Calvary United Methodist Church in Swainsboro is creating a culture of service among its youth.
The entire church marks every third Sunday as “Mission Sunday” and receives offerings for local missions during the morning’s worship service. That evening, the youth bake cookies for residents of a local nursing home which are delivered the next day along with handmade cards.
The youth plan to grow their monthly “Service Sunday” ministry by adding a lawn-care component and by offering to do odd jobs for those in the congregation and community who aren’t able to do them themselves.
The desire to serve runs deep in the church and congregation, Calvary UMC pastor Rev. Nick Hazelton said, and it trickles down to the youth and children. It’s so ingrained in the church’s DNA that the idea for the youth’s “Service Sunday” came from youth group members themselves – not from a parent’s prompting.
To earn money to fund their ministries and take fun trips, the youth recently held a $1 car wash. Unlike typical car wash fundraisers that request money from drivers, during this car wash each driver was given $1. Drivers were given an opportunity to donate after their clean cars were returned, but were not asked.
When he first heard the idea, Rev. Hazelton was slightly skeptical.
“I thought, well, that doesn’t sound like much of a fundraiser! But it was a novel approach and just risky enough that I thought we should try it,” he said.
They lost count of the number of cars that came through and how many $1 bills had been given away, but at one point people were waiting more than an hour to have their cars washed.
During their wait, patrons sat and conversed under a covered pavilion and were given tours of the new church (recently rebuilt after a devastating fire).
Some even attended Calvary UMC’s worship service the next morning.
The car wash was a church-wide effort, with multiple generations joining together to serve. Children, youth, parents, grandparents and other church members greeted drivers, washed and dried vehicles, and collected donations.
When the money was counted at the end of the day, $1,010 had been given.
“When it was over and we counted the money it gave me chills and I almost cried,” said Stacy Mills, whose son, Hunter, is in the church’s youth group. “We expected to get maybe a couple hundred dollars, but not this much! It’s amazing what God will do.”
The youth planned to use the money raised to purchase cookie ingredients for their “Service Sunday” ministry and to attend a Christian rock concert at Wild Adventures Theme Park.
“Although I firmly believe that you will never run out of money in a healthy church for well-planned youth ministry and activities – I think it will always be there – I think it is good for them to experience earning their own way and paying their own way,” Rev. Hazleton said.
When discussing the success of the fundraiser and what they’d do with the money, youth group members suggested that they tithe a portion, and gave a gift to The Methodist Home for Children and Youth.
“The kids wanted to give some of the money back to God,” Mills said. “They said that after every fundraiser, no matter how much they make, they want to give some of it as a tithe.”
The Calvary UMC congregation has set an example for the youth to follow, Mills said.
“I really love the care and generosity of the people,” she said. “They care about the community and the world.”
The youth see how their parents and older congregants serve and show the love of Christ and are inspired to do the same, Rev. Hazelton said.
“A lot of our congregation is not of an age where they can actively go and serve in a mission project somewhere, so they do what they can from where they can,” he said.
Mills says that the love and spirit of Calvary UMC is what drew her and her family to the church.
“They’re (the congregation) always reaching out,” she said. It’s the best thing I could have ever hoped to find. Words can’t express how blessed we are to have such a good thing going, and I hope we can build on it and reach out to kids in the community who might not know what love truly is.
“I’m just so thankful to God that He sent us here. Calvary is love.”