Throughout Scripture, God’s heart for the vulnerable, especially the widow and the orphan, is on display. In James 1:27, Christians are commanded to have a heart for them for it says, “Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
In the privileged world we live in, it’s very easy for even us adults to neglect this command. We focus on ourselves, and our students often fall into this temptation too. As their leaders, we must not only obey this command, but we also should disciple our students in lifting their eyes off themselves to the needs around them so that they may obey this command.
Here are 10 ways students can serve the orphan and widow:
Sponsor a child.
There are many ministries that offer sponsorship programs for children in need (Compassion International, Mocha Club, etc.). A small group or entire student ministry could do this together, or an individual student could do this as well. Challenge students to give up one trip to Starbucks or their favorite fast food place each week to put toward the sponsorship.
Offer to babysit.
Foster/adoptive families have a lot on their plate, so simply giving parents some time to go to coffee with a friend, have a date night, or run errands would mean the world. For foster care, each state’s rules vary on respite care, but even if your state doesn’t allow someone to care for the foster children without being licensed, girls could still go over to their home and do crafts or play with the children while the parents do laundry, cook dinner, or do yard work uninterrupted.
Donate clothes to ministries that support foster families.
Foster children can also be teenagers, and often, they come to their new families with just a trash bag of minimal belongings. Many of the girls we minister to have a closet-full of stylish clothes they could donate. Something as small as a new outfit could go a long way in helping a vulnerable teen feel loved and confident.
Offer to bring a meal to a foster/adoptive family or a widow.
Most teenage girls couldn’t put together a meal by themselves, but a small group could get together to practice their cooking skills and then deliver it to a family. This would be a win-win since the family would be blessed by the meal, and our girls would also have a blast fellowshipping with one another in the kitchen. If you take a meal to a widow, you could also offer the gift of time by enjoying it with them. Often, widows simply enjoy the company of others!
Offer to help with household chores.
Many widows are unable to do basic household chores such as dusting, cleaning glass, cleaning bathrooms, etc. Have a service day for your girls to visit a widow and bless them by completing these tasks. I’m sure an adoptive/foster mom would also appreciate a helping hand with these!
Plan a family fun day at your church for foster/adoptive families.
There are so many ways to get creative with this, such as bouncy houses, face painting, etc. These families would appreciate both the free family fun and the chance to connect with other foster/adoptive families.
Help adoptive families with fundraisers/be a part of them.
Speaking from experience, this has been a HUGE way our students have supported our adoption. Students might not have a lot of money to give (and that’s okay!), but often, they do have the resource of time or creativity. They can plan and execute fundraisers, or simply offer a helping hand with one that’s already planned. We “egged” yards at Easter (put plastic eggs filled with candy in peoples’ yards), and our students and their families were some of the main people who helped us “egg”. This was such a blessing to us!
Go on mission trips.
Many times, mission trips can be taken to orphanages or vulnerable people. Encourage your girls to give up a week of their summer to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this very real way. I have no doubt they’ll be blessed by this and be glad they did!
Find local ministries and volunteer.
In our area, we have several ministries that support foster families, the pro-life movement, and widows. Research these ministries in your area, and ask for specific ways your girls can help. I’m sure they’re always thankful for joyful volunteers!
This one is listed last, but certainly not least! I think we can sadly overlook this incredible ministry tool sometimes. No matter how busy life gets or how financially strained things might be for your girls, they can always pray. Encourage them to pray for orphans and widows, that the Lord would meet their physical needs, but that ultimately, their spiritual need for a Savior would be met.
As Christians, I don’t think we can truly be pro-life without following James 1:27. Though our students aren’t old enough to foster or adopt yet, that doesn’t exempt them from the command to care for the orphan and widow. Help your girls to see the beauty and magnitude of their spiritual adoption into the Father’s forever family.
Once we really grasp that, there’s no other option but to love the vulnerable in the same way the Father loves us. I pray God uses this next generation in mighty ways for his glory, especially in caring for the orphan and widow!
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible® and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
Cassie Pattillo is a wife to Jack, and mama to Hunter (5), Isaac (3), and is in the process of adopting from India. Jack is a student pastor, so she loves serving alongside him and investing in teens’ lives. She is passionate about biblical literacy along with writing and teaching about Scripture. She is also a big fan of slow mornings with a cup of coffee, a good book on the beach, and Gamecock football.