Hypothetically, service projects are a great way for Bible students to begin putting the pieces of their faith walk together as they help others. Unfortunately, most service opportunities are conducted in such a way that not only do those participating learn very little, but they may actually not be helping others as much as you may think. There are five things you can do, however, that will increase the likelihood your Bible students will learn something meaningful from a service experience.
- Meaningful ties to scripture. Is there anything in scripture that gives this service learning opportunity more meaning? Perhaps you are serving someone that Jesus or someone else in the Bible also served. Maybe you are following the specific commands of particular scriptures to serve certain types of people or to behave in certain ways towards others. Without these ties to scripture, service activities can seem incredibly random and without context.
- Specific, concrete, measurable goals. Too often, young people are involved in serving others with absolutely no idea about what they are actually supposed to accomplish. Concrete, specific, measurable goals help young people know what they are supposed to accomplish and a gauge for whether or not they did what was expected of them. Goals can be for the project itself as well as any personal spiritual growth you hope to see in participants.
- Empathy activities. Do your Bible students have a heart for the people they are serving? Are they ambivalent or even antagonistic about or towards them? Do they have sympathy, but not empathy for them? Empathy is crucial to an impactful service learning experience – for everyone involved. Taking the time to help students develop empathy before they serve can make a huge positive impact on outcomes.
- Interaction with recipients. Often young people never meet and learn very little about the people they are serving. Actually meeting the people and hearing their stories will have a greater impact on your Bible students than completing a service project for people who are nameless and faceless.
- Reflection activities. Taking the time after a service project is completed to talk with students about everything they experienced is crucial. It allows you an opportunity to find out what they actually learned, as well as correct misconceptions and share final important thoughts with them. Without reflection activities or conversations, you have no idea what students actually learned from serving others.
Want your Bible students to truly learn from serving others? Add these five things to each service experience and they are much more likely to make meaningful spiritual growth each time they serve others.