Looking Outside Yourself: Community Service for Teens

Looking Outside Yourself: Encouraging Teens for Service -- community service and volunteer opportunities for teens

Encouraging Teens for Community Service

More than just clocking volunteer hours for high school requirements, community service opportunities provide valuable learning experiences for teens. When teens participate in service projects, they benefit their communities, increase their own compassion and awareness, and they even get a chance to socialize! In addition, they learn to take initiative, develop a work ethic, and develop their worldview. But where do you begin to get your teens to “unplug” and see the world outside themselves?

Getting Started

First make time for service projects as part of your teen’s weekly schedule. Pick a regular day and time for service, and write it in their planner. Treat it like you would treat music lessons or other weekly commitments so that it isn’t viewed as an “if I have time” activity. Not only does this create accountability, but it also shows that the service project is a priority.

Teach teens that service should also be a daily habit. Holding a door open for someone, retrieving a stray shopping cart, or even taking out the garbage without being asked are all acts of service. These habits lay the foundation for their futures as caring, compassionate young adults instead of being self-centered and feeling a sense of entitlement. Something might even end up being a life-changing experience.

Find opportunities for community service that complement your teen’s interests:

  • If they love animals, they can volunteer at an animal shelter or pet rescue organization.
  • Musical teens could arrange to play for residents at a nursing home or rehabilitation hospital.
  • Teens with artistic or crafting abilities could make cards and deliver them to a children’s hospital or nursing home.
  • Teens interested in history would learn a lot by playing BINGO with nursing home residents and visiting with them. “Adopt” some grandparents!
  • How about working at a soup kitchen or delivering Meals on Wheels for teens with culinary interests? Or baking treats to drop off at the fire station?
  • Athletic teens might volunteer with an after-school program for kids.
  • Teens with an entrepreneurial spirit could raise money for missions or to purchase a needed item for a children’s home.
  • Do your teens love to shop? They would have fun packing toys for a charity at Christmas. Or they could ask for clothing donations from neighbors and family for a women’s shelter.
  • If your teen is considering a career in the medical profession, she can volunteer at your local hospital.

Also, find opportunities that push them out of their comfort zones from time to time:

  • Make “blessing bags” for the homeless.
  • Learn about human trafficking and what you can do to help.
  • Volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center.
  • Get involved in a political campaign and be an activist for issues that matter to you.
  • Go on a mission trip!

Whether or not your teen plans to attend college and needs these volunteer hours on his transcript, encouraging him to look outside himself and serve others will translate to a self-confident, caring person with a little more to show on his resume.

Looking Outside Yourself: Encouraging Teens for Service -- community service and volunteer opportunities for teens

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Comments (7)

  1. Shelah

    Service and volunteering is an important part of teaching our teens not only their value but the value of others as well. Great post!

    1. Anne Campbell (Post author)

      Thank you so much, Shelah!

  2. L. E. Mastilock

    Such an important and sadly lacking thing, serving others. I used to take my teen to serve meals together at a family homeless shelter and I really think it opened her eyes. And it’s a very important recipe for happiness, doing something meaningful. Great article!

  3. Heather

    This is something I am working on with my littles right now – definitely not teens yet! I think it is so important to show them the value of serving. We are currently going through our house and de-cluttering and I am involving the kids to downsize their toys to give to others.

  4. C. Lee Reed

    If the whole world felt and knew the importance of serving others, it would be a better place. Kids and teens are so impressionable so its a perfect time to get them interested in helping others. It is such an amazing gift to teach our children and ourselves and ultimately, becomes a blessing for the receiver.

  5. Martina

    Great article! We are working on service projects a lot being involved with American Heritage Girls. I really like your idea of scheduling it weekly on their calendar as this will also teach commitment, another very important lesson that needs to be taught. In many ways service and commitment go hand in hand.

    1. Anne Campbell (Post author)

      Thanks, Martina! Scheduling really does help–it adds the commitment factor, so it doesn’t seem like an afterthought.


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