100 Ways to Serve Your Church

Now, we’re all called to serve. And we’ve all got gifts (or so I’m daring to claim) that the world needs. We’ve talked about ways to be pro-life and ways to be a missionary before. But we’re also part of a local church, a parish that we want to help make into more than just a group of strangers who worship together. Ideally, it wouldn’t just be your church, it would be your church home. But how can you, normal and “untalented” as you are, work to build up your parish? Let’s brainstorm:1

  1. Fix the heinous parish website.2
  2. Spearhead the capital campaign.
  3. Strip and seal the pews.
  4. Painting in some church in Illinois that was unlocked on Easter Sunday afternoon.

    Painting in some church in Illinois that was unlocked on Easter Sunday afternoon. Props for the art and the hours.

    Make good Catholic art.

  5. Buy someone else’s good Catholic art to put in the sanctuary.
  6. Iron the altar linens.
  7. Invite your priests to dinner at your home.
  8. Introduce yourself to the mother of littles and ask if she’d like some help during Mass.
  9. Direct traffic in the parking lot after Mass.
  10. Organize refreshments for the parish mission.
  11. Podcast the homilies.
  12. Start a parish Facebook page.
  13. Cook dinner for the youth group.3
  14. Apologize when you’re wrong.
  15. Revamp the parish database to make it more searchable and user-friendly for the office staff.
  16. Take pictures at parish events.
  17. Host a supper club.
  18. Start a system of supper clubs where every new parishioner is invited to two or three different groups to find a good fit and build relationships.
  19. Buy copies of your favorite Catholic books to hand out.
  20. Start a club for anything you enjoy–knitting, fantasy football, ultimate frisbee, macrame,4 you name it. You’re building community!
  21. Sign up for an extra holy hour or six.
  22. Tell the parish office that you’re happy to drive people to Mass who can’t make it on their own.
  23. Easter candle liliesArrange flowers for the sanctuary.
  24. Take blood pressure readings for the elderly one Sunday a month.
  25. Go to confession. Take your kids. Take your neighbors. Take a stranger.
  26. Pray over the list of sick and recently deceased parishioners.
  27. Never complain except to somebody who could do something to fix the situation.
  28. Volunteer to babysit during the moms’ prayer group.
  29. Throw a baby shower for an unwed mother.
  30. Teach a class on something you’re good at–financial planning or modest fashion or cooking on a budget or web design.
  31. Start a group for the unemployed or underemployed in your parish where you can help each other improve your resumes and interview skills.
  32. Lead a monthly children’s holy hour.
  33. Reorganize the parish library. Toss the heresy and set up a display on a featured topic or author each month. (Think May: Mary; June: Sacred Heart; November: Holy Souls.)
  34. Drive the bus for youth group trips to camps or conferences.
  35. Organize a social hour after a different Mass each week.
  36. Offer 5 hours a week of free counseling to parishioners.
  37. Congratulate parents on their children’s behavior during Mass–even if it wasn’t flawless.
  38. Harmonize.
  39. Mine is a very big name, but not in quite the same way.

    Mine is a very big name, but not in quite the same way.

    Foot the bill to bring in a big name speaker.5

  40. Thank Father for a good (or better than usual) homily. Point out specifically what encouraged or challenged you.
  41. Get to know the people going through RCIA. Invite them out to coffee or over for dinner even after they’re received into the Church.
  42. Write an article for the parish bulletin.
  43. Share good Catholic reads on Facebook.
  44. Lead arts and crafts at Vacation Bible School.
  45. Offer to deep clean the super-pregnant mom’s home.
  46. Ask your pastor if there’s anyone in the community who could use a good friend right now.
  47. Schedule a biannual parish blood drive.
  48. Revamp the parish’s business model.6
  49. Offer to spend an hour every night (or a few hours once a week) guarding the church so people are able to come spend time with Jesus.
  50. Organize a fundraiser–a talent show or auction or gala or something. Make sure your poor parishioners can come.
  51. Fix the church’s sound system.
  52. Start a book club where people actually read the books. (The Well-Read Mom is a great one for women.)
  53. When I drove up to St. Anastasia in Troy, MI, I knew that they wanted me there. How can you make your parish welcoming?

    When I drove up to St. Anastasia in Troy, MI, I knew that they wanted me there. How can you make your parish welcoming?

    Introduce yourself to people after Mass.7

  54. Get a group together for a weekly or monthly service project.
  55. Recommend little-known movies with good themes for more articulate writers to review.
  56. Start a blog with icebreaker ideas for youth ministers–yours specifically.
  57. Do all the advertising for a big event.
  58. Repair the church’s 15-passenger van.
  59. Run for parish council.
  60. Give little toys to all the kids after Mass on holy days of obligation.8
  61. Repair Father’s worn-out cassocks and albs.
  62. Find all the parishioners who live in the same neighborhood and put them in touch with each other.
  63. Go door-to-door inviting people to Mass.
  64. Train Sunday school teachers in classroom management.
  65. Be a sign language interpreter at Mass.
  66. Give a guest lecture on stem cell research or global warming or some other sciencey thing.
  67. Like at this one in Jefferson City, MO.

