Community Service Ideas for Small Groups

community service ideas small group projectIf your small group is ready to serve, there is no better way than starting together with a shared project. You can start small with a one-time act of service or go big and commit to serving together monthly. Be sure to leverage the interests and passions of your group members, then keep it simple, get out there and begin serving! 

Serve Your Church

  • Care Packages for Graduates - Ask your youth pastor for a current list of high school graduates and send each a care package with an encouraging message, a devotional book and a gift card for necessities (even upperclassmen from your congregation will love this one). Genius Tip: Check out these college care package tips and ideas for inspiration.
  • Gather Your Community - Invite other small groups for a Saturday afternoon outreach to the neighborhood around your church. Advertise ahead of time with fliers put on front doors with washi tape. Have small group members bring games, set up tables around the gym or large meeting space, and invite families from the neighborhood.
  • Letters to Missionaries - Who doesn’t love mail? Have your small group take an evening once a month to write letters of encouragement to missionaries your church supports.
  • Christmas Cards for Missionaries - Round up holiday photo cards or Christmas letters from anyone in your congregation who plans to send them out and mail copies to the missionaries in your church. Get enough for all those living overseas (families and singles) and save on postage by mailing them in one large bunch. What a meaningful gift for those living far away from home at the holidays!
  • Summer Outreach - If your small group takes a break for the summer, consider a once-a-season outreach to the community. Cover water bottles with promotional sleeves for your church’s VBS or service times and hand them out at your local baseball field or swim meet.
  • Sharing Resources - Have small group members sell one item (or more) and give the proceeds to a local charity, mission trip or a church ministry. Dedicate a small group meeting to talk about the experience and study Acts 2:43-47.
  • Blessing Baskets - Your small group can adopt someone, either from your church or in the community, who receives chemotherapy and deliver a once-a-month or biweekly blessing basket to their front step with things like fresh fruit, gift cards for local smoothie shops, crackers, canned soups and hard candy. These don’t need to be extravagant to be meaningful.
  • Switch it Up - Rotate serving several widows or widowers in your church with once-a-month opportunities such as a housing project, providing small freezable meals or a seasonal need such as snow removal or grass cutting.

Coordinate service opportunities at a women's shelter with a sign up. SAMPLE

Serve the Elderly

  • Snuggles for Singles - Have your small group collect or create soft blankets, socks or pillowcases for widows and widowers in your congregation and deliver them with a warm meal and a hug. Your group can also do this for anyone in need of extra encouragement such as single parents, a family in crisis or children in foster care.
  • Adopt a Nursing Home - Connect with the activity director at a local nursing home and ask how you can support their residents. You can arrange visits from community members and families, or for the holidays you may provide a simple gift such as wrapped body wash or toiletries.
  • Seasonal Work - Once springtime brings warm weather, get a list of seniors who could use help pulling weeds, fixing/cleaning gutters, pruning shrubs or other outside chores and have your group commit to a few of these projects. When the snows hit, be sure to reach out with snow removal or offer to salt stairs and sidewalks.

 Serve a Nonprofit

  • Water for Runners - Have your small group sport a T-shirt with your church’s name and logo and serve together giving out water at a local charity race for a nonprofit or ministry that your church supports, like a crisis pregnancy center or a women’s shelter. 
  • Fundraising Event Volunteers - Contact a nonprofit whose mission is something your small group is passionate about and offer to park cars, serve as greeters or provide refreshments for their next open house or fundraising banquet.
  • Pantry and Shelter Helpers - If your small group wants to flex their organizational skills, volunteer to sort food, organize clothing donations and clean pantry shelves. Consider adopting a pantry or shelter ministry and helping every few months.
  • Operation Christmas Child - During the holiday season, gather for a night of packing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. Be sure to check their website for packing suggestions, delivery dates and local donation spots.
  • Soup Kitchen Deep Clean - Consider offering up your small group to do a once a month deep clean for a homeless shelter or soup kitchen in your community, including restrooms and outside meeting areas.

