Example #29 Serving the Community

What if a topic on ‘People who help us’ became ‘Serving the community'?

Dahnay taught a Primary topic on 'People who help us'. She wanted to change the title to 'Serving our Community' so that the focus was not primarily on 'us'.

"We looked at the work of the Police and Fire service and a parent who was a nurse came in to talk to the class. However, I felt this was not enough as there are many people who give to the community in an informal way and without pay. I organised visits from local volunteer groups and our link church. The children knew little about what the church did in the community beyond the after school club the church ran. I organised a visit from various people from our link church who spoke about what the church did in the community, including their work with various age groups and special interest groups such as the art group and Book Club. I went through the resources I used and made sure they had a community emphasis and checked the display was in line with the new focus.

"An artist from the church ran an art club for school for the duration of the topic where students created something for others. A school book club was started as part of the after school club. The students were given the opportunity to do something for the community as a result of the topic. They were invited to help with the church community day, designing posters and invites."

What’s going on here?

Dahnay saw her topic as a place to highlight serving and to take the focus from self to others and the wider community. She also affirmed the role of faith.

She engaged students in shifting their focus from the group to the community, having them interact with visitors from outside the class, and to act upon an outward looking emphasis by creating something for others (change of title, visitors, chance to help the community).

She reshaped her practice by checking her resources and the display, using key words and questions to focus the lesson, inviting others into class, and creating a service opportunity.

How do I do this myself?

What does this have to do with faith, hope and love?

Dahnay wanted her students to see Christian faith in action in the community. Such community action is a practical outworking of love. Across the country there are faith-based projects – big and small – that bring hope to communities. Some initiatives are Christian in origin and composition; at other times Christians work alongside people of other faiths and none, affirming the belief that God is at work in the world outside the walls of our churches. Sometimes it is a case of finding where God is working and joining in.

What difference does it make?

Dahnay made a difference just by changing the title. 'People who help us' puts the focus on us as the recipients, whereas Dahnay's changes moved the focus to serving the community.

Where could we go from here?

Dahnay could check the titles of other topics and think about what message they send and if it is really the message she wants. Other areas of study can be given a community emphasis and connected with what people are doing in the local community.

Digging deeper

Christian community is based on all being one in Christ and expressing that oneness in a compassionate lifestyle (Romans 12:9-10). It is lived in supporting each other, sharing in working together for others, giving of time, wealth and self.

Not only are Christians called to be in community, they are called to serve as a community. Service should distinguish the Christian way of life; at work, in the home and in relationships. The Bible calls people to serve their wider communities and work for their well-being (Jeremiah 29:7), fostering love and justice. The Bible calls on Christians to be good citizens always ready to do good and living at peace with neighbours. Jesus made it clear that in the kingdom of God those who are greatest are those who serve God and others (Matthew 20:26).

One of the principal rules of religion is, to lose no occasion of serving God. And, since he is invisible to our eyes, we are to serve him in our neighbour; which he receives as if done to himself in person, standing visibly before us. John Wesley

… the duty is now emphasized of serving God in the world, in every position in life. Abraham Kuyper

Our society looks for freedom and happiness in wealth, fame and power. The Bible sees it in giving and serving others. One Anglican prayer describes the service of God as ‘perfect freedom’. Those words translate 'cui servire, regnare est': 'To serve is to reign'. To serve God and others is the highest honour; it is what we were created for.

One thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve. Albert Schweitzer

Explore similar examples:

What if a lesson on class rules were about growing together?
What if revision classes taught students to share each other’s burdens?
What if history were about campaigning communities?