    Girls’ Night in Jefferson City, MO.

    Host a girls’ night. Teach hair and make-up. Or self defense. Or improv. Or wilderness skills. Whatever.

  68. Teach a Catholic parenting class to go along with baptism prep.
  69. Volunteer to be the “funny guy” at youth events. Skits, emceeing, getting pied, eating toothpaste, you’re up for anything.
  70. Design a logo for your parish and other graphic design stuff that I know I need without even knowing what it is.
  71. Organize a summer program for kids in the area.
  72. Dress like Sunday Mass is the highlight of your life.
  73. Tell the parish office about your language skills and offer to serve as an interpreter for parishioners who struggle with English.
  74. Make first communion dresses for underprivileged girls.
  75. Tell people about your experience as a foster parent/organ donor/AA sponsor.9
  76. Don’t be Pollyanna. Share your struggles while still focusing on joy.
  77. Be present in the moment to each person you meet–even if they’re making you late for Mass.
  78. Here's how my niece and nephew did Pentecost. The faces are a response to this prompt: "Smile like the Holy Spirit is descending on you!"

    Here’s how my niece and nephew did Pentecost. The faces are a response to this prompt: “Smile like the Holy Spirit is descending on you!”

    Wear liturgically appropriate colors.

  79. Start meetings with prayer.
  80. If you work in the parish office, treat each person who walks in the door like an immortal soul ransomed by the blood of Christ. Nothing you’re doing on the computer is more important than the child of God standing before you.
  81. Study the history of your parish and give tours of the building.
  82. Put together a survey for the parish polling people on daily Mass and confession times. Compile the data and submit a recommendation to Father.
  83. Look at daily Mass times for all parishes in the area and suggest a schedule to help meet the needs of more people.10
  84. Design and build a Mary garden.
  85. Start a ministry to reach out to those who have recently lost a loved one.
  86. Organize a winter coat drive.
  87. Set up a Lighthouse Catholic Media kiosk at your parish.
  88. Get to Mass early to pray.
  89. Bake for funeral receptions.
  90. Be a sponsor couple for engaged couples. Invite them to your home and share your difficulties as well as your wisdom.
  91. Divide interested parishioners into small groups based on schedule, location, age, and state in life.
  92. Schedule events for senior citizens to build community.
  93. Start a pro-life group. Remember that being pro-life is more than being anti-abortion.
  94. Make awesome t-shirts for the youth group.

    Both shirts by my awesome friend Lindsey (who is available to do design and illustrations, particularly for Catholic stuff) but only the good photo. (She also does photography in N. Carolina and Northern Indiana)

    Both shirts by my awesome friend Lindsey (who is available to do design and illustrations, particularly for Catholic stuff) but only the good photo. (She also does photography in N. Carolina and Northern Indiana)

  95. Make a promotional video for your parish–particularly highlighting your RCIA or Catholics Come Home program.
  96. Invite a non-Catholic or lapsed Catholic to Mass.
  97. Stop by the Church every day to pray. You’ll be amazed to see how it encourages people to see others praying outside of Mass.
  98. Listen to music by different Christian artists. Give out CDs from your favorites.
  99. Trick out the youth room with homemade stadium seating, a stage, and a Nerf arsenal.
  100. Figure out where your gifts and the Church’s needs intersect. Do that.

I know a lot of these sound trivial. But take directing traffic. You may think, “Any fool can direct traffic. I’m just standing here waving my arms like an idiot.” But I know souls that would be saved if someone were facilitating the madhouse of the after Mass rush to brunch. Think how appreciative you would be if someone just took that in hand. And maybe you’d be more likely to come back. And maybe you’d approach that person and thank him and strike up a conversation and develop a relationship and strengthen the Church.

Many of these are little things. Or things that don’t seem very Churchy. But if the Church is a home, a family, the Body of Christ, then it’s going to be made up of all these little parts. And the little things work together to make a beautiful community. Don’t think you don’t matter. You matter. Now quit sitting around and make your church a better place!


Help me out here, folks. I’m doing the best I can with a mind that’s very oriented to certain kinds of service and not at all to others. What would you add to this list? Share your outside-the-box ideas in the comments!

