Learning through Serving

The opportunities for students serving in God’s world have exploded in recent years. Mission trips, community service requirements, and service days are commonplace in middle schools and high schools as well as churches across the continent. This spirit of service carries over to the college years. Trinity Christian College student Kelly Vanden Berg recounts her earliest service experiences:

My memory of service begins back in middle school, approximately seventh grade. I was able to choose an “exploratory” class, and decided on the service committee as the best option. We worked within the school, making the close-knit school community our main focus. The school allowed each class to head out on a field trip of sorts where we spent a day serving the surrounding community. Each year our focus grew slightly larger. Looking back, I can see a change in me during my last two years in high school. Subconsciously, my focus was now widening and I was reaching a point where I was ready to embark on bigger, broader, and more challenging service opportunities.

Any exploration of this topic begins with a definition of terms, for volunteerism, service-learning, and experiential education are often confused. According to the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse, “service-learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities.” Volunteerism can occur within a service-learning framework, but not all volunteerism is service-learning, because some volunteer activities do not include the integration of instruction with the activity. Experiential education is the more inclusive term for any kind of experience that involves some form of learning—service-learning, internships, field experiences, mission trips, and the like.
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