If you’re already looking for simple ways to serve others, you probably don’t need convincing that it’s a good thing. After all, just before being crucified, Jesus paused his last meal with his disciples to get up, fetch a basin and towel—and to his disciple’s great surprise—serve them by washing their feet. And later, he urged them to love each other in the same way (John 13:34-35).

But when it comes to simple ways to serve others in today’s day and age, maybe you’re not sure where to get started. Or, perhaps you’ve been serving like crazy, skipping out on the “simple” in “simple ways,” and you’re running on empty because your service isn’t genuinely coming from a place of love for the people you’re serving.

Either way, we can all benefit from slowing down a bit, and taking a fresh look at what it can look like to serve others. We’ve identified a few simple places to get started. Check them out!

 

1. Start with the thankless tasks

So, walking up to someone and asking if you can wash their feet probably wouldn’t go over very smoothly (and let’s hope it’s not quite as necessary of a chore these days). But when it comes to simple ways to serve others, we can definitely look around and easily find a variety of simple chores we can help out with.
When you’re washing your coffee mug out at the office kitchen, maybe take a minute or two to wash and put away the stray dishes in the sink as well. Did you just finish enjoying the church potluck? Maybe start clearing away the dishes or bring out the broom for some quick clean up. Or did a friend invite you over for dinner? Ask if you can help chop some veggies or set the table while she cooks dinner.

 

2. Join an existing effort

All around us—in church or elsewhere—lots of people and organizations are working hard to serve a variety of communities. When you’re looking for simple ways to serve others, start by joining people who are already doing good work around you!
What ministry efforts can you join at church? There are many roles beyond Sunday school and nursery if those aren’t your cup of tea. Consider tech support for the Sunday service. Or volunteering to write to and encourage the missionaries your church supports. Is there a local church that runs a food pantry or teaches ESL classes? Ask how you can help out. Beyond church, look around to see what nonprofits are working in your area, and prayerfully consider volunteering with one of them.

 

3. Bring others along

If you find a simple way to serve others that you love, consider inviting some friends to join you. It often opens the door to serving more people, and could be a huge blessing to anyone you partner with. With friends, you could organize a game night for the youth group (try checking with the youth pastor). Or help serve a meal at the local homeless shelter. Maybe you can organize a fundraiser at your church/school/workplace for a cause you and your friends believe in.
These one-time events work great for a group of friends. But don’t be shy to ask your friends about regularly volunteering. If you are regularly helping out at a nonprofit or ministry, and enjoy the time and effort you put in, let your friends know! And if someone seems interested, invite them along.

 

4. Listen carefully

Whether it’s church members sharing prayer requests, or coworkers complaining about their daily lives, make an effort to listen carefully. One of the most powerful things we can do for those around us is to know their needs, and pray for them, inviting our all-powerful God into their lives. By listening carefully, we will find many opportunities for prayer, and perhaps for helping out in tangible, immediate ways.
Is the young mother at church asking prayer for time-management, or sleep, or patience? You might be the highlight of her week if you ask to babysit. Is your coworker telling you about family health issues? Maybe you can offer to bring a meal, or write them a card and include a restaurant gift card inside. Is your neighbor going out of town to visit family? Ask if you can mow their lawn or check their mail while they’re gone.

Finally, serving is not meant to be a one-way street. Even Jesus, our Savior and Creator, accepted the bread and fish of a little boy (John 6), the anointing of a sinful woman (Luke 7), and other forms of service. As followers of Jesus, we are called to be a family, to support one another, and to be supported by one another. As we seek to serve those around us, and graciously accept the service others offer, we present the world with a beautiful picture of Christ’s love in us.