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What Is Service?

Service is a response to God’s love for us in Jesus Christ that teaches us to live like Jesus through specific, tangible actions that contribute to the dignity and well-being of the people we serve.

Living Like Jesus: Service as a Faith Practice

by Chris Schoon, director of Thrive-US

For many years I viewed service more along the lines of volunteering than anything else. Service seemed to be something that was good to do when I had extra time and energy. It seemed more like a bonus step in my Christian faith. I could show up for a shift at a soup kitchen or help put together holiday food baskets for families that were struggling and couldn’t afford a nice Thanksgiving or Christmas meal. I recall participating in several service projects that involved spending a Saturday morning raking leaves from the yards of elderly members in our church or cleaning up trash from the neighborhood around the church building. Occasionally, serving others involved taking a week-long trip to some other community to work on houses and property.

While all these activities were good for me to do, in looking back, I realize something was often off in the way I understood what we were doing. . . .

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Helpful Resources for Service

Scripture passages on service and a resource list of good things to read, watch, and listen to.

How Can I Practice Service?

Serving Individually
Serving with a Group 
Serving as a Family

Points to Ponder

Explore these questions in personal reflection, at home, or in small groups:

  • What are some of the characteristics of true servanthood as modeled by Jesus?
  • What is usually your first reaction when you’re asked to serve in some way? What has shaped that reaction?
  • What faith practices can help us develop the heart of a servant?
  • In Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.” How might we prepare ourselves to recognize interruptions as opportunities to serve?


"“Self-righteous service fractures community. . . . It puts others into its debt and becomes one of the most subtle and destructive forms of manipulation known. True service builds community. It quietly and unpretentiously goes about caring for the needs of others. It draws, binds, heals, builds.”

—Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline (Tweet this quote)

Explore Other Faith Practices

Thrive's Faith Practices Project explores twelve Christian practices or spiritual disciplines: sabbath, gratitude, generosity, hospitality, engaging Scripture, justice and mercy, listening, celebration, prayer, wonder, remembering, and service.