For one, Jesus sent His followers out. They did not just stay in their little group and just hang out all the time. They went out and did ministry together and then when the time came Jesus sent them out even farther. The second thing is that Jesus called His disciples to be His witnesses in, ..."Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the Earth." And if you look at Acts we see that they took this very literally. They first ministered in Jerusalem and then the Gospel spread out to the surrounding cities and eventually the ends of the Earth. We have this same calling and must follow their example. We cannot very well love people across the globe if we are not loving the people in our Jerusalem right across the street. But I do not want to just leave you with this truth without some practical advice of how to make this happen. I want to give you three ideas of how you can love your community as a student ministry and make an incredible impact for Christ.
Fair warning, I will be using the word adopt a lot because this signals a sense of permanence and taking on responsibility. And I want to make sure that you understand that this cannot be a one time project but a long term commitment.
1. Adopt a neighborhood.- The first thing I would suggest is to adopt a neighborhood in your area. Look for one as close as possible to your church that you are not yet reaching. For example, we recently realized that even though our church was growing we had very few people attending from the neighborhood right behind us. So we started to go out into that neighborhood and found that not only were they not attending our church, the vast majority of people were not attending any church. I would not be a bit surprised if you found the same thing in a nearby neighborhood in your community. There are a couple of ways this can start, but then it must mold to the needs of the neighborhood. I would suggest one primary thing though. I would go door to door and see if any one has any needs that need to be met from grocery shopping to yard work. Then make sure you have a team of people and the resources ready to meet those needs. You could also mention that you are from the church around the corner or across town and that you have realized that you need to do a better job of loving and caring for this neighborhood. This pseudo apology might go a long way in bringing healing to the life of someone who may have been burned by the church in their past. Just make sure not to say it like you think they are helpless and must be rescued, but instead as they are valuable and deserve to be served. Then as you begin to learn the neighborhood, meet people, and hear what the needs are, you can plan and do ministry accordingly.
2. Adopt a park.- This may go hand in hand with the prior idea. Because at least in our community every neighborhood has a school playground in the middle of the neighborhood that serves as the park everyone plays at. Anyways, this project could simply start as park cleanup if that is needed. But some other ideas might be to go out and play basketball, soccer, or get a kickball game going. Hopefully you will not have to start any of these but can find a way to get involved with what is already happening. One great way to do this is to bring water or Gatorade. This is always an easy way to get into a game. Another simple thing you could do is just go push kids on the swing. I do not know your neighborhood but in my park I get exhausted because we are the only parents there and every kid wants a push. You could also set up a buffet of sorts and make sandwiches. If you do this though you may want to check the laws about local food service. Then, like the neighborhood, as you get to know the park you can plan how you serve accordingly.
3. Adopt a school.- We did a whole post on this recently so I won't expand too much on this again, but there are a few specific ideas I would like to mention. First you want to talk with the administration, parents, and students at the school to get a feel for what the needs are. Then you could find ways to meet those needs. A few specific things I could think that might come up are offering after school tutoring or test prep. You could even serve pizza or snacks. Another idea might be computer classes or career prep courses. Yet another plan might be to say that anytime an event needs volunteers, from fundraisers to festivals, that your church is ready to fill on the positions. Just make sure that when the time comes you are ready. I would also have a school calendar handy. This not only helps you see possible opportunities to serve but also can help you plan ahead and have people ready to serve when the time comes.
I hope this ideas are helpful. But even if you do not use any of them I hope you will at least make sure that this outward focus will be a component of your youth ministry. Because not only will there be a temporary benefit of your church having a better reputation in the community, but more importantly there will be the eternal benefit of lives that are changed for Christ.