Looking for a service project to impact your community this fall? Check out this simple Veterans Day idea. Perfect for your women’s ministry or youth group!

CHURCH OUTREACH IDEA FROM VIRGINIA’S SHENANDOAH VALLEY

A few months ago, a friend told me I needed to connect with Jelise Ballon in Virginia. He used the term “rockstar” to describe her, so, of course that got my attention.

Jelise heads up the women’s ministry at her church and is also a writer and a speaker. After checking out her blog, I wanted to hear more.

So, I gave her a call.

I loved her instantly. She is down to earth and easy to talk with. Her story and her love for Jesus can’t be missed.

As we were talking she shared a bit about a Veteran’s Day Service Project her Women’s Ministry participated in last year.

And I’m so excited to share about it with you.

  • It’s very doable in a small church with limited resources
  • It is a relational bridge builder and impacts the community
  • It’s simple. Any small group of people from women’s ministry, a youth group, or even just a few friends can do this!

This is my 2nd of many interviews to come. I’m committed to connecting women in small churches all around the country (and apparently all around the world too, as the feedback is showing).

Feature interviews highlight ideas from women in small churches who have done something cool, creative, or different, in any area of church ministry. Featured ideas will be do-able in the small church setting. So they won’t require a certain attendance to make it successful, or any special resources.

Your small church can have a great influence on your community. And Jelise’s idea is just one example! So, let’s dive in.

Jelise, it was so lovely to meet you over the phone and get to know you a bit. Before we jump into the Veteran’s Day Service Project, tell us about you. What motivates you? What excites you? 

My passion is encouraging burdened and hurting women by sharing the hope found only in Christ. I believe when we’re vulnerable and share the truth about our struggles we can come together and lift one another up, instead of suffering alone. Fake perfection and trying to achieve impossible standards are not my thing. 

I’ve been blogging and writing for a little over five years, and leading women’s ministry for about six. Prior to that I spent 15 years leading small groups and Bible studies. When I write or speak, my goal is to make sure everyone walks away with the confidence that nothing can separate us from God’s love! 

I live in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with my husband David, and our three teenagers.

Tell us about your church. And since The Creative Little Church is a community of small churches, how many worshipers are typical at your church?

We are a young church plant called Compass Community Church. We started out as a small group Bible study, became a satellite campus of another church, and then eventually launched as our own church plant about four years ago. We have about 60-75 adults and children attend on an average Sunday.

We are the only Brethren Church to reside inside of a gated, private community. Our community, Lake Holiday, has about 700 homes and a 240 acre man-made lake. We do not have our own building, instead we meet each week in our community clubhouse.

I love what your women did on Veterans’ Day last year. Can your share with our readers?

This past Veteran’s Day our women’s ministry wanted to honor the many Veterans living in our community. Our church meets in the middle of a private, gated community with over 700 homes.

We asked our HOA office to send an email to all members asking for Veterans who wouldn’t mind receiving a “thank you gift” to opt-in to a list so we had names and addresses.

Then our women baked homemade goodies and brought in treats. We filled small gift bags with the treats and attached a little tag to each bag that said, 

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – John 15: 13 

On behalf of the Lake Holiday Community Group and Compass Community Church, thank you for your service.

We also put information about our weekly Wednesday potluck meal and Bible study and invited them to join us. 

How many people responded that they would like a gift?

We delivered these bags to over 50 individuals in our community.

So a church of 60-70 people delivered gifts to 50! I think that is beautiful. Great job! How did your team come up with this idea?

As a church we are always searching for ways to serve our local community. Because we are only 90 minutes from Washington, DC and many major military and government centers, I knew we had a large number of Veterans living in our community and wanted to recognize and honor their service.

What was your favorite part about this project?

Getting to meet neighbors I didn’t know and thank them in person for their service to our country.

How many women were involved in the Veteran’s Day Service Project?

We had about 10 women contribute baked goods or candy, and 5 of us delivered the gift bags.

So, give us the details. How did you organize it. What were the steps?

First, I created a Google form where residents could fill out their name, branch of military and address.

Then I contacted our local HOA office and asked them to send an email to all community members letting them know about the project and asking Veterans to fill out the form. Participation was always 100% optional; we did not deliver to anyone who didn’t opt-in, so as to respect privacy.

