Just Serve

This is how easy it is to volunteer for a service project.

This is how easy it is to volunteer for a service project.

Today in our third block we had a combined meeting with the adults and youth about justserve.org. The website has apparently been around for a couple of years (though today was the first I’d heard of it), but they’re now expanding it into the Phoenix valley. Our bishop joked that they’re doing the pilot program in CA, TX, and AZ first because “we want to make sure we get it exactly right before Utah screws it up.”

The initiative – they want to steer away from calling it a program – is all about easily connecting people with a large variety of volunteer opportunities. From the “About Us” page on the website:

“JustServe matches churches, civic organizations, non-profits, and governmental agencies that need volunteers with volunteers willing to help. JustServe.org links you to service opportunities in your community so you can make a difference wherever you are and however you want to serve.

Once we know what the needs are, we tell you about them here on JustServe or through Facebook, and then you can go and help get the job done. We make it easy to sign up and show up, on your time and in your way.”

Most exciting to me was the goal of the initiative with regard to missionary work. It was acknowledged that many missionaries are struggling to remain productive during the day and the hope is that missionaries will eventually be doing up to 20 hours of community volunteerism per week through this initiative resulting in, among other things, “improved productivity and sense of fulfillment” (I’m reminded of a past blog post by John Fowles). There was video from San Jose, where the program has already been implemented, showing missionaries donning food bank T-shirts to sort and box up goods, and it was emphasized in the presentation that missionaries will not proselytize while performing these services (but can answer questions about the church if asked, of course). “There is no catch,” our bishop explained. “This is pure service.”

On the logistics side, stakes where the initiative is implemented will organize a JustServe committee which “uses JustServe guidelines to evaluate agencies and send opportunities to their area’s community outreach specialist to post their JustServe opportunities on JustServe.org.” Once those opportunities are online, anyone who has registered (open to users 13+) can click to volunteer. It was explained that stake committees will ideally be comprised of a member of the stake presidency, the stake community services specialist, a stake Relief Society representative, a missionary high councilor, a Young Single Adult representative, and missionary zone leaders. Ward members may also suggest volunteer opportunities.

In addition to providing the vehicle to more fulfilling missionary experiences, other goals of the initiative include strengthening family (it’s recommended that families browse the website for FHE inspiration), engaging less-active members, clearing up misconceptions about Mormonism, and improving interfaith relationships within the community. As President Thomas S. Monson said in his inaugural press conference in 2008:

“We have a responsibility to be active in the communities where we live…to work cooperatively with other churches…It’s important that we eliminate the weakness of one standing alone and substitute it for the strength of people working together.”

Have you heard of this initiative? Has it been implemented in your area? Do you, too, have a certain Lady Gaga song stuck in your head now?

Comments

  1. I’m Anxiously awaiting full implementation in my area.

  2. My cousin just returned from serving in the San Jose Mission and reported his experience with JustServe.org to be one of the very most fulfilling parts of his two years there. At a family gathering upon his return last month, I’d estimate that 75% of his stories were linked to Just Serve.

  3. I have used volunteermatch.org. Do you know if this is much different? Happy the church is encouraging community outreach.

  4. This is one of the most positive innitiatives to come out of the COB in a long while (from my perspective)! I hope it works and the members take it up. I have been wondering where the newish 4th mission of the church went after its announcement – especially programatically (because we mormons program the things we are most serious about). This looks like a potentially very effective way and I love that we are partnering with a program rooted squarely outside the confines of our faith and not even neccesarily focused on religious institutions. Also, increasing missionary service to 20 hours is wonderful, something many of us have been suggesting and hoping for for a long time. Looks like pure win to me and it has been a long time since I have said that. Wonderful news!

  5. This looks pretty cool!

    Meanwhile, in my Utah Valley YSA ward, I learned today that our stake has started using the services of nuvi.com to automatically search social media for posts relating to Mormonism so that members can then reply to these posts (in the hopes of spreading positive content about the church). The cynical part of me was asking if engaging in potential flame wars with strangers about the church is the best way to be spreading the gospel and feeding Christ’s sheep. I would love for my stake to balance out the emphasis on online missionary work with a message of community service and outreach.

  6. We recently were made aware of this initiative in Washington. I think it’s an exciting way for the church to work with other organizations as well as helping members find ways to serve outside of the “members” in their ward boundaries.

  7. Since the only Lady Gaga song I have ever heard of is “Poker Face” which I heard a brass band cover at the Calgary Stampede a few years back (at which time my daughter told me what it was), the answer to your last question is “No.”

  8. My ward in Mesa hasn’t yet emphasized JustServe (and I’m sad it hasn’t been and hopeful it will be) but I heard about it through word of mouth and my parents tested it out. They’ve done a few projects and have a few more planned for January. Their greatest praise was in finding projects that work for the time they have available around busy work schedules as much of service opportunities through the church happen to fall on weekday business hours. My parents stuffed envelopes one evening for a local non profit and now my mom has been connected with groups wanting newborn caps and receiving blankets for local women’s shelters. In addition, my parent’s stake in Chandler has adopted two nursing homes and partnered with Feed My Starving Children to ensure that service has both a local and worldwide emphasis. I love the scope of this website and the push on service it brings.

