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Change the world: 5 sweet outreach ideas

By Darby Jones

Outreach ministry can be spiritually rewarding for you and for the people you serve. Many unchurched community members would prefer to be introduced to your church by participating in outreach rather than attending a worship service. So plan for a service day and choose a specific group to help such as older adults, veterans and single parents. The ideas are endless. Cook, clean or shop for these people and become missionaries in your own backyard and town.

One opportunity to unite with United Methodists all over the globe is the Change the World event happening May 14-15. Learn more about this effort and start planning now to participate! No matter what day you choose for your service day, the point is to act now.

Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

1. Reading is feeding
Who doesn't love to read and watch children laugh? Do you enjoy preschoolers crawling in your lap, listening to your every word? Take a group from your church to a library or school and help promote literacy.

At each reading, tell the children they can help feed the world by learning vocabulary at For every vocabulary question answered correctly, FreeRice donates 10 grains of rice to the United Nations Food Programme. Learn more about FreeRice here and start playing!

2. Learn to be a mentor by tutoring
Many children and youth struggle with their homework. For some, it's a matter of not getting enough guidance or attention at home. Contact social services to see how you can help. They will set you up at a local school or community center where you can tutor. You'll never forget the sparkle in a child's eyes as he or she looks up to you. It's pretty much the eighth wonder of the world.

3. Retirement home dance part-a-a-ay!
Call the activity director at a retirement home and plan a "ball." Find someone in the church who can help your group learn a few basic waltz or two-step dance moves. At the retirement home, introduce your group to the residents, slip on some Sinatra and let the fun begin.

Bring some games for those who don't dance. Try to find games from the 1950s and '60s-era. Some residents who may be experiencing early signs of dementia will often still remember and love games they played in their younger years. You can also play music, sing hymns, perform skits, read or just talk.

Ask when the activity director is taking the residents out for a ball game or a trip to the zoo. They will appreciate extra help pushing wheelchairs or someone to socialize with residents. Also, check out these outreach ideas for caring for the caregiver.

4. Break bread with the homeless
Volunteer at a local soup kitchen. Even better, see if you can break bread with the homeless. Eating together creates community and breaks down barriers. Some shelters feed the homeless in open areas, such as parks or under bridges. Attend one of these events and bring some icebreakers such as kites, Frisbees, sidewalk chalk, dogs and more! Include some practical items, such as socks, bottled water and underwear. However, it is not necessary to bring any of these. People simply want to talk and be treated with respect. Connecting on a personal level is the key. Here are some more ideas for homeless ministry.

5. Prom dress exchange
This is a great ministry for teen girls looking for a way to give back during prom season. Many teens don't have money for expensive new dresses. Start a prom dress exchange so teens in need can feel special on that big night. Invite teens to donate gently worn prom dresses and invite young women who may not be able to afford a new dress to choose from the selection.

Take over the world by becoming its servant. 
Learn more and register for Change the World today. By registering, Christians all over can connect and see how much difference just one day of service can make.

--Darby Jones, eMarketing Specialist at United Methodist Communications.