More than activities, today’s youth look for purpose. When youth leaders or pastors work on the youth program, they can encourage young people to serve the church and reach out to their community in many meaningful ways.
Here are 50 great ideas your church can use in its youth group community outreach.
1. Volunteer at a Senior Center
Contact local senior centers and retirement homes and check how the youth ministry can serve them. Arrange periodic visits so the young people can spend time with the elderly, talk to them, listen to their stories, play board games, and pray with them. It will be a valuable experience for all.
2. Volunteer at a Homeless Shelter
Your local homeless shelter can certainly use the youth group’s help. Contact them and check how the youth group volunteers can serve the homeless people there. Make sure to give the volunteers clear instructions beforehand so they know how to perform their tasks. Also, instruct them to be respectful to the homeless, listen, and pray with them.
3. Feed the Homeless on the Streets
Some homeless people don’t live in shelters. They live on the streets. Your youth group can still reach out to them, especially with food. For example, invite them to a pizza night at the church or bring food to where they are. Teenagers and young adults can cook, serve, clean, and interact with them.
Do a little research online or get advice from a local homeless shelter about what the homeless on the street in your area like and need. For example, they might need nutrition bars that are high in fiber because limited access to drinking water might cause digestive issues.
4. Run Errands for Elderly and Disabled People
The youth ministry can volunteer to help elderly and disabled people in the church and the community with their errands. Young adults can buy groceries for them, bring packages to the post office, take them to a doctor’s appointment, drive them to visit other family members, and so on. This sort of activity can help create an intergenerational bond with them.
5. Organize a Tech Support Day
Once a month, the youth ministry can help the elderly and other non-tech-savvy church members with issues they’re having on their tech devices. That may include people from the local community and senior centers as well. The young people from the church can help with setting up their smartphones or computers, solving issues, showing them how to use apps, etc.
6. Visit Patients in a Hospital or in Hospice Care
There are many ways to make an impact on the life of patients. The youth group can visit church members who are in the hospital or long-term patients who don’t get visitations from their own families. They can dress in costumes and visit sick children. They can also visit those in hospice care. Get in touch with your local hospital or hospice and check how the young people from your church can serve them.
7. Tutor Younger Students
Young adults can volunteer to become tutors for younger students with academic difficulties, especially those from low-income families. The tutors can teach them lessons, help them with their homework or classroom projects, sports training, etc. Tutoring these children can be an excellent opportunity for youth group members to also be a sounding board for the younger students’ life decisions. Be attentive when matching the student and their tutor, and periodically check on the student’s progress.
8. Host a “Fun Day at the Church” for Children
Once a month, invite parents of the church and the community for a free childcare day at the church. Organize activities for the children to keep them entertained and to minister to them. In the meantime, parents can run errands or do whatever they need to do, including getting some rest. That can be especially helpful for single parents.
9. Organize a Used Clothing Drive
Before winter comes, especially if the weather there is more severe, plan a used clothing drive to get donations for the homeless and low-income families. The youth ministry can organize the clothing drive, get donations, and deliver them to the people in need. Make sure to ask church members to donate clothes and shoes in different sizes (for children, teens, and adults) and blankets.
Also, check with the counselors at schools in low-income neighborhoods. It can be very effective to get information from the school counselors on specific sizes of winter coats, etc. that are needed for children they have identified as being in need. It may be that the parent(s) are not sufficiently caring for the children, and working with the school is a way to directly help those children.
10. Volunteer at a Local Charity
Check if there are local non-profit organizations that the youth group can volunteer for. Choose an organization that is aligned with the church’s values and offers service projects compatible with your target audience.
Before committing, check their documentation and talk to the people they serve to make sure they’re legitimate. Confirm that the charity is spending is at least 75% of its funds on programs and services, versus overhead (which is where salaries are paid). There are free online charity evaluation websites that will provide this information like Charity Navigator and Charity Watch. Also, make sure the experience will be valid for the young volunteers.
