United Methodist schools focus on service

In today's world, people constantly rush from place to place, chasing after success or just struggling to pay the bills. As people on the go, we never seem to have time to spare. In a culture that tells us always to be independent and to focus on success, such activities as community service sometimes are the first to go in our quest for time.

However, many United Methodist-related schools are leading the way in developing a new culture of service among young people.

As a student at Martin Methodist College in Pulaski, Tenn., I see the battle for time every day. Students rarely have enough time to eat, sleep or serve others. I especially see this conflict as the coordinator of the Pulaski Poverty Project, a student-led initiative. The goal is to engage students in learning about systemic poverty and in serving the low-income community of Giles County, Tenn.

We believe that when one learns about and sees injustice, he or she becomes responsible for using that knowledge throughout life.

What we do

The Pulaski Poverty Project's main efforts are through education nights, service events and a knitting club. On education nights, we watch documentaries, listen to speakers or discuss various aspects of systemic poverty. We have regular service events at local non-profits that relate to the local low-income community. Our knitting group creates warm hats and scarves to distribute on the streets of Nashville, 75 miles north of Pulaski.

Autumn Dennis
Autumn Dennis

We believe that through small acts of great love, students can feel ownership and creativity in how they can use their gifts to address a great need. Since September 2012, we have exceeded 650 hours of service with more than 30 volunteers.

Martin Methodist is not the only United Methodist-related college creating this culture of service.

In Tacoma, Wash., students at the University of Puget Sound confront systemic poverty through their annual Hunger and Homelessness Month and the Justice and Service in Tacoma Club (JuST), coordinated through the Office of Spirituality, Service, Social Justice.

Hunger and Homelessness Month includes speakers on systemic poverty, food drives and fundraisers for local non-profits. The JuST club discusses social justice with opportunities to engage in workshops and to serve.

'Challenge to reflect and understand'

"Students often want the easy answer to issues like hunger and poverty," said Roman Christiaens, social justice coordinator, "and they struggle to find themselves and their purpose in the rather broken world we live in.

"Oftentimes, students get involved in community service as a way to bolster their resume or for the purposes of feeling good. The opportunities for service and learning at Puget Sound challenge students to reflect and understand the identities and privileges they hold and to draw connections between those identities and why they want to be involved in service and social justice."

Martin Methodist College and the University of Puget Sound are just two of many United Methodist-related colleges creating a culture of selfless service that encourages young people to think critically about social issues and put their convictions into practice. As a student leader, my advice for other colleges and students interested in doing something to confront poverty is to see the community around you, learn what your students will commit to and go for it!

*Dennis is a freelance writer and student at Martin Methodist College in Pulaski, Tenn.

News media contact: Barbara Dunlap-Berg, Nashville, Tenn. (615) 742-5470 or [email protected].


Like what you're reading? Support the ministry of UM News! Your support ensures the latest denominational news, dynamic stories and informative articles will continue to connect our global community. Make a tax-deductible donation at ResourceUMC.org/GiveUMCom.

Sign up for our newsletter!

UMNEWS-SUBSCRIPTION
Mission and Ministry
Children dance in front of the altar rail during vacation Bible school at Connell Memorial United Methodist Church in Goodlettsville, Tenn. The church served as a test site for a new VBS curriculum, “Food Truck Party,” which Cokesbury officially launched on June 30. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News.

Congregations eagerly embrace VBS opportunities

Learning from 2020 experiences, many United Methodist churches reopen doors to community while others continue virtual classes for 2021.
Mission and Ministry
Pupils of the UMC Kulanda Town in Bo, in southern Sierra Leone, rush back to class in March 2020, shortly before schools were closed down after the first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the country. There are more than 350 United Methodist schools in Sierra Leone, with the majority of them assisted by the government and affected by the free education initiative. File photo by Phileas Jusu, UM News.

Free education policy affects church schools

Sierra Leone’s Free Quality School Education initiative creates challenges for United Methodist schools, including overcrowded classrooms.
Mission and Ministry
Claremont School of Theology students undergo a first orientation meeting on the campus of Willamette University, in Salem, Ore., in 2019. The United Methodist seminary planned to sell its Claremont, Calif., campus and make a complete move to Willamette. But recent litigation setbacks, affecting the price for a sale, have caused the seminary to decide to operate both in Claremont and Salem. Photo courtesy Claremont School of Theology.

Claremont pivots to two-campus strategy

Claremont School of Theology planned to sell its Southern California campus and move to Willamette University in Oregon, but litigation setbacks have forced the United Methodist seminary to try to operate both places.