As busy leaders, we are often feeling overwhelmed in our efforts to magnify our own callings while also inspiring and encouraging others in our stewardship.
What if we could provide an avenue that would bring an added measure of inspiration, caring and purpose to our fellow leaders and ward members in general?
What if we could find a way to help the saint who is struggling with depression to begin to move from despair to hope?
What if we could help our youth to experience the joy of going outside of themselves and being inspired by their connection with others?
What if we could help those in the abyss of addiction move towards light and recovery and away from the isolation?
Well, guess what? We can!
Studies reverberate with proof that meaningful service has become the cure for many social and personal struggles. Yep, it truly is “The Caring Cure”.
I suspect in your head you are asking, “But is it that simple, can we really improve in so many ways by simply serving?”
Don’t believe me? Read on my friend.
Deaths of Despair
As we continue to witness the hopelessness in some of the lives of Father’s children, we see the incident of death by suicide increasing.
In a recent LeadingSanits interview with Kristen Coltrin, she explained that there are three things that can be HUGE warning signs for someone on the road to suicide.
- Lack of feeling connected
- Lack of belonging
- Feeling like a burden
Can you see how meaningful service could create connection, belonging and would help you to not feel like a burden?
How about folks who struggle with clinical, seasonal or periodic depression, the last thing they may want to do is go out and serve.
Yet Maria Pagano, a researcher at Case Western University has found that:
“In the treatment field, we have this notion that says, ‘Oh, don’t ask too much of the client, especially if they’re depressed. They need to just rest,’” she says. But when she studied the effect of helping on clinical depression, she found that, about six months after doing service, people who had been depressed had their depression levels drop significantly—below the level of what’s clinically considered “depressed.”
A paper by Dr. Suzanne Richards and colleagues at the University of Exeter Medical School, Exeter, UK, reviewed 40 studies from the past 20 years on the link between volunteering and health. The paper finds that volunteering is associated with lower depression, increased well-being, and a 20% reduction in the risk of dying.
Can you see the power of assisting our struggling saints to find a place where they can provide meaningful service?
Empowering our Youth
Our new Children and Youth initiative includes a section on service and activities.
“As you participate in service and activities, you can have fun with your family, friends, and leaders while you learn skills, have new experiences, and serve others.“
In LDS Tools there are some great suggestions for meaningful service and activities. Additionally, it’s so easy to use the JustServe app to find service opportunities in our community.
If you love the new Children and Youth Initiative, how about the inspired changes to the Young Women Theme? My heart exploded with joy as I heard the empowering words of the new theme. I love the portion that states:
“I seek and act upon personal revelation and minister to others in His holy name.”
What a powerful way to minister to others in our congregations and community and help our young women discover the joy of service.
In addition to the obvious spiritual and emotional benefits of service, at ChildrensMd.org, a children’s health and wellness resource. One of their articles shared that:
“Research has shown that teens who engage in community service are more responsible with higher self-esteem and resilience. Volunteering helps the teens gain new skills necessary for the job market such as leadership, communication skills, dependability, time management, and decision making. Teens who volunteer perform better at school and also build a stronger resume for college and scholarship applications.”
With all of the new changes in young women and young men’s programs, we can see how valuable it will be for us to encourage our youth to discover service opportunities that resonate with their interests and goals. That type of meaningful service is what makes such a profound difference in their growth and connection to others.
Adding Additional Meaning to Our Callings
Just as service can benefit our youth program, it is also valuable in finding meaning in our callings and church assignments. The inspired ministering program has meaningful service at the heart of its success and application.
Monthly visits with a message that may or may not be beneficial to those for whom we visit are a thing of the past. Instead, striving to seek revelation on how we can best minister to our brothers and sisters brings a whole new approach to ministering.
What if we signed up to volunteer at a JustServe project and invited our ministering brothers and/or sisters to join us in this service opportunity? The Spirit is there when we are in the service of our fellow beings. Our brothers and sisters will be blessed for their service and a special connection will be created with them.
Another Leading Saints interview brings additional power and purpose to the value of service. In an interview with Lt. Governor, Spencer Cox, he focused a great deal on the importance of service in our community. He encouraged us to “lean into service” and mentioned a variety of individual and social challenges that improve when communities and individuals are involved in service.
He observed that “obedience out of duty is exhausting but out of love it is energizing”. The same is true with service. I can tell you unequivocally, all my dear Texan friends who I worked side by side with for years mucking out flooded homes will also tell you, they were physically exhausted at the end of the day, but their hearts were overflowing with love for those whom they served. Plus, the outpouring of love from Father to His servants was also clearly felt.
Staying Sober Through Service
Another challenge we may face as leaders and parents is to have someone we love and care about be in the throes of addiction. We are always looking for resources to help and inspire them, but we may not always be sure as to what that help may look like.
In the previously mentioned article by Pagano, her research also found that service within the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings played a role in successfully staying sober for over a year. She compared helpers and non-helpers in AA and found that:
“40 percent of helpers avoided taking a drink in the 12 months following the 3-month treatment period, while only 22 percent of non-helpers stayed sober.”
In addition to this formal study, I saw the blessings and addiction recovery that came to a friend who got involved in serving through indexing. They were able to manage their addiction so much easier as they spent time indexing and helping with the gathering of Israel.
Regardless of our age, Elder Bednar’s’ Apostolic promise at the Oct 2011 conference applies to all of us.
“And I promise you will be protected against the intensifying influence of the adversary. As you participate in and love this holy work, you will be safeguarded in your youth and throughout your lives.”
Studies have also found that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it is connection.
What a great way to connect as we serve in meaningful ways in our home, community, and church. I LOVE what is being done in Portugal to help reconnect addicts to society and helping them stay sober. Johann Hari gives a great Ted Talk in regards to this successful initiative.
Because an addict battles a great deal of shame, it can be very isolating which makes recovery even more challenging. Yet when an addict is involved in meaningful service, self-worth grows, connections are made, and hope is renewed.
How are we Doing in the Sight of God
I invite each one of us to ponder on and consider the impact service has had in our life thus far, and consider the impact it can have in the coming days.
Through service could we better love God and our fellowmen…as commanded? Could we begin to tear down and remove traditions that have previously created division in our family, church, and community? Or do we want to feel the condemning words of a loving Father found in Joseph Smith History 1:19:
“that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”
Sincere, meaningful service will change our hearts, it will change our community, it will help us in our leadership efforts and it will prepare us for the return of our Savior. To this end may we “Just Serve.”
Beth is the written content manager at Leading Saints. She is a convert of 41 years; served a mission in North Carolina; has been married for 31 years to her sweetheart, Bob; has 5 children and one grandchild. She raised her family in Texas for 25 years where she served in various capacities in the church and in her community. She loves writing, teaching and inspiring others to make changes to their physical, mental and spiritual health.