Feeling Isolated? Looking for ways that you and your family can serve this school year but not sure how? One of the silver linings of COVID-19 is that with a little more free time, it is easier to connect and serve our communities. And a healthy way to get our minds off our own sadness, loneliness or anxiety is to focus on someone else! Here are some simple methods to serve your community and keep your social distance.
- Blessing Bags for the Homeless
Blessing Bags are one of my favorite activities and so easy to do with kids. Simply fill a gallon sized plastic bag with items that homeless men and women could use. You could give a mask, toiletries, socks, gloves, nonperishable soft food (for the dentally challenged), bottled water, a rain poncho, tissues, wet wipes, cough drops, sunscreen, chapstick, female sanitary pads, a small Bible or encouraging note. A quick google search will give you even more great ideas! Once your bags are filled, put them in your car so that your family will be ready to hand out bags while driving around town.
It is easy to purchase these items at a dollar store, Dollar General, Wal-Mart, etc. and you can easily fill a bag for about $5. Be aware of poor bag ideas as well (like hard foods, used items, items with alcohol, drugs, or anything sharp). Your church may be willing to give you small bibles or devotionals to put in your bags. You can sew your own masks or ask the sewers in your circle if they would donate/sell some masks for a low fee.
Our kids love this activity and always alert me when they see someone in need. It is so rewarding to see the look of surprise and gratitude on a person’s face when they receive a bag.
2. Manna Meals Ministry
Bringing meals or baked goods to those in need can be such a blessing to the recipients! There are so many reasons why people could use a home-cooked meal brought to them: moving, divorce, death, poor health, birth of a child, miscarriage, surgery, new foster placement/adoption, loneliness, stress, etc. Be on the lookout for the needs around you and see if they could use some help! Even if a person declines your offer, they often still appreciate your thoughtfulness. And better yet, if they do need the help, consider setting up a meal train for an extended period and share with their church, friends, family, neighbors, etc.
Be mindful of any food allergies – I have found this ministry getting trickier with so many food allergies and preferences: gluten-free, no meat, no dairy, no eggs, no white flour, no white sugar, no soy, etc. But remember that this is to be a blessing…so pray and ask God to help you be a blessing to them and find a generous meal that meets their dietary requirements. It has certainly opened my eyes to the difficulties some families face with their food allergies and has made me so grateful that my family doesn’t have any!
3. Sending Mail
Who doesn’t love getting personal mail? Even though we may be restricted in seeing each other in person, we can still mail each other cards and gifts! Cards can be sent for any occasion – birthdays, anniversaries, losses, illness, thinking of you, etc. And don’t forget those in prison, in the military or overseas like missionaries! The kids can get in the action and write letters to pen-pals or write notes in the cards sent by the family.
College students also love to get care packages! Several college campuses are open for the 2020-2021 school year. For many students, this will be their first time away from home living in dorms. A simple care package is just a shoe-box filled with nonperishable foods like ramen, mac n cheese, oatmeal, goodies, tissues, cough drops, encouraging cards, and devotionals.
With many childcare centers and other relief for parents no longer available during COVID, babysitters are at a premium! This can be a great service opportunity for healthy, responsible teens/tweens, college students, and active retirees.
5. Help Others with Home Improvement Projects or their Lawns
With everyone stuck at home, many are working on their homes and lawns. But what about those around you who need help in this area? If you or your healthy, responsible teen/tween is gifted in this area, consider offering your mowing/painting/handyman services. Help will also be needed to rake leaves in the fall and shovel snow in the winter.
6. Call Shut ins, Singles, etc.
Many people live alone, cannot go out because of their immune systems, or may be surrounded by kids and stress. It is super simple to call a person and ask how they are doing. It costs nothing but some of your time. A phone call can really boost a person’s day or even week! Many will enjoy speaking to your kids as well.
7. Operation Christmas Child
Another one of our families favorite ministries is Operation Christmas Child. This ministry is still planning to operate this fall and will be collecting shoe-boxes November 16-23, 2020 at collection centers around the nation. Simply get a shoe-box and label it for age/gender of the intended recipient. Fill the shoe-box with small toys, school supplies, hygiene items, etc. suitable to the gender and age of the recipient. Close the box with some large rubber bands and then drop off at your nearest collection center.
Kids love to shop for shoe-box supplies and fill the boxes. (Although some of my kids in the picture look like they are tired haha). We tend to collect supplies throughout the year, taking advantage of clearance sales, back to school sales, after holiday sales, etc. This can help to fill several boxes at a low cost. As a new Christian, I was so inspired by some low income widows at our church in Arizona; every year they brought in 25-30 boxes all by themselves. If they could manage that, then surely I could too! It didn’t happen overnight, but we slowly worked our way from sending 2 boxes to 25+ boxes plus shipping. Everything we have belongs to Him, anyway, right?
Let God lead you in your generosity! He is sure to amaze you!
Proverbs 11:25 (NIV)
25 “A generous person will prosper;
whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.”
8. Host a Small Fellowship Gathering or Bible Study
Following the rules of your state, small gatherings are often allowed. Whether it is in your home or outside, and everyone is healthy and comfortable, feel free to get together for some much-needed fellowship! This could be in the form of Bible study, book club, or just hanging out. You can wear a mask and stay social distanced and still get in that precious fellowship time with friends, family, and neighbors. The zoom meetings just can’t replace in-person interaction!
9. Set out Waters/Snacks for the Delivery Drivers
A great idea and much appreciated by delivery drivers is leaving out waters/snacks for them by the front door. Due to COVID, more and more people are doing much of their shopping online, making Amazon, Fed-Ex, USPS, UPS, etc. very busy! Bottled water is especially appreciated during the hot summer!
10. Volunteer at a Community Garden
Another way to stay active, get in fellowship, and yet stay socially distanced is to volunteer at a community garden. You will often get to take home fresh produce as well as give surplus produce to those in need. Look for one in your community, and if there isn’t one, consider starting one!
Have fun with your service! This list is just to get you started – get creative and look for specific service opportunities in your circle, using your specific talents. COVID-19 has changed so much of our lives, but it can’t keep us from loving and serving each other! Go to God the Father and ask His will for your time, talents, and resources. You may find your self blessed even more than those you are serving!
Mark 10:45 (NIV)
45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Edited by Allie Anson