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1Dear friends, God is good. So I beg you to offer your bodies to him as a living sacrifice, pure and pleasing. That's the most sensible way to serve God. 2Don't be like the people of this world, but let God change the way you think. Then you will know how to do everything that is good and pleasing to him. 3I realize how kind God has been to me, and so I tell each of you not to think you are better than you really are. Use good sense and measure yourself by the amount of faith that God has given you. 4A body is made up of many parts, and each of them has its own use. 5That's how it is with us. There are many of us, but we are each part of the body of Christ, as well as part of one another. 6God has also given each of us different gifts to use. If we can prophesy, we should do it according to the amount of faith we have. 7If we can serve others, we should serve. If we can teach, we should teach. 8If we can encourage others, we should encourage them. If we can give, we should be generous. If we are leaders, we should do our best. If we are good to others, we should do it cheerfully. Rules for Christian living 9Be sincere in your love for others. Hate everything that is evil and hold tight to everything that is good. 10Love each other as brothers and sisters and honour others more than you do yourself. 11Never give up. Eagerly follow the Holy Spirit and serve the Lord. 12Let your hope make you glad. Be patient in time of trouble and never stop praying. 13Take care of God's needy people and welcome strangers into your home. 14Ask God to bless everyone who ill-treats you. Ask him to bless them and not to curse them. 15When others are happy, be happy with them, and when they are sad, be sad. 16Be friendly with everyone. Don't be proud and feel that you are cleverer than others. Make friends with ordinary people. 17Don't ill-treat someone who has ill-treated you. But try to earn the respect of others, 18and do your best to live at peace with everyone. 19Dear friends, don't try to get even. Let God take revenge. In the Scriptures the Lord says, I am the one to take revenge and pay them back. 20The Scriptures also say, If your enemies are hungry, give them something to eat. And if they are thirsty, give them something to drink. This will be the same as piling burning coals on their heads. 21Don't let evil defeat you, but defeat evil with good. Obey rulers
1I had been left in Jerusalem when King Nebuchadnezzar took many of the people of Jerusalem and Judah to Babylonia as prisoners, including King Jehoiachin, his mother, his officials, and the metal workers and others in Jerusalem who were skilled in making things. So I wrote a letter to the prophets, the priests, the leaders, and the rest of our people in Babylonia. 3I gave the letter to Elasah and Gemariah, two men that King Zedekiah of Judah was sending to Babylon to talk with Nebuchadnezzar. In the letter, I wrote 4that the Lord All-Powerful, the God of Israel, had said: I had you taken from Jerusalem to Babylonia. Now I tell you 5to settle there and build houses. Plant gardens and eat what you grow in them. 6Get married and have children, then help your sons find wives and help your daughters find husbands, so they can have children as well. I want your numbers to grow, not to get smaller. 7Pray for peace in Babylonia and work hard to make it prosperous. The more successful that nation is, the better off you will be. 8Some of your people there in Babylonia are fortune-tellers, and you have asked them to tell you what will happen in the future. But they will only lead you astray. And don't let the prophets fool you, either. They speak in my name, but they are liars. I have not spoken to them. 10After Babylonia has been the strongest nation for seventy years, I will be kind and bring you back to Jerusalem, just as I have promised. 11I will bless you with a future filled with hopea future of success, not of suffering. 12You will turn back to me and ask for help, and I will answer your prayers. 13You will worship me with all your heart, and I will be with you 14and accept your worship. Then I will gather you from all the nations where I scattered you, and you will return to Jerusalem. 15You feel secure, because you think I have sent prophets to speak for me in Babylonia. 16But I have been sending prophets to the people of Judah for a long time, and the king from David's family and the people who are left in Jerusalem and Judah still don't obey me. So I, the Lord All-Powerful, will keep attacking them with war and hunger and disease, until they are as useless as rotten figs. I will force them to leave the land, and all nations will be disgusted and shocked at what happens to them. The nations will sneer and make fun of them and use the names Judah and Jerusalem as curse words. And you have not obeyed me, even though 20I had you taken from Jerusalem to Babylonia. But you had better listen to me now. 21You think Ahab son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah son of Maaseiah are prophets because they claim to speak for me. But they are lying! I haven't told them anything. They are also committing other horrible sins in your community, such as sleeping with the wives of their friends. So I will hand them over to King Nebuchadnezzar, who will put them to death while the rest of you watch. And in the future, when you want to put a curse on someone, you will say, I pray that the Lord will kill you in the same way the king of Babylonia burnt Zedekiah and Ahab to death! A message for Shemaiah 24The Lord All-Powerful, the God of Israel, told me what would happen to Shemaiah, who was one of our people in Babylonia. After my letter reached Babylonia, Shemaiah wrote letters to the people of Jerusalem, including the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah, and the other priests. The letter to Zephaniah said: 26After the death of Jehoiada the priest, the Lord chose you to be the priest in charge of the temple security force. You know that anyone who acts mad and pretends to be a prophet should be arrested and put in chains and iron collars. 