Rally church members to serve the community after a natural disaster. SAMPLE

Serve our Heroes

  • Appreciate Officers - If you know an officer who works during services at your church (with traffic or safety duties) or a local school, take their name down and have your small group write a note of appreciation (an email is great too, and be sure to copy in the chief).
  • Support First Responders - Call the fire and police department to ask about volunteer opportunities at local outreach events like car seat safety (offer to help get the word out) or toy drives for traumatized children they may encounter at the scene of an accident or house fire.
  • Birthday Bags - Create celebration kits for military service members in your congregation including a balloon, paper hat, confetti and card. Be sure to mail them in time for the service member’s birthday.

 Serve a School

  • Appreciation Gifts - Give goody bags to the maintenance staff, special needs teachers and administrators at your local school. Include a reusable insulated coffee cup, sanitizing wipes, facial tissues and a small gift certificate to a local coffee or convenience store.
  • Revive a Space - Another excellent serving idea for schools is to spruce up the teacher’s lounge of a struggling school or plant perennial flowers around the outside of the school. Contact the administration for permission and ideas.
  • The Gift of Reading - Have your small group be on the lookout throughout the year for discounted or free books for children, then funnel them to underserved schools or after-school tutoring programs who would be blessed by these resources. Write in the cover: Given with love from _____ (your church). Great way to let people know about your congregation!

Organize a community service day at your church with a sign up. SAMPLE

Serve a Hospital

  • Gifts for Children - Do you have a local children’s hospital? Consider a holiday-specific service project such as flags with a small flower for the 4th of July for each child on a specific floor, a stuffed animal as a special New Year’s buddy or tiny costumes for preemies in the NICU ward for their first Halloween.
  • Chemo Kits - Contact a local oncology unit’s volunteer director and ask for specific suggestions for assembling kits that would be helpful to their patients undergoing chemo. These can be kits for children or adults and contain comforting items such as candies to suck on, tissues, hand wipes, soft socks, coloring books and pens or crayons. This ongoing project can be assembled throughout the year by your small group members.

 Serve Your Community

  • Easter Egg Hunt - Coordinate with the community center in a subsidized housing area to host an Easter egg hunt for children. Distribute fliers inviting everyone to your church’s VBS or upcoming outreach event.
  • Special Skills Outreach - Does someone in your small group have a helpful skill such as art, music, cooking or maintenance skills (car or house upkeep)? Host a free pop-up class for the community. Have small group members help with organizing, hosting and welcoming participants from the community. Genius Tip: Post fliers with a link for registration to a SignUpGenius page so that you can put a cap on class attendance.
  • House Helpers - Find ways to help foster families in your community by offering Saturday house helpers (the foster parents are home, but you are there to entertain kids so they can nap, shower or take a break). Plan to assemble gift baskets that are ready for delivery when they get a call for a new foster child (diapers and baby supplies or toiletry needs and games for older children) or surprise them with a front porch drop off of kid-friendly snacks (individual popcorn bags, juice boxes, fruit).
  • Resources for Refugees - If your small group is passionate about helping underserved communities, look for ongoing serving opportunities with local refugees and offer to provide meals and transportation on an ongoing basis. Alternatively, share conversation over coffee to help refugees practice speaking English while you learn about their culture as well.
  • Free Childcare - Your small group can provide Saturday morning childcare free-of-charge (ask your church if you can use the nursery or large rooms for play) once a month for single parents in your community for shopping or catching up on their to-do list.
  • Compile Ideas - Create a “Let’s Go Serve!” binder for your small group and start collecting service ideas. You can even list the needs in a sign up for people to choose. Talk to the senior pastor or member care staff at your church for ideas of congregants or community organizations who might appreciate help with one-time projects or have ongoing needs. This binder can be your jumping-off point for serving and is great to share with other small groups who are inspired by your generosity.
Serving together with your small group will not only bless your community, it will strengthen group bonds as you represent God’s love to others. As the saying goes, “many hands make light work,” and serving with your small group is a great way to get those “many hands” working in the community around you. 

Julie David is married to a worship pastor and after 20 years in ministry together with three daughters, she is still developing the tender balance of thick skin and gracious heart. She currently leads a small group of high school junior girls.