One of the most important components of almost any religious organization is service. There is virtually no other industry in the world that has preached service on behalf of others to such a large extent. Non profit organizations come sort of close, but miss the point still of truly volunteering your time and effort for days, weeks, or even years on end in the name of serving others.
Calvary Church of Pacific Palisades is one of the Santa Monica churches that has a strong emphasis on serving others. Regularly organizing and supporting mission trips, they have sent dozens of their parishioners both overseas as well as certain parts of the US that have suffered a traumatic event to help respond to various needs around the world. This is an important component of their Sunday School program, and an important point discussed almost every week during the sermon as well. Helping others who cannot help themselves is one of the greatest callings of human beings. Far too few answer that calling, and this Santa Monica church wants to do what it can to not be a part of that trend.
By encouraging parishioners to donate supplies such as gently used clothing or non perishable goods, they help keep food banks and local shelters supplied throughout the year. Helping support groups of teenagers every year who go abroad to do mission work while also working on a community project in a developing country furthers their reputation as a church that supports service to others. The walls of the church outside of the chapel are lined with photographs of various projects and missions they have funded over the years, and include parishioners of all ages with people in the community they are helping, whether they are building schools, teaching English, or praying together.
The sense of community is overwhelming as a result. It might not be particular to this one Santa Monica Christian church, but it feels unique in its own way. By nourishing a sense of service to others, a community has sprung up around its own members where anyone who asks for help gets it, and support is always there in hard times, twenty four hours a day seven days a week. This sense of service is one that everyone not only wants to participate in but feels blessed to be able to participate in. Knowing that one day you might need the help of those very same people makes everyone more likely to help one another, it seems.
A sense of service is something that most educators, not just churches, also try to instill. The effect is not the same, however. Public schools are too busy worrying about students’ reading levels, as they should be, and development of a sense of spirit about volunteerism is one of the last items on the list. Even if you are not religious, if you are interested in building a service capacity in your students or your other relationships, taking a page out of Calvary Church’s book might help.