Most communities near a city have opportunities to serve at homeless shelters, women’s shelters, etc. A simple phone call or email might reveal a program already in place where services are needed. Here are some ideas that have been used by children’s ministries.

1. Volunteer to teach a class at a homeless shelter.
The old expression “Got to pay your dues to sing the blues” means that hard times cultivate artistic talent, and your students might have a chance here to serve as cultivators. If one or more of your students is gifted in dance, drama, voice, art, or writing, there might be an opportunity for peer teaching at a shelter. Your students don’t have to be advanced to share what they know with others, and oftentimes shelters appreciate diversions from daily anxieties for young children. A few lessons in self expression might spark something wonderful in young residents.

2. Start a teddy bear campaign.
To begin, find a local domestic violence or homeless shelter in your community that services a lot of children. Ask each child to bring in a stuffed animal from their room to donate to a child who might not have ANY stuffed animals to hug and snuggle with. Ask the children to find a stuffed animal that’s still in great condition, but for whatever reason, they haven’t used it as much as their other toys.

It’s a good idea to get the parents involved so that they understand the point of this service project is NOT to go out and buy a NEW stuffed animal.

You want the children to FEEL what it means to GIVE something of their OWN.

Bring a large box to class and have each child place their bear in the box.

Remind them how much some little child is going to appreciate their gift. You want them to have an instant warm “I did good” feeling as they say goodbye to their possession.

You want the kids realize that the wonderful feeling of giving to those less fortunate can outweigh the discomfort of giving up something that was their own.

For the most meaningful impact and learning, have the children accompany you to drop off the box.

Or, invite a representative from the shelter in your community to come and accept the donation on the children’s behalf.

Ask around and see if a member of the congregation is actively involved in your chosen shelter. Invite them to come in and tell the kids how much the teddy bears will be appreciated.

3. Sign up to serve meals.
Some homeless shelters and soup kitchens hope for volunteers to help serve meals and clean up afterwards, especially around the holidays! Be sure and tell the shelter of the ages of your children as many have rules about help meeting an age requirement.

4. Start an accessories campaign.
Sometimes women’s shelters appreciate unused makeup, hair spray cans, mousse, gel, anything to help the women look nice and feel better. Ask kids to raid Mom’s supply (with her help and permission, of course).

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