27Jeremiah from the town of Anathoth is pretending to be a prophet there in Jerusalem, so why haven't you punished him? 28He even wrote a letter to the people here in Babylonia, saying we would be here a long time. He told us to build homes and to plant gardens and grow our own food. 29When Zephaniah received Shemaiah's letter, he read it to me. 30Then the Lord told me what to write in a second letter 31to the people of Judah who had been taken to Babylonia. In this letter, I wrote that the Lord had said: I, the Lord , have not chosen Shemaiah to be one of my prophets, and he has misled you by telling lies in my name. 32He has even talked you into disobeying me. So I will punish Shemaiah. He and his descendants won't live to see the good things I will do for my people. I, the Lord , have spoken. The Lord will rescue Israel and Judah
1As Jesus was telling what the kingdom of heaven would be like, he said: Early one morning a man went out to hire some workers for his vineyard. 2After he had agreed to pay them the usual amount for a day's work, he sent them off to his vineyard. 3About nine that morning, the man saw some other people standing in the market with nothing to do. 4He said he would pay them what was fair, if they would work in his vineyard. 5So they went. At midday and again about three in the afternoon he returned to the market. And each time he made the same agreement with others who were lazing around with nothing to do. 6Finally, about five in the afternoon the man went back and found some others standing there. He asked them, Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing? 7Because no one has hired us, they answered. Then he told them to go and work in his vineyard. 8That evening the owner of the vineyard told the man in charge of the workers to call them in and give them their money. He also told the man to begin with the ones who were hired last. 9When the workers arrived, the ones who had been hired at five in the afternoon were given a full day's pay. 10The workers who had been hired first thought they would be given more than the others. But when they were given the same, 11they began complaining to the owner of the vineyard. 12They said, The ones who were hired last worked for only one hour. But you paid them the same that you did us. And we worked in the hot sun all day long! 13The owner answered one of them, Friend, I didn't cheat you. I paid you exactly what we agreed on. 14Take your money now and go! What business is it of yours if I want to pay them the same that I paid you? 15Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Why should you be jealous, if I want to be generous? 16Jesus then said, So it is. Everyone who is now first will be last, and everyone who is last will be first. Jesus again tells about his death (Mark 10.32-34; Luke 18.31-34) 17As Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, he took his twelve disciples aside and told them in private: 18We are now on our way to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the teachers of the Law of Moses. They will sentence him to death, 19and then they will hand him over to foreigners who will make fun of him. They will beat him and nail him to a cross. But on the third day he will rise from death. A mother's request (Mark 10.35-45) 20The mother of James and John came to Jesus with her two sons. She knelt down and started begging him to do something for her. 21Jesus asked her what she wanted, and she said, When you come into your kingdom, please let one of my sons sit at your right side and the other at your left. 22Jesus answered, Not one of you knows what you are asking. Are you able to drink from the cup that I must soon drink from? James and John said, Yes, we are! 23Jesus replied, You certainly will drink from my cup! But it isn't for me to say who will sit at my right side and at my left. That is for my Father to say. 24When the ten other disciples heard this, they were angry with the two brothers. 25But Jesus called the disciples together and said: You know that foreign rulers like to order their people around. And their great leaders have full power over everyone they rule. 26But don't act like them. If you want to be great, you must be the servant of all the others. 27And if you want to be first, you must be the slave of the rest. 28The Son of Man did not come to be a slave master, but a slave who will give his life to rescue many people. Jesus heals two blind men (Mark 10.46-52; Luke 18.35-43) 29Jesus was followed by a large crowd as he and his disciples were leaving Jericho. 30Two blind men were sitting beside the road. And when they heard that Jesus was coming their way, they shouted, Lord and Son of David, have pity on us! 31The crowd told them to be quiet, but they shouted even louder, Lord and Son of David, have pity on us! 32When Jesus heard them, he stopped and asked, What do you want me to do for you? 33They answered, Lord, we want to see! 34Jesus felt sorry for them and touched their eyes. Straight away they could see, and they became his followers. Jesus enters Jerusalem (Mark 11.1-11; Luke 19.28-38; John 12.12-19)