  9. We are just starting to implement the Just Serve website here in Vancouver, Canada. I’m excited to see how it works out.

  10. Not yet here in the Northeast. Looks fantastic, though! Our ward has a special “service coordinator” calling whose job it is to scrape together all the community service opportunities within our ward boundaries – but there are still plenty of logistical details that need fine-tuning, like how to publicize those opportunities to ward members.

  11. We also had the same 3rd hour presentation in my ward (in Southern California) yesterday as well. It was the first time in a long time I’ve actually been excited about one of these presentations of the latest “initiative” from the church.

  12. David Elliott says:

    We’re starting to implement this initiative in San Luis Obispo, California. In October we hosted a luncheon for several churches, non-profits, and public agencies. We introduced the JustServe website to them and invited them to begin posting their service projects there. So far seven organizations have posted eleven projects, and we will be going back to other organizations to help them get their projects posted. Overall, our guests were very enthusiastic about a county-wide clearinghouse for volunteer service, something they’ve been wanting for years.

    Now we’re going into the wards and introducing JustServe to them. During the last two weeks we’ve made third-hour presentations to adults and youth that were positively received. People seem genuinely excited about reaching out and cooperating with outside individuals and organizations with the aim to cooperate rather than convert.

    I should also mention that the full-time missionaries are really chomping at the bit to get meaningful service opportunities to satisfy their new commitment of ten hours per week.

    Since caring for the poor and needy was added to the Church’s overall mission statement back in 2010, we haven’t heard much emphasis on it. That appears to be changing, particularly in light of Elder Holland’s moving sermon from the October 2014 Conference.

  13. Do we have to wait until it’s implemented? Curious, I looked up my hometown in Davis County and saw just two opportunities, one an eagle scout. The other, the Bountiful Pantry. I know we’ve had two or three big eagle scout service projects in our ward in just the past few weeks, so I know there will be hundreds of other opportunites if it’s for things like that.

    Jessie, can I ask how many opportunities it shows for you right now as it is getting off the ground?

  14. The Other Clark says:

    In Northern Idaho, this program was announced at stake conference about 6 weeks ago.

  15. Emily, after reading this, I took a look. There’s nothing in Chicago (yet), but there were a dozen-ish postings within the 15-mile radius of my parents’ suburban San Diego home. It will be great to get it rolled out here (though I would be even more in love if it could drop the 13-year-old minimum; as parents of children younger than 13, we’d love a resource that helped us find service we could do with our kids).

    Still, I really can’t wait until we have it here.

  16. EmJen, 36 projects within 5 miles of Chandler AZ, 156 within 15 miles. The stake community service specialists have been busy!

  17. Thank you for highlighting Justserve.org — the service projects it aggregated provided my brother with a source of service and solace during a very difficult period of his life in the last few months of his life. He died five months ago after having recently done a number of service projects he found there. This was a great uplift for him.

  18. it's a series of tubes says:

    (though I would be even more in love if it could drop the 13-year-old minimum; as parents of children younger than 13, we’d love a resource that helped us find service we could do with our kids).

    This limitation in the online sign-up is clearly due to COPPA. Too much hassle to try to comply with the law if you get personal info from someone under the age of 13.

  19. These kids are called to teach, not do feel good pr for the church.

    If this is what 20 hours a week goes on, they can come home and get on with their education, and do the service at home.

    Is this just saying that there is nothing for missionaries to do?

    I’m a for youth, families and ysa to serve like this, but this is just wasting the missionaries time

  20. This is really thrilling news! The success stories I’ve read in the comments from people who have used it really excite me. Thanks for reporting–I live in AZ, so I can jump right in!

  21. “This is just wasting the missionaries time.”

    As compared to what? Street contacting and door-to-door proselyting?

  22. “though I would be even more in love if it could drop the 13-year-old minimum; as parents of children younger than 13, we’d love a resource that helped us find service we could do with our kids”

    There may be projects in some areas where children under 13 can do them. You would just need to click on “suitable for all ages”. It is up to each charitable organization to decide if under 13 (or 16 or 18 etc) can do them. So for a family one could search for a group project suitable for all ages. There will, understandably, be fewer projects available for those under 13 than over.
    ————-

    My husband is a ward mission leader so we have quite a bit of contact with the missionaries. What we have found is more and more people are not home during the day for the missionaries to teach. I loved tracting and found a lot of people doing it, but if no one is home then we should be finding something for the missionaries to do in those hours when they can’t teach. Service is a wonderful way to “fill” those hours and become Christ’s hands as President Uchtdorf has taught: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2010/04/you-are-my-hands?lang=eng

  23. I am a community service specialist in my stake in Mesa AZ. We are working hard to populate the site with opportunities to volunteer and are getting ready to train the general membership of the church here in our area in the coming weeks. It’s going to be wonderful!