I still remember the first time I went to a local food bank with the girls from my small group. I was 13 years old and our small group leader suggested we do something to give back to the community at Christmas time. Initially we groaned and there was possibly even some eye rolling involved. But in the end it was one of the most memorable small group experiences of my early teen years. We went to give back to our community, but what we got in return was so much more. I found a feeling of purpose, fun moments of connection, and a chance to live out the truths I’d been taught in scripture in a tangible way.
One of the best ways to celebrate the holiday season with our teen girls is to spend a little time giving back to our community. Not only does it grow generosity and empathy in them, it’s also a great way to build connections inside your group. Here are three ideas for how to partner with the girls you lead and reach out to your community this holiday season.
1) Serve at a local shelter or food bank. Make sure to involve your girls in the brain storming process of where to serve. Instead of coming to them with a plan already in place, invite them to be involved in the discussion. This is a great opportunity to teach them about generosity and how to look out for those who are vulnerable in our communities. Ask the girls to look up different organizations who are already doing community outreach in your city and find out what volunteer opportunities are available. If the girls are a bit younger, come to them with a list of 4 or 5 organizations you’ve already vetted and ask them make the phone calls, or write the emails to see how they can get involved. When you make the plan and the final decision as a group, they will be more invested in it right from the beginning.
2) Go caroling at a hospital or nursing home. If your girls love to sing or perform, this is the perfect chance to let them use their gifts to bring some joy to those feeling lonely or sad during the holidays. I remember taking my 10th grade girls to carol at a nursing home and seeing all of the smiles and twinkling eyes staring back at us as we sang Silent Night. It was so exciting for my girls to experience the joy of giving. In the end, instead of feeling like they were the ones generously giving of their time, they realized the gift they’d received as well.
3) Have a bake sale to raise money for a cause. This one can be done in a number of ways. Either plan an afternoon to bake together, or if everyone is too busy, get each girl to bake at home and bring a few trays to the sale. You can set up at your church, a local mall, or the school cafeteria at lunch. This is a fun way to raise money for a gift from the World Vision gift catalogue, Operation Christmas Child, or another organization of your choice. It’s alway nice to pick an organization or cause that one of the girls or your church community has a connection to already. This allows them to feel more invested and aware of the impact of their gift.
There are so many fun and creative ways to reach out to your community this holiday season. As long as the girls are involved in the process from beginning to end, it will be a rich experience of giving and receiving, building community and getting to live out their faith in a tangible way. It might even leave an impression on them that lasts for the next 20 years!
Heather Boersma is a speaker, life coach, and author of Letters from a Big Sister: Shared Wisdom to Encourage and Equip Teen Girls. Heather is wife to Alex, and mama of three wild littles. She is addicted to ice cream and happiest by the ocean, even though she lives in the middle of the Canadian prairies.