Service Learning: Developing a Lifestyle of Service

Service, community service, and service learning are buzzwords that describe the good work of people who want to meet the needs of others. For the church worker, the community activist, and the educator, service to others would seem to be a way of life, or second nature. For the Christian, service to others is easily visualized as sacrificial in nature, echoing Christ’s sacrifice on the cross to bring about forgiveness for sins, and also seen as the responsibility of believers, as when the early apostles provided for all in the community so that “none among them had need.” I am suggesting neither a socialistic approach to benevolent activities nor Christian martyrdom, but I am positing ideals of service to others as a way to raise the level of community, so the biblical justice described in Micah chapters 3 and 6 might be evident among us. These types of service expressions often range from feeding the homeless to visiting shut-ins, from advocating for prisoners to tutoring students, and a myriad of hands-on, tangible projects such as yard work, general cleaning, and disaster relief. This article will explore the pedagogy of service learning, offer approaches to meeting individual and community needs, and challenge readers to commit to a lifestyle of service.

Established in a historical frame of civic education, service learning is a tool for reawakening a programmatic educational response to civic justice; it is an emerging teaching method applicable across disciplines and cultures (Kenworthy-U’Ren and Peterson). Various scholars propose that service-learning pedagogy provides the basic tools necessary for students to resolve fundamental challenges they face by mixing academic rigor with practical relevance (Godfrey, Illes, and Berry; Cheit). This idea finds support in Kolb’s model of experiential learning, which suggests that “significant and important learning takes place by the combined processes of abstract conceptualization, concrete experience, and then reflection on that experience” (Godfrey, Illes, and Berry). Some of the best approaches to meaningful learning create a balance of reflection both prior to the service activity and then again after the activity is completed in order to help identify meaningful takeaways.
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