession or life activity into the blank:


“Am I a __________ who happens to be a Christian or a Christian who happens to be a __________?”


Christians who “happen” to go to school or have a certain job will always place their faith and the responsibility to touch lives for Christ first. Their perspective is that God put them in that school, workplace, or situation because he wanted to affect the lives of those he has entrusted to their care. If you want to live a God-centered life, plan to live your life as a Christian first. If your relationship with Christ is your first concern and you are always looking to become more like him, your spiritual walk will deepen and grow.


This will add strength to your commitment to ministry, and he will use you to influence people all along the way.


Find Ministry in the Church, Community, and World

The continual, joyful giving of yourself for the sake of God’s kingdom purposes will help you maintain a close walk with him. Now that you are home, seek out opportunities to serve in the church, community, and world. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).


Pray for discernment and eyes to see whatever God might be asking of you. It may be possible to join an existing ministry effort. But if it isn’t, don’t let a lack of opportunity slow you down—you may need to start something new. Jolaine started a weekly park outreach with a youth ministry team and it lasted for three years. Curtis started an evangelism committee at his church and it is still fruitful today. Darla inspired her church to reach out to the Japanese population in their city. Today there is a Japanese church within their church. Carl left his job and started a company that provides technical support to Christian organizations. As a result, the efforts of each organization are multiplied and there is a much greater impact for the kingdom.


Here are some other possibilities to spur on your creativity:

Ministry in the Church

  • Help with the youth or children’s ministry
  • Be a part of the worship team
  • Volunteer to be on the missions committee
  • Have a ministry of prayer
  • Take part in visitation, neighborhood outreach, and evangelism
  • Get involved in men’s or women’s ministry
  • Become a Bible study leader or Sunday school teacher

Ministry in the Community

  • Organize an annual neighborhood clean-up day
  • Get involved with local leadership in schools and other public arenas
  • Have a cross-cultural outreach to ethnic groups in your city or town
  • Lead Bible studies
  • Do a park outreach
  • Help at a weekly soup kitchen, food bank, or clothes closet for the poor
  • Get involved in campus outreach
  • Host a kid’s club or Vacation Bible School

Ministry in the World

  • Adopt a Bibleless people or an unreached people group
  • Organize a prayer vigil on behalf of a ministry, mission, country, or church
  • Support missionaries
  • Organize future STMs
  • Begin the process of becoming a mid-term or long-term missionary


Seek God and listen carefully as you choose the things you will be involved in now that you have returned home. Trust him for creativity, availability, and resources to do whatever he calls you to, wherever, and whenever.


From ShortTermMissions.com.