by Megan Bittner

“How wonderful it is that no one need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” – Anne Frank

And how wonderful it is that there are so many countless ways to volunteer and make a difference, however great or small! God calls us to stewardship and service over and over again throughout the Bible. Contributing your time, resources, finances, services, expertise, labor, care, and more is a mission that goes far beyond benefitting yourself, your family, your church, and even your local–and global–community. Service is a vital part of a faithful life, and a living image of the relationship God wants us to have with one another. In this week’s Homeschool Classroom, we explore volunteerism as part of a life of stewardship and service, and the many ways we and even the youngest among us can integrate charity–love, benevolence, and goodwill–into our everyday lives.

 

Why Serve?

There are countless blog posts, devotionals, and even scientific reports studying and expounding on the reasons for and benefits of volunteering. But where better to take our instructions and reasons from than the Word of God? Begin with this small sample of verses in which we are called to serve and even instructed how to do so.

1 Peter 4:10

Galatians 5:13

John 12:26

Mark 10:45

Colossians 3:23

Acts 20:35

Ephesians 2:10

1 Corinthians 15:58

Romans 12:11

Colossians 3:17

John 15:16

1 Timothy 1:12

John 13:14-15

The Parable of the Long Spoons, which compares Heaven and Hell to two rooms in which many people gather around a great feast unable to feed themselves, is a simple illustration of the difference that an attitude of generosity, service, trust, and community can make.

This short devotional explores the concept that Christians are left on Earth in order to serve and exemplify God’s love.

This blog post from Laura Grace Weldon speaks about getting children involved in the community from a very young age.

Families for Life offers some great practical reasons that kids should be allowed and encouraged to volunteer.

Strengthen your family bond and lead by example by volunteering with your kids.

Real Life at Home describes some excellent ways to make community service part of your homeschool.

 

Learn to Serve

Try these seven tips for raising generous children from Self-sufficient Kids.

Learning to use our resources wisely and intentionally–stewardship–is a big part of volunteering. How much more would we have to give if we could eliminate the wasted food, wasted time, and wasted materials, and turn all of those saved resources into time to volunteer, donations to send, and money to put toward a good cause?

It can be hard for children who live comfortably and safely to understand the needs of others who don’t. Do we have to take away their security to teach them about necessity? Explore how gratitude fosters generosity by encouraging kids to appreciate the things they have that they may take for granted–whether they be material possessions, opportunities for fun and enrichment, or a support system of family and friends.

In her blog, Laura Grace Weldon refers to the small acts of random kindness she indulged in with her small children as “Guerrilla Encouragement Efforts.” Read through for some of the sweet–and sometimes silly!–ways she turned these small interactions into games that her children could build on as they grew.

These 10 kid-friendly volunteer service projects from Points of Light are an excellent introduction to a world of service and selflessness.

These kindness trees are an excellent tool and on-going game to help encourage kindness at home–in both performance and recognition.

These children’s stories all focus on themes of service and generosity. You can incorporate them into your story times as conversation starters and inspiration for both you and your kids. **

Kindness Counts: A Story for Teaching Random Acts of Kindness (Without Limits) by Bryan Smith

The Elves and the Shoemaker (Parragon Books)

How Kind! By Mary Murphy

The Kindness Quilt by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace

A Home for Bird by Philip C. Stead

If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson

 

Where to Serve

Okay, great. Everyone is onboard and ready, willing, and able to take on a project or set aside some volunteer time. Now what? The best way to find a need to meet and discover a mission is to ask! Your church, your local homeless shelter, nursing homes, animal shelters, youth organizations, hospitals, community centers, neighbors, co-ops–they all have needs. Ask!

GiveGab and VolunteerMatch are two online databases you can use to search your area for service opportunities. You can search GiveGab for local community projects and collections and VolunteerMatch for organizations looking to fill volunteer positions.

Outdoorsy nature-lovers can explore service opportunities through the National Park Service Youth Conservation Corps.

A great rainy-day service project? Write letters to or assemble care packages for deployed service members through Operation Gratitude.

Ask if your local food bank will let families work together to set tables, serve beverages, and clean up. If not, you can raise funds to donate food.

Register your dog as a therapy animal to volunteer for visits to hospitals, nursing homes, and more.

Volunteers of all ages and passions can find their niche at the 2018 HEAV Homeschool Convention in June! Over 600 volunteers are needed to assist with hospitality, registration, children’s programs, the used curriculum sale, and more. There are some wonderful opportunities to serve as family, for children to get involved, and to serve fellow homeschoolers.

 

How to Serve

Check out these 50 ideas for volunteering as a homeschool family from Bookshark.com.

Get inspired by these 100 acts of kindness that children can get in on.

These lists include helpful ideas for putting together donation boxes for local organizations, but do make sure to ask your specific organization for any special or significant needs.

Best items to donate to a homeless shelter

20 simple things to donate to an animal shelter

Nursing home donation ideas

Most-needed items at food banks

These simple craft ideas would be excellent family projects that allow everyone to participate in your donations.

This scarf tutorial from Simply Shoeboxes provides instructions for creating simple, cozy scarves to include in donations to homeless shelters.

This no-sew dog toy can be donated to animal shelters as well as nursing home residents or hospital patients who receive visits from therapy animals.

These no-sew pet beds are quick and easy to make, and always welcome donations at your local animal shelter.

What volunteer project have you had the opportunity to do with your family? How did you learn of the need? Share your stories and resources in the comments!

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