Without leaving our couches, we can donate money to a cause or promote an idea on social media. We also live in a time where travel is much easier than it used to be (At least pre-COVID), and "nomad" is the ideal lifestyle for many. As someone who has always had a big picture mindset and has never fully settled down anywhere, I know what it's like to be hesitant to dive in locally. I have so much of the world to see and so many shows in my Netflix queue. There always seems to be someone else to care about my city or neighborhood. Surely, I should focus on my broader calling, right?
We all have individual gifts and passions that lead us to impact different areas. So if you feel the call to spread your wings, it's good to lean into that growth. However, it doesn't have to be either-or. Whether you’re camped out at a different KOA every week, or working from an office in your hometown, you have a calling to give back locally. Volunteering at a church and buying from small businesses are good places to start, but those aren't the only ways to give back. What that looks like will vary by situation, but here are a few ideas to brainstorm:
Now, this step comes first to my mind because it's how I function. Whenever I want to do anything, I like to know the context and potential around the subject. The first way you can give back to your community is by finding out what makes it unique and what others overlook. Chances are, there's a lot you don't know, and there are people who need your perspective. Google it!
Depending on your personality type, creativity may motivate you to do things you never thought of. Is there an interest you have that is lacking in your community? Can you use that interest to invest in people? Who can you reach that no one else is reaching? Or you can join an existing cause and offer your fresh ideas in a welcoming fashion. We don't have to limit ourselves to the good ideas out there; any one of us can create something new. You might think you aren't qualified because you don't have practice in leadership or don’t think of yourself as a person of ministry, but through Jesus, you have all you need to live as a disciple. You don't need to make your initiative a full-time thing; just carve out a few hours per week or whatever works with your schedule. Soon enough, you'll probably see God creating more space and opportunities for that focus.
Some people are the type to invite the whole neighborhood over for a barbecue, and some are more comfortable slipping in the back pew at church and saying a few hellos before heading home to read a book that's already overdue from the library. If that second type sounds oddly specific, that's because I am describing yours truly. There are countless people in both categories, and hospitality is a part of your purpose no matter which side of the spectrum you fit. That doesn't necessarily mean you need to invite people over for a potluck dinner, but you do need to invite people in some capacity. It can be as simple as offering your listening ears to someone or starting a monthly book club. If there's someone new to your community, what if you take them out to lunch or go for a hike? It's a bonus for you if you're both new or passing through!
Pastors, teachers, and first responders are just a few of the roles that choose sacrificial contribution as their jobs. We all have different careers for a reason, and we aren't any less qualified to do good just because we aren't in a full-time public servant position. While we should realize the value of our gifts, we also make a difference when we support the people in public "giving" roles. A quick Google search will show the opportunities available in your area. In some places, you can get involved with emergency rescue services, fundraise for education, or help set up "Coffee With a Cop" events. You could even go the Dwight Schrute route and become a volunteer civil servant. If you're not ready for a time commitment, you can start by voicing your support through donations or sharing events with your friends on social media.
Keep in mind that these ideas are pretty general, and I don't know what individual opportunities your community may hold, but I hope this will help you get the ball rolling! With work, social lives, and everything else, it might seem overwhelming to send your energy in another direction. So as you go forth, make it a priority to create margin for God's plans. You need focused time with Him to receive directions you may not have on your schedule. God’s promises for your future hold so much more than what you see, and His purpose shows us why community matters in everything we do.
Written Content Coordinator at Sun Valley Community Church. An avid writer since the age of 5, who loves to explore new ideas and places. Inspired by Jesus, books, and travel.