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Providing a small town service of love
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In writing this new column, I thought long and hard about what the first topic should be on. What is important from the perspective of a youth pastor? What do we know that other people should know? Since it is February and Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, I settled on love in the form of service.

I love Covington and Newton County. But are we teaching our kids to love Covington and Newton County? What I’m trying to say is: are we teaching our children to love the people that make up Newton County? Leviticus 19:18 says, “but you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus repeats this in Mark 12:31, so apparently this is important.

The point I am trying to make is this: are we teaching our children and teenagers to do this? Are we showing them how to serve another human being without expecting anything in return?

I recently read an article about community service work becoming increasingly more important to college admission officers. I think this is great. I have worked with teenagers that have never seen a homeless person. I have worked with some that believe that there are no homeless in Newton County. I think that teenagers today are disconnected from our community. We have many opportunities to serve our fellow members of the community.

We have the Washington Street Community Center that has an afterschool program that tutors children. At Repairs of the Breach, they serve a meal Monday through Thursday evenings to people that are homeless and/or hungry. Solid Rock Baptist Church has the Willing Helpers Food Ministry and the Willing Helpers Medical Clinic. Action Ministries is also working on providing snacks and meals for children. Uniting Hope for Children in Loganville serves the Newton community and has opportunities to volunteer. The list is long.

All of these organizations offer plenty of opportunity for us to teach our children and teens how to serve others. It also teaches them to love people where they are.

What I mean by that is that we are showing them to love and care for people no matter their station in life. We are teaching them that people matter, period. No matter what their race, sex, religion, political affiliation, financial worth, or how ever else we separate people into groups. If we teach our young adults that people matter regardless of what they look like or where they come from, think about how their attitudes would change.

I am not saying that every day we need to spend one to two hours volunteering. We need time with our families. We need time alone. We need time with our friends. We need to balance our time. If you over do something, you risk becoming burned out with that something.

I am also not saying you are bad parent if you are not teaching your children to serve others. You may never have been taught to serve yourself. It may be out of your comfort zone. Let us step out and try something new. You never know what will happen if we spend a couple of hours a week or every two weeks volunteering our time to serve others. We might be surprised at how our friend group grows, our family might even gain some members.

In a small town, service is a demonstration of love as we practice what is said in Leviticus 19:18 in real, practical ways.
C.S. Lewis once said, “Our prayers for others flow more easily than those for ourselves. This shows we are made to live by charity.” This is how I want my children to live. This is what I want Newton County to be known for.

Andy Butts was born and raised in Newton County. He is the youth pastor at Journey Church in Oxford, GA. He loves God, his wife, his children, food, Ethiopia, and Star Wars.