Few things are as precious to a student as Summer Vacation. For a quarter of the year, the world is yours. There is no strict schedule, no homework, no looming responsibility except for milking the last drop of fun from every minute. There’s comfort in knowing that nothing is expected of you; that you can do as you please for a season. It's not usually a time that students set aside for community service.
But we weren’t designed for comfort. We were designed for a purpose.
That explains why students from The Village Church gave up the early days of their summer break to sort clothes, repackage food, toil at gardening, and meet the men and women of our community in their struggles. How they could spend long hours sweating under the summer sun instead of basking in it. Why they laughed and smiled while measuring mounds of Corn Puffs instead of waking up to a bowl of them at noon.
These kids are living with purpose. Some of them, better than us.
Summers Are for Service
As the Middle School Associate Minister at the Village, Morgan Marshall is responsible for the development — and, let’s be honest, wrangling — of several dozen students. She’s been with the church for 4 years, consistently arranging for students in her care to live out their faith all over the world. Kids at the Village volunteer all around the community during their time in the youth ministry, often in a broadening radius. 6th Graders serve in the city of Lewisville, right next door to the Flower Mound church. Middle Schoolers, the group she brought to 6 Stones this year, branch out into nearby cities for comm.
By their Senior Year in high school, Village students are likely to have volunteered in communities from South Texas to South America and even parts of Africa. But, Marshall says, that can’t happen until the kids have learned that their culture isn’t the only culture.
“Each summer we take some local trips with our students to give them opportunities to serve their community and recognize that there is diversity in our area. Since most of our students live in and go to schools that are primarily white and suburban culture, we want our students to have opportunities to experience other types of people and lifestyle in their area,” she wrote via email. “We believe that every believer is called to share their faith and called to live on mission, but that does not mean the same place for every person. So we want to give opportunities for our students to experience a variety of trips as they continue to grow into who God designed them to be!”
That attitude carries through the entire ministry.
The Flower Mound Bubble
It’s a Tuesday morning at 6 Stones, and Marshall is right in the thick of a service project. She and the kids have donned matching hair nets and gloves. They’re awash in a sea of tiny yellow spheres as they sort and repackage bulk food donations for Midwest Food Bank in the 6 Stones community room. The kids take turns measuring cups of bulk cereal into individually labeled bags before their adult chaperones heat seal the plastic. It’s just another (totally unique) day in a Go, Give trip.
Almost everyone is enjoying themselves, but only a few students are truly excited about the next project: the group is going to spend their afternoon getting to know residents of a nearby apartment complex. Talking about their faith and culture. Offering to pray with them. Maybe even explaining the Gospel, the heart of Christianity, to them.
Ally Horton, a two-year veteran of these projects, remembers nothing but nerves on her first trip. Now, the soon-to-be-ninth-grader can’t wait to get back to work.
“At first, I was terrified. I thought the door was going to slam in my face and I was going to start crying. But really, that has never happened. People are so nice. They’re eager to hear the Gospel, even if they don’t know it yet. They’re really welcoming and just joyful to have us,” she said. “It’s just really eye-opening every year. We get to see new environments that we’ve never seen before. We live in a Flower Mound Bubble. There’s no poverty, no hunger. We have everything we need, usually.”
“It’s just cool to see how we’re actually helping the community,” added Micah Zappasodi, an eighth-grader, “if we don’t have that, the rich people stay up in the rich people category and the poor people stay down in the poor people category. There’s no way to climb that ladder unless you become a thief or something like that, and that’s never good!”
The Lost Art of Connection
It’s easy to be skeptical about the value of relationship-building as part of a service trip. From a purely human perspective, a discussion of faith doesn’t have the same tangible impact as a service project. If we’re judging the value of our work by output alone, piles of food win over conversation every time. But that’s a broken metric. People need more than physical things.
“People put on this hard shell that makes them seem like they’re all tough; like they know everything. But really, people are aching for Spiritual Health. I want to have that to offer,” Horton said. “Jesus, whenever he was down on Earth, He gave His whole life. He gave His life for our sins, and that’s what I want to do in a sense. I just want to give others my time.”
To really serve the community, we have to meet relational and spiritual needs as well as physical ones. We have to acknowledge that the root cause of some issues in our community goes beyond a budget. Food and clothing are important, but they can’t heal a broken heart or deliver a hopeless person from depression. They can’t overhaul bad habits or free a person from fear and shame that lead to isolation. Lasting transformation can only occur when we acknowledge and contend with our neighbors’ deeper need to be seen, heard, and loved.
Student trips like the one Marshall and her team took here last week are one of many tools we want to provide to our community in order to facilitate transformation through disciple-making.
Equipped for the Work
The goal of Community Powered Revitalization has never just been to fix a house. The New Hope Center experience shouldn't end at our doors. Operation Back 2 School is more than a one-day supply replenishment. Every 6 Stones program is a touchpoint. Relationships are part of the human design, and everyone benefits when our community pursues them. In that way, taking the time to share life with our neighbors is the ultimate form of service.
“There’s this whole other world out there. People who are in need. [Our kids] may not see those needs every day, and experience those needs. To get them outside of that and to see them serving the Lord and serving the community in this way, I feel like it’s invaluable and necessary. That’s one of the reasons we moved to Texas; for more opportunities like this. We wanted our kids to open up their eyes culturally,” said Ashley Elder, one of the chaperones on the trip and a recent transplant from Utah.
Elder values the evangelism training provided on the trip above anything else. She says that it encourages her to see a new generation learning how to share the Gospel with a focus on Grace and God’s sovereignty: that as a teen, she worried about saying the wrong thing or failing to convince someone to become a Christian. She’s excited to see her kids learning that disciple-making isn’t about winning an argument. It’s about being faithful in our duties and watching God do the real work.
“All the nations are here and we wanted our kids to see that and be a part of that. To see what poverty looks like and how they can impact that for Jesus. And not only that but to see the joy that these people have even when they don’t have money; they still have Joy in the Lord. Like Paul said: whether I am abounding or lacking, I have found Peace. We really wanted our kids to experience that,” she said.
“I think that the Lord is going to show up in huge ways and show Himself in new ways to these kids. I’m excited for them to experience that and get to see that. To live out their faith, to live out the Great Commission and do what God has called them to do and be faithful in it.”
Our community will be as strong as our willingness to be good neighbors, and you can help! Visit the new and improved “Get Involved” page for a full list of service opportunities near you.