So about 10 days ago a hurricane hit my city (Jacksonville, Florida). In fact, it hit my entire state, knocking out power, flooding homes, displacing families even taking lives. In the days leading up to the storm, our area had a lot more anxiety than for storms in the past. The news reports were calling for a category 5 storm that would sink Florida (this was said by at least 2 reports). The best part of the hurricane took place in the days following.
A day after the hurricane when no one had power (it’s hot in Florida, but no AC) and there was major flooding all over, teens started texting me asking how they could help. To be clear, not just those all-star teens who love Jesus more than their youth pastors but all sorts of kids. They were ready and willing to help and do whatever. So we got to work, we grabbed rakes and a chainsaw and started heading to out to serve. To this point, we have spent about 30-40 hours helping clean up and we had such large turnout we had to form teams to go to different locations to work. Here is what we learned.
1. The church should respond FIRST when disaster strikes (and let the teens lead the charge).
Our generation of teens today, as most youth pastors know, is wired to serve so turn them loose. Seeing our teens take care of the widows and love their neighbors might be the greatest ministry they do all year.
2. Partner with other churches and celebrate what other ministries are doing.
We had a small church down the street with a bi-vocational youth pastor work way more and way longer than us. He even took time off of his “real job” (his words) to serve with his students. I had a great time, sharing on social media what THEY were doing! They are now known as the church that serves!
3. Girls work harder than guys and that’s fine.
It was so cool seeing twice as many ladies out serving than guys. Even cooler, watching young ladies operate chainsaws.
4. Consider turning camps/retreats into mission trips and go to Houston, Miami even Mexico and serve!
Help students take the focus off themselves and place it on others, I can guarantee their worship experience at the event will be multiplied greatly. As you plan upcoming events, even summer 2018, give it some thought.
5. Find a family to serve.
We had several families displaced. Collecting gift cards and cash to give to them was one of the greatest ways we could serve them. Also offering up meals and places to stay is extremely helpful!
6. Be Ready.
Have a plan. Don’t be scared to cancel normal activities to do what NEEDS TO BE DONE.
7. Young people have the most flexibility and will be on the frontlines of your church serving.
It was amazing seeing so many teens serving. The question that kept running through my brain was, “are they ready to give an answer as to why they are doing this?” When my students are asked why they are doing this, ideally they would answer JESUS! It is my job to prepare them to do this.
8. Get Out.
Getting out of the office, and serving church members, neighbors, non-church members, widows, etc. is a great Sabbath and a great reminder of why we do what we do as well as who the people are we are ministering to. Our greatest moments of ministry often occur outside the church building (sort of reminds me of a guy named Jesus).
9. Document it!
Take pictures, videos and testimonies and share them. They are uplifting and way better than a cat playing piano while wearing a hat on Facebook. This will also shine a great light on your ministry.