By Caitlin Magness
Registration is now open to volunteers who wish to participate in an LCMS Servant Event this year. Hosted by LCMS congregations and Recognized Service Organizations (RSOs) across the country, LCMS Servant Events provide youth with opportunities to serve their communities, develop skills and relationships, and display God’s mercy to their neighbors through service projects. Events will begin in 2024 as early as March and continue through August.
In a testimonial on the Servant Event website, the Rev. Michael Pottschmidt, former pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, Richmond, Va., writes, “Hosting an LCMS Servant Event makes ignoring or avoiding God’s mission impossible. Congregation leaders and members must be intentional and deliberate about seeking local opportunities to proclaim and demonstrate the saving love of Jesus. And how invigorating it is for all involved to roll up their sleeves and join with fellow servants — youth and adults alike — in accomplishing this task. That enthusiasm for mission continues long after the Servant Event is over — those volunteers become leaders in finding ways to share their faith and serve others.”
Servant Event leaders met at the LCMS International Center Nov. 13–15, 2023, to share ideas, receive training and prepare to host their respective events. Among the events taking place this summer are:
- “Forts and Sorts at Youth Haven Ranch,” hosted by Messiah Lutheran Church in Holt, Mich.;
- “Adventures in Colorado: Dirty Jobs Servant Event,” hosted by Lutheran Valley Retreat in Florissant, Colo.; and
- “Beholding God’s Miracles in the High Country,” hosted by Camp Linn Haven and Mountainside Lutheran Church in Linville, N.C.
See a full list of events and register at lcms-servantevents.org.
Many Servant Events challenge youth to step outside their comfort zones and get their hands dirty. As suggested by the name, the “Adventures in Colorado: Dirty Jobs Servant Event” will include trail building and maintenance at the retreat center, moving dirt and working on drainage around buildings, and even rebuilding a retaining wall. Volunteers will also have a chance to participate in challenging adventure options at the camp, such as rafting and rappelling.
Other events provide opportunities for youth to serve and connect with those in need. Volunteers at “Forts and Sorts” will perform construction and maintenance to benefit underprivileged children at Youth Haven Ranch and may also have a chance to interact and share the Gospel with the campers. At the “Shepherding Sheep Volunteer Event” hosted by Camp Wartburg in Waterloo, Ill., volunteers will serve as companions for developmentally disabled children and adults during a five-day summer camp.
Along with the chance to serve, Servant Events provide an opportunity for youth to bond and grow in their faith through shared activities and Bible study. Youth will also learn from mentors and see the witness of ministry leaders and church workers in vocations that some of the youth may be called to some day as well.
“The goals for the youth at the servant event are to grow in their faith, experience their faith in action by working at Youth Haven Ranch, and build community and relationships with each other,” says Jo Ellen Miskowski, host of the “Forts and Sorts” event. “Each year has been such a blessing for the youth, volunteers and staff. Our evaluations each year show that the youth participants enjoy the event. They often make comments regarding their growth in faith, relationships, learning new skills and what they can accomplish with the help of God.”
“In the summer of 1989 I went on my first servant event,” recalls the Rev. Steve Hayden, senior pastor of Lutheran Church of St. John, Quincy, Ill. “Entering my senior year, I was considering a future in pastoral ministry, so I thought a trip like this might be a good experience and a lot of fun. Little did I know the way it would transform my life.
“Since that first trip nearly 35 years ago, I have participated in countless servant events, both as a volunteer and as a leader. Servant events have taken me across the country and around the world, but most importantly, I have witnessed the impact they have on the kingdom of God.
“So often people are interested in a servant event because they want to help someone else. … However, the true difference is made in the lives of those who serve. They learn the value of service and its connection to faith, which instills an attitude of lifelong service. … To any congregation considering getting a group together, or any individual who has always thought about participating in a Servant Event … do it!”
The LCMS Office of International Mission is also organizing service trips to Panama, Peru, Puerto Rico and Jamaica for congregations to send teams of adult volunteers.
Caitlin Magness is a writer living in High Ridge, Mo.
Posted Feb. 9, 2024