Then I began sending emails to my ladies to let them know and made announcements at church. I had sign-up sheets for baking and for assembly and delivery.

I closed the form about 4 days in advance (the email had been sent about 1 month before Veteran’s Day) to get a final headcount, then printed the tags and bought the gift bags, and some ribbon to attach the tags (blue and red gift bags, clear cellophane bags to put the goodies in before putting them in the paper gift bags, and ribbon from the Dollar Tree). 

On Sunday, November 11th (which was also Veteran’s Day) people brought in their goodies, and after church we formed an assembly line to fill the bags and attach the tags.

Each of my delivery volunteers had a pre-printed list of names and addresses so they knew where to delivery their bags.

If another church wanted to do this project, what supplies would they need?

  • Baked goodies or candies (we tried to have at least 6 items per bag, so 300 items in our case)
  • Paper gift bags
  • Clear cellophane bags to put the baked goods in so there wouldn’t be oil stains on the paper bags
  • Printed tags
  • Ribbon

Are you planning on doing it again? If so, what will you do differently this time?

Yes! It was very well-received by our community and we plan to do it again this year.

What advice would you give to another small church who is considering an idea like this?

I think the hardest part is to get the list of Veterans in your community. 

If you don’t have a way to send out an email blast to residents, then perhaps contact your local VFW and see if they would send one out. Or set up a table at a Veteran’s Day parade or event in your town.

Remember you want to make it opt-in so no one feels their privacy is being violated. The important part is the face-to-face connection and letting them know they are appreciated.

Why is this a great project for a small church to take on?

The cost is very minimal and anyone can help out! Several of our kids helped with assembly and attaching labels and my 16 year old helped me with deliveries.

I know when I’ve done new projects, sometimes there are amazing benefits I never imagined. Did you experience any unexpected God-moments or surprises?

Meeting new neighbors was great, and actually finding out some of the members of our church were Veterans and getting to talk to them about their service was a precious gift. 

Also sharing this with my 16 year old who helped me deliver.

I want her to know that no matter what our personal politics or the state of affairs in our country, we should always recognize and appreciate the sacrifice of our armed forces.

What kind of response did you get after the project?

We have a private Facebook group for people that live in our community. There were many posts on there from Veterans or their spouses saying how much they appreciated the gifts and what a kind gesture it was.

Are there any other fun ideas you are looking forward with the women’s ministry at your church?

Summer is always a great time for us because we live where we play! Kayaking, hiking, night swims in the lake — these are all things we enjoy. And in October we have our annual women’s retreat which is my favorite event of the year.

And besides leading the women’s ministry at your church, I know you are a speaker and a writer. Tell us more about that.

I blog at the website NeitherHeightNorDepth.com and write for several online publications, including Her View From Home, Today Show Parents page, inspire more, and others. I’ve also written for the Brethren Evangelist magazine.

My first book, Forgiven and Restored was just released in July by Eliezer Tristan Publishing.

I have been speaking at women’s retreats, churches, and conferences, for a little over 6 years, and also teach workshops for a variety of audiences. I have a Master Trainer designate from ATD and a Master’s Degree in Communication from West Virginia University. You can find out more on my website.

Jelise Ballon, author of Forgiven and Restored

Jelise, I want to thank you so much for taking the time to share your story with us at The Creative Little Church! I can’t wait to connect more with you in the future.

Do You Have a Ministry Idea You Would Like to Share for Small Churches?

Jelise’s Veteran’s Day Service Project is a great example of sharing our stories to benefit one another across the miles. As Women in Small Churches, we really do share a journey! 

Please let me know if you have an idea to share.

Feature Interviews Coming Soon:

An All-Church Serve Day, coming to us from Tucson, AZ

Organized service projects once a year (in lieu of a Sunday worship service) so the church can show up in the community as the hands and feet of Christ.

A Youth Family Holiday Dinner, coming to us from St. James, MD

Creating some family space during the busiest season of the year so parents and kids can connect.

MORE GREAT READS FOR YOU:

GOD SEES YOU – FINDING PEACE BY DOING LESS, NOT MORE. A must-read for all Christian Women.

HOST A WOMEN’S PAINT PARTY AT YOUR SMALL CHURCH. How a non-artist hosts a paint party! You can do it too!