11. Volunteer at Local Schools
Get in touch with the principal of local middle or high schools in low-income neighborhoods and check if they need volunteer work. They probably do. Be prepared for a long-term commitment with them. That’s how you can make a bigger impact. There are many ways to reach out to students there. Also, remember to pursue relationships and serve the staff and teachers as well.
12. Set up a Prayer Station
Organize and set up a prayer station at a strategic location and invite passersby to share their prayer requests. The youth group members will listen to their issues and pray for them. Make sure there is a church elder or youth pastor with them in case someone brings up a situation that requires a more experienced counselor. The church can use prayer stations in combination with other special events, like during a worship service at the park.
13. Thank First Responders
There are many ways to thank the police officers, firefighters, and paramedics for their dedication to the community. The youth group can adopt a local fire or police station. They can bring food (homemade meals or baked goods), give thank you notes or cards, gift baskets, etc.
14. Start a Book Club
Organize a book club for your youth group and invite their non-Christian friends. Select one book to read together during a month, then schedule a meeting to discuss it. You can let them choose which book they will read from three or four options. You can also organize book clubs for the church’s small groups. The book club leader or one of the volunteers should be prepared to start the debate and ask questions to keep the conversation interesting.
15. Organize a Movie Night
You can use movie night sessions to discuss relevant issues with young people. It doesn’t have to be a Christian movie. Choose a clean and age-appropriate movie that raises subjects for debate and offers life lessons. Prepare questions in advance to invite comments. Encourage church members to bring their non-Christian friends as well.
16. Perform a Stage Play
Encourage your youth ministry to create a drama group and use their talents in evangelistic theater plays and skits. They can play the characters, build the scenery, work backstage, promote the event, etc. Invite family members, friends, and the local community to watch it. Serve refreshments after the play so the church community can interact with the guests.
17. Host a Car Wash
A car wash in the church parking lot is a simple way to get the youth ministry to serve the church and the local community. Depending on the purpose, it may be free or not. A free car wash is a great way to bless the church members or the local families. Or it can be used as a fundraising event to raise money for a local cause. The other church members can help by raising money or donating supplies.
18. Organize a Service Day
Offer a free workday to serve people in need in your community. It may be an elderly couple or widow, a disabled person, a family in need, and so on. The youth group may recommend people they met in other outreach activities and how the young volunteers can help them. They can provide simple services like doing household chores, yard work, minor repairs, grocery shopping, mowing the lawn, etc.
19. Help in Moving Day
Another great opportunity to serve the community, especially as a testimony to non-Christians, is helping families on their moving day. The youth group can help the family pack, carry boxes and furniture to the truck. Or they can help bring the boxes in, unpack, and organize the family’s belongings inside the house.
20. Welcome New Neighbors
Besides helping a family on their moving day, the youth group can help new neighbors get acquainted with their whereabouts and the new city. They can show the new family around, introduce them to other families from the church, give them tips about the neighborhood. They can also prepare welcome gift kits with a welcome card, a list of useful addresses and contacts, a map with handwritten suggestions of local businesses and services, etc.
21. Host a Block Party
A block party is an excellent community event that you can use to reach out to non-Christian families in your neighborhood. The whole church can be involved. There can be food, drinks, sports, competitions, live music, etc. Make sure to get the young people involved in all stages, from planning to each activity on the big day.
22. Raise Funds for a Cause
First, identify a specific need in your community that needs monetary funds. The youth group can bring good ideas and suggestions, so listen to them. You can team up with a local charity for better accountability. Then, the youth ministry can organize fundraising events and drives to raise funds for that cause.
23. Organize a Community Picnic
Food is a great way to get people together. The youth ministry can organize a picnic at a city park as a get-together for the church families or as an outreach event for the community. Make sure to include activities that can help people bond, like games and sports. Choose activities for all ages, from children to the elderly, so that everyone will have a good time.
24. Host a Super Bowl Watch Party
Some people prefer to watch the Super Bowl at home, but this can still be a fun way to gather church folks and invite non-Christian friends and neighbors. The youth leaders can choose volunteers to be responsible for finding a good location, setting it up, bringing snacks and drinks, or maybe have a barbecue. Plan it so people can talk and connect after the game.
