Learning Community Services Is Not Difficult At All! You Just Need A Great Teacher!
The Greatest Generation
Not long ago, Tom Brokaw, a well-known newsman, and author wrote a book about the heroic sacrifices that the men and women during World War II made to stop Hitler and his allies and save our nation and the world from tyranny. The name of that book was The Greatest Generation. Now there is absolutely no question that the tremendous effort and self-sacrifice that our grandfathers and grandmothers made during those dark days represents the very best of what America is all about. We will never be able to thank them enough for what they did to preserve this great country for our children and for us.
But there may be another greatest generation that deserves recognition as well. And that generation is the next one. The reason that generation has the chance to be the greatest generation as well is that we have the chance, right now as the parents, the guardians, the teachers, the Boy Scout leaders, the Sunday School teachers, and the mentors of these young people to show them what greatness is and how they too can be for their times the greatest generation.
To help the next generation to demonstrate that kind of greatness, we must instill in them a sense of community awareness, devotion, and pride that will generate from everything they do. If the next generation is only what used to be called “the me generation,” they will only do what makes them happy right now. Greatness comes from doing something that means something for the community. So by teaching our youth how to be involved in community service from a very early age, we equip them to be as great as any generation that came before.
Being of service to the community is a skill and an attitude that is caught and not taught. So by making sure we, as the adults in their lives, are always looking for ways to get involved in community service, the youth will mimic our behavior as youth will always do, and they will catch the fever and get a taste for community service that will last a lifetime.
A wise man once said about helping the poor that if you give a man a fish, he is fed for a day, but if you teach him to fish, he is fed for a lifetime. This ethic is true about teaching our youth that community service is fun and that neighbors helping neighbors is what makes life worth living. That is teaching our kids to fish. And the result will be a love of community service that will last a lifetime.
We have good mentors in our quest to raise the greatest generation. And there are outstanding youth organizations that thrive on community service and passing the torch to the next generation. From Boy Scouts to school clubs to youth groups to the YMCA, wherever there are mentors of youth, there is community service going on.
How will we know if our quest to make the next generation great is a success? The clues will come quietly. When you hear your son or daughter leave the house with enthusiasm to go join in on a project to clean up the park or to sign up at the library to help children to read, you can reflect that you are witnessing the birth in that child a love of giving and a love of community service that will last a lifetime. That is the spirit that made the World War II generation great. By empowering our children to be servants of the community, they too will become, for their times, the greatest generation.
The Church as Good Neighbor
There has been a lot of discussion going on about whether religion should be part of public life. This kind of theoretical discussion can be thrown around on national television shows. But anyone who lives in a community in any town in this country knows that the church is as vital a part of any community as the town hall, the library, or the local swimming pool.
Whether you have religious convictions or not, the church’s role in community life is impossible to ignore. Most churches have as part of their core reason for being that they will reach out to the community in a wide variety of ways to help the needy and provide comfort to those in need of help in the community in which they reside.
Since this country was founded, the church has been a gathering place where important public factions take place. Just take a walk around Boston, where the nation was born, and you will notice that many of the important public landmarks that were part of the start of this country were churches. To a church, participating in community service is just as natural as a policeman helping a lost child get home. It just is part of who they are what they do.
If you have a community service project in mind, it is never a bad place to start to go to the church and meet with their administrative board. The church knows that if you improve the community, you make people feel more part of the lives of others. And people who want to be involved in the lives of others get out and go to church. So it just makes good sense for your local church, temple, or synagogue to be a vital part of any community service project that can make your town a better place to live.
It is important to understand the role the church can play in any community service project in town. The church is probably not the place to go to get massive funding for huge public works to project. But don’t count the church out as a funding resource because, within the church, there may be many influential and wealthy citizens who might be ready to kick in their fair share to make the town a better place to live.
The church, if it is a vital and living religious body, has at its disposal a strong community of enthusiastic members and the ability to mobilize those members to get out and make a difference in the community. The pastor or priest of the local church has the pulse of his or her congregation, and he or she knows how to get them moving on an exciting project and, by the way, how to turn them against one just as fast.
So when you go to the local church to discuss that community service project, think of what means the most to that religious institution. They are not motivated by property values, marketing statistics, or traffic the project might generate. A church is interested in the people who might be touched and if the project gives them the ability to make a positive impact on the community. That kind of influence will help people feel open to coming to church again, and that is what makes churches grow.
So we should look at churches as places that have a tremendous value to any community service project we might need to get started. As people motivators, they cannot be beaten. Church members are joiners and doers, and they as a rule, can be trusted with money, equipment, and responsibility. Churches have small communities such as the youth group, the ladies circle, or the men’s fellowship that by themselves can take on a community service project and make it a success. So if you have plans to start a project that is going to make a positive mark on your community, remember a church can always be counted on to be a good neighbor.
Teens on a Mission from God
One of the many great lines from the classic movie The Blues Brothers was one that was delivered by Dan Ackroyd when he was explaining the importance of their need to get their blues band back together. He always explained that it was because “We’re on a mission from God.”
But humor aside, across this country, from literally thousands of churches each summer, youth groups head out on trips, some far away and some across town to offer community service in the name of their mission of spreading the word about their faith. Now whether you subscribe to the religious views of these many bright-eyed teenagers, you have to admit that seeing such an army of youth spending their summer weeks working to help others rather than just hanging out at the pool or making trouble for their parents is a positive thing for everyone concerned.
From a religious perspective, one of the great values of a mission trip for teenagers is that it gives them a chance to genuinely use their faith in the service of others. Most religious doctrines include a dedication to service to mankind in one form or another. Most of the mission trips that are sponsored from American churches are Christian in nature. And the Christian faith definitely includes teaching that all followers should reach out to the poor and to those less fortunate than themselves as part of their devotion to God.
So taking an organized group of young people out to offer service to the poor, to another culture, or even overseas to a disadvantaged area makes those teachings from the church much more real. Even for those who may not subscribe to Christianity, it is clear that a faith that gets out and puts its muscle into community service is a faith that, to borrow a phrase, “puts its money where its mouth is.”
Beyond the religious aspects of the value of such mission trips, many tremendous values are the outcome of mobilizing a group of teenagers to go and help others as part of a community service effort. Some of those values are…
* It teaches the value of work. When youth are given shovels or paintbrushes and they have to work 8-10 hours in the hot sun to help other people, they learn a lot about what hard work means and the great things that can come from hard work. This is a lesson that can never been taught as well via lectures or reading a book. It is a lesson best caught, not taught.
* It teaches them to work together. Community service projects almost always involves working in teams. As teens begin to bond with their fellow missionaries that are both other teens who are older and younger and with hard-working adults, those divisions between generations and between each other melt away as they work hard and enjoy the fun of really doing something worthwhile.
* It gives them a glimpse into the lives of others. Universally when teenagers return from a mission trip, they come back changed after seeing how others less fortunate than they live. This is a big growing experience and one that will only happen in a dramatic, face to face encounter such as they have on the mission field.
We cannot overlook that one of the big values of putting tens of thousands of teenagers into the field to do community service each summer is that many poor, disadvantaged, or down and out people get much-needed help from an army of kids eager to serve because they are doing it from their reverence for their religious beliefs. The bonding that happens on mission trips isn’t just between the team and each other, and it’s leadership. Those receiving the help will bond with the mission teams in ways that none involved will ever forget. And that has the value that are probably even greater than the work that got done. Those are eternal values.
What is the importance of community service?
What can I do for my community?
What things can you do for community service?
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