We started our service small group almost a year ago with a bunch of ideas, but we also came with open hands. We want to let God shape our restlessness. We want to be available for Him to use us as we live our faith with our kids and other families right where we live. So that’s what we’ve been doing and will continue to do.
This past Sunday, we hosted one of my favorite traditions and I was reminded how God meets us where we are. Years ago, my family started hosting a Jesus Birthday Party with a couple other families. It’s gradually grown from three families in my living room to include other friends and then other friends and then this year the community.
We had party games, face painting, balloon animals, a local radio station DJ, Pin the Tail on the Donkey, coloring sheets, popcorn, and cupcakes. Admission was free, but we collected donations for the local food pantry and pregnancy resource center.
I didn’t get a head count, but I have a trunk full of donations to distribute this week. I didn’t recognize all the faces, but I knew God brought together who needed to be there. Laughter and a sweet rendition of “Happy birthday to Jesus!” filled the room.
We celebrated the birth and life
of the One who gives us true life.
That’s what serving other does in general.
There’s a lot I could tell you about the restlessness that prompted Greg and me to start this group or how it was hard to leave the small group that had loved us well for years. But today’s story is about how this year-old small group has been exactly what we needed this year. And I’m hoping that’s what the people who mostly didn’t even know each other in January but gathered faithfully with us would say too.
Here are our details, which have worked well but are always subject to change: We typically meet on Wednesday evenings. If we aren’t doing a service project, we often meet at my house, where we share a meal, pray for each other, brainstorm ideas, or study scripture. During the summer, the kids sometimes swam while the adults talked and planned and prayed. My point in sharing that: Share life together so the relationships deepen. That makes serving together even more meaningful.
We try to do at least two service projects each month, but the frequency varies based on schedules and ideas.
During the first meeting we brainstormed ideas and then we gradually started scheduling them. As the host, I try to think ahead while being aware and available to meet needs as they arise. I initiate a group text each week with details of what’s happening. And, of course, I ask people what they want to do.
Our group has as many as eight kids eleven and younger, so the whole “serving with your family” part is really important to us. Serving with our own kids – who were nine, seven and one when we started – was one of the reasons my husband and I were willing to step away from the comforts of our previous small group. We haven’t gotten to serve at the local soup kitchen yet because they won’t let our kids volunteer with us. We didn’t personally deliver the care packages we made for a group of children in foster care because the specific ministry we made them for wouldn’t let our kids visit with their kids at their property.
Despite what we haven’t done, our kids have done plenty of service with us. They’ve sorted clothes for the local crisis pregnancy center, played with the foster kids we were babysitting, made cards for nursing home residents and foster children, sang worship songs at the assisted living facility, and helped paint a porch for a campus ministry at our town’s university.
Obviously, what we’re able to do changes with seasons in life. Serving together has reminded me not to grow too comfortable in on stage because God is always working. I don’t want to miss what He has for us because I’m growing too comfortable in my own ways.
Part of this post is an edited excerpt of the free “How to Serve in the Community with Your Family” guide I created for my email friends. If you haven’t already received a copy, you can do so here.