25. Organize a Yard Sale
Invite all church members to bring items to sell and have a yard or garage sale at the church. The young volunteers will be responsible for organizing the event, promoting it, collecting donations, setting up the tables and racks, putting the price tags on the items, and interacting with buyers. The youth ministry can use the funds raised to help a cause, sponsor a mission trip or other special events.
26. Organize a Prayer Day
Every community has critical needs. Through your outreach efforts, it becomes easier to identify those needs. Besides planning specific activities to address them, consider having the youth ministry organize a prayer day or a vigil. They will learn to trust God with those necessities before doing anything else. They will also give an example of faith for the whole community.
27. Pick up Litter
Many cities have places where trash gets accumulated but never collected. Picking up litter can be a simple outreach activity that will bless and serve the community. It will show them that the church cares about them. Make sure to choose a safe place where the young people can do their job without risking accidents. Also, make sure they wear gloves and proper vests and have adult supervision.
28. Host a School Supplies Drive
Organizing a school supply drive is a great way to help families in need from the church or the community. Make a list of the standard supplies needed for a school year for each grade. Also, make a list of the children that will receive the donations. Then, the youth group can collect donations from the church. They can also organize special events like bake sales or yard sales to raise funds.
29. Volunteer for Vacation Bible School
A whole week of Vacation Bible School is a lot of work, but it is a great church outreach idea. The VBS leaders will appreciate having the youth group’s extra help. Get the teenagers and young adults involved in activities according to their age and experience. Also, have them promote the event locally and on social media to reach the neighborhood kids.
30. Organize a Mission Trip
Teenagers and young adults can have life-changing experiences serving low-income locations through mission work. It will take a lot of planning, but it is worth it. First, choose accessible options for the destination. It can be a city in a foreign country or another city in your state. If yours is a small church, you can work together with another church, preferably one that has previous experience with mission trips. Make sure to partner with a local church at the chosen destination too. They are the ones that will continue serving the people that your youth ministry will reach out to.
31. Organize an Excursion
Amusement parks, themed museums, the beach all can be excellent excursion destinations for teenagers and young adults. An excursion or a day trip is also a great opportunity to invite friends and neighbors to come along. Choose the location that best suits the average age and size of the group and the budget. Make sure to have enough older supervisors that can handle the entire group.
32. Wrap Gifts
Wrapping gifts can be a way to help busy folks around the holiday season. Volunteers can do that at a local mall or the church lobby. Ask the church members to provide the supplies or have another event to raise funds. Also, train the volunteers beforehand, so they will be able to make beautifully wrapped packages.
33. Volunteer at an Animal Shelter
Another facility that won’t turn down volunteers is your local animal shelter. Get in touch with them and see how your youth group can help. Young people will be excited to walk and play with the animals there. They can also clean cages and help folks who are interested in adopting a pet.
34. Organize a Spa Day
There are many ways to bless the church and the local community with a Spa Day, especially the ladies. The youth ministry can recruit volunteers, organize, and promote the event. Depending on what the youth group chooses to do, they might need to bring professionals, like hairstylists for haircuts and certified massage therapists for therapeutic massages. This event can be a blessing for low-income families and homeless people.
35. Organize a Concert
You can partner with other local churches and have a music festival or concert at the church or other public venue. Invite the young talent at the participating churches to perform. It can be solo acts, bands, or choirs. It is a wonderful way to reach out to young people who love music. Make sure to invite families, friends, and the local community to come too.
36. Host an Alternative Halloween Event
Many families, especially Christians, look for safe things to do with their kids on Halloween. The youth group can organize a fun time for them at the church. It can take place in the church parking lot, where they can distribute candy, have games, host a petting zoo with animal rides, have competitions, etc. Invite the neighborhood families to come and join you.
37. Start a Community Garden
If you have a large area available for planting, the youth group can use it for a community garden. They will need someone with experience to supervise them and proper tools and materials. Working together in a community garden helps build personal relationships. When the time comes to harvest, they can donate the produce to a local food bank or families in need.
