Sweating. Teaching. Praying. Playing. What do all of these have in common? They're just a few things Christian college students experience while ministering through service projects. No doubt about it, community service is a major part of life at many Christian colleges-that means it could be a major part of your college experience!
To get a feel for the wide variety of service opportunities available to you, we talked to four students about their own exciting experiences. But don't stop with these four! As you research schools and visit campuses, talk to students about volunteer opportunities available on their campuses.
Let's Be Pals
Allison Youngren knows how fun it can be to serve others. She participated in a ministry at Bryan College in Dayton, Tennessee, that let her eat pizza in the park, go on hayrides, throw roller-skating parties and attend basketball games. The Pals ministry pairs college students (the "big pals") with kids, ages 5 to 12 (the "little pals"). Besides making sure the kids have fun, Allison and the other big pals tried to provide the love and stability many of the kids don't have at home.
Allison joined the Pals ministry during her freshman year at Bryan. That's where she met her little pal, 8-year-old Anay. After struggling a full year to gain Anay's trust, Allison finally broke though. The result: "We're like sisters," says Allison. Even though Allison graduated from Bryan in May, the two pals still keep in touch.
The Pals ministry is a lot of fun, but it's not without its challenges. "There were definitely times when I just felt like it was a burden," Allison says. "It's like, 'Oh, I have to get this done so I can check it off my to-do list.'" But Allison says spending time with her little pal was always worthwhile. "I got Anay to open up and talk about her family, or we'd have a conversation about spiritual things. I'd teach her little things. And when I'd drop her off, I'd think to myself, This is the reason why I'm doing this."
With all the demands of college life, finding time presents a challenge for all the big pals. But Allison says the time she set aside each week has taught her about selflessness.
"I realized how much it means to invest in someone's life," she says. "I've always had people who invested in my life—when I was younger and even now—and I know how much of an impact that had on me. You gain a lot from using your time and talent for someone other than just yourself."
A Lesson in Love
When Allie Long came to Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, she was thrilled to discover the school offered an inner-city ministry called Mentor Moms. For the last three years, Allie has traveled to a mission house in downtown Marion, Indiana, to spend time with single mothers and their children. Most of the moms are teenagers struggling with financial troubles and unstable family situations.
"The ministry is focused on sharing the love of Christ with these mothers and their children—meeting physical and spiritual needs," says Allie, who wants to teach at an elementary school after graduating from college.
The moms earn "mommy dollars" by helping with chores around the mission house, which they can use in the mission store to buy items like diapers, toys and clothes. Though Allie enjoys a close friendship with one of the young moms, she finds the most joy hanging out with the kids. "I love children, and I have a passion for inner-city kids—that's where I want to teach," she says.
After Allie's freshman year, the Mentor Moms director asked her to take charge of childcare during the weekly meetings for Taylor students and the moms. Previously, childcare simply meant babysitting. But Allie decided to incorporate a Bible lesson and organized activities. "It's hard because of the kids' background. They're not used to structured activity," she says. "I've learned how to be a better leader because when you're placed in a leadership position you have to take control. You have to be more teacher-ish. So I'm learning how to be a better teacher: Although I can be loving, I have to be very firm."