38. Organize an Art Exhibition
An art show is a good way to find young talent in your community and give them a place to show what they do. The young ministry can organize and participate. Invite people to bring artistic photos, paintings, sculptures, etc. This is another opportunity to meet their families and get to know them.
39. Host a Holiday Party for Those in Need
When you get to know your community, you will find many people and families that can’t afford to celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas. How about having the youth group organize a celebration for them? It can take place at the church or at a homeless shelter, for example. They can raise funds, cook, serve, and give gifts to those in need. It will certainly be a special day for all.
40. Host a Talent Show
A talent show is an effective youth group outreach idea because it brings participants and their families to the church. Many of them wouldn’t come otherwise. The youth group can organize it and participate in it too. Ask participants to apply beforehand, so the organizers know what types of talent will be showcased, how long each performance will last, etc.
41. Host a Bingo Night for Seniors
Bingo isn’t something that might appeal to the younger generation. But playing bingo might be a precious opportunity to serve and bond with the senior citizens of the community. The youth group can organize the event and raise funds for snacks and prizes. They will feel rewarded when they get to see the older generation having a good time thanks to them.
42. Organize a Bake Sale
A bake sale is a delicious and timeless way to raise funds for other events or specific needs. The youth group members can ask members of your congregation to bake cookies, pies, cakes, etc. Then, they can sell them at seasonal events or after the Sunday morning service.
43. Organize an Online Event
Organizing local events is great, but sometimes various issues may keep people from attending them. In those cases, having an online event may be a good alternative. It can be a movie watch party or a Bible school class, for example. Plan it carefully so there will be a moment for people to interact with each other. And make sure to get their feedback to keep improving it.
44. Organize a Food Drive
You can contact a local food bank and check how the youth group can help them. The food bank may organize the drive themselves, and the young volunteers will be assigned certain tasks. If someone in the church has previous experience with food drives, they can have the food bank drive at the church.
45. Sponsor a Child
Organizations like Compassion International count on donors to sponsor vulnerable children through monthly contributions. Sponsors also correspond with the child through handwritten letters or emails. The youth group can chip in and sponsor one child (or more) together. Or they can help local vulnerable children instead. In that case, the sponsor(s) can visit the child, spend time with them and their family, share the Gospel, pray with them, etc.
46. Promote a “Clean the Church Day”
Get the teenagers and young adults together once a month and do some cleaning at the church grounds. They can work on minor repairs, fix or remove broken furniture, organize the library and the children’s toys, look for pew Bibles with missing or torn pages, mow the lawn, etc. The church will appreciate their effort.
47. Host a Day Trip for Seniors
Hosting a day trip for seniors is another great way to establish a bond between the younger and the older generations. It may include elders from the community and senior centers as well. It can be something simple like a day in the park or the beach, a visit to a museum, going to a sports event, etc. The seniors will feel appreciated.
48. Teach Technology Classes
The young members of the church are usually tech-savvy. Why not use those talents to bless and reach out to the local community? Contact the community members, starting at the church, and make a list of their technology needs. Then, the youth leaders can choose volunteers to prepare and teach classes to address those needs.
49. Organize a Church Service in the Park
How about having a nice day at the park and using it to spread the Gospel message? Young adults and teenagers will be excited to organize an outdoor worship service. Music can attract the attention of passersby and draw them close. They may be more likely to approach a church service in the park than they would if it were in the church building.
50. Provide ESL Classes for Refugees and Immigrants
If there are refugees or immigrants in your community, the youth ministry can serve them in many ways. One of the most critical needs they have is learning the English language. The youth ministry can organize ESL (English as Second Language) classes for them. It can include ESL Bible classes and foreign-language services as well.
Serving others is very fulfilling for any Christian. The events and activities listed in this article will give the youth ministry opportunities to bless their church family and reach out to people in their community. They will be able to build relationships, share the Gospel message through actions and words, and make a positive impact on many people’s lives.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.