  1. Obviously, get permission from the powers that be for any of this. []
  2. I think the next edition of the Code of Canon Law should stipulate that all parishes in first world countries must have websites with Mass times–Sunday and daily–prominently featured on the homepage. I wonder if there is anybody in the world who spends as much time frustrated on parish websites as I do. []
  3. Not lasagna. Every youth group in the country eats pizza or baked pasta whenever there’s dinner. Give them something different! []
  4. What even is that? []
  5. Not me. I mean, go ahead and foot that bill, but I’m free, so the footing of the bill won’t be terribly impressive. []
  6. Is that even a thing? []
  7. But not in the sanctuary. That’s for prayer. []
  8. There’s a man at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in South Bend who does this every Sunday and the kids are absolutely thrilled about going to Mass. Sure, it’s for the toy, but anything that makes their reaction to Mass positive without hurting their ability to pray works for me! []
  9. Is that last one allowed? Maybe the anonymity makes that a faux pas. []
  10. There are towns where every Mass is between 8:15 and 8:30 am–at 4 different parishes! Someone take a 7am, someone a noon, and someone an evening and suddenly everyone can make it to Mass if they want. []

About Meg

I'm a Catholic, madly in love with the Lord, His Word, His Bride the Church, and especially His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist. I'm committed to the Church not because I was raised this way but because the Lord has drawn my heart and convicted my reason. After 2 degrees in theology and 5 years in the classroom, I quit my 9-5 to follow Christ more literally. Since May of 2012, I've been a hobo for Christ; I live out of my car and travel the country speaking to youth and adults, giving retreats, blogging, and trying to rock the world for Jesus.
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7 Responses to 100 Ways to Serve Your Church

  1. Meg,

    I need #44 to give me call as soon as they are ready…VBS starts 7/7/14!

    Great ideas, especially #87…Love it!

  2. Zoé says:

    Stuff that I did in the past years:
    Teach how to pray the Rosary, make and donate twine rosary. They are easy and quite cheap to make and are a great gift to give for kids receiving their sacrements. Or like we did, sell them to fund a pilgrimage to the WYD.

    Organise a youth group to go to WYD, because it’s a life changing experience.

    Organise a 24h fast in the sanctuary, that was sooo intense and cool! And share bread and grapes after and it’s the most delicious food you ever put in your mouth.

    Plan a pilgrimage to a nearby sanctuary.

    Put a prayer intention box for your fellow parishionners and tell them each of them will be prayed. We did that for Madrid WYD and we were so touch to receive TONS of intentions, and it made a deep connections between us and the parish while we were in Spain, because each day, we were praying for them.

    Help collecting food for the Food bank.

    Set up a Green Church program for your parish ( http://egliseverte-greenchurch.ca/green/ ) (that I did not do myself but my very good friend started that movement in Canada).

    Sooo many things can be done, thanks for the great list again Meg!

  3. Chad says:

    A few thoughts:

    1) I think we all have had to struggle with bad/outdated parish websites (though maybe not as much as you!). A tip: even if a parish website isn’t being updated, usually their bulletins are, which usually list Mass times. This alone has saved me multiple times; Mass times had changed since the website was last updated.

    11) Be sure that your priest is OK with this. I know that our former pastor was opposed to the idea of having his homilies recorded and re-posted, and you wouldn’t want to do this without seeking prior approval.

    Some additional things:
    (Suggested by our beloved former pastor) Organize a means to connect parishioners with some knowledge with others who want it. There are probably younger people who want to learn the old ladies’ sewing skills (and probably old ladies who would love to share and would stop despairing for the future of humanity knowing younger people wanted to learn something useful). Or gardening or cooking other hobbies. School kids would probably love to talk to people who do different jobs or learn from people beyond what their teachers can offer during the school day.

    Offer to organize that thing that you wish someone at the parish would do.

    Tithe. If most Catholics gave even 1-2% of their incomes to their parishes (far less than the biblical ideal of 10%) every parish would have more money than they knew what to do with.

    If permitted, put a crucifix, an image of the Sacred Heart, or similar of your choice in your office/desk/place of work. Offer your work to God. Do your best work. Be prepared to answer questions like, “Why do you have Jesus still hanging on that cross?” “What does that mean to you?”

  4. Ed Graveline says:

    Our parish is celebrating its 25th year so we have a program asking all to give 25 hours to volunteer at something at the parish. I offered to do #63 of course. They are going to let me know when and with who I can do it. Should be lots of fun.

  5. Mia says:

    Ugh… My parish’s website. It desperately needs updating. If only I were tech-savvy and knew anything about making websites look good. This is a great list you put together! It has really made me think about what I could do for the church. Maybe another thing to add to the list is join the church choir? Or if you were given the gift of a good voice or talented musician.. Offer your services.

    I wish my Parish had a young moms group. I am so chicken about putting one together myself. Leading does not come naturally to me. I wish someone else would start a group up then I would happily join and help any way k can! *sigh* I often wish I were more extroverted.

    Thanks for this great list of suggestions!
    Mia recently posted…7 Quick Takes FridayMy Profile

  6. Now I’m sitting here trying to plan a make-up tutorial for teenage girls in our parish 😉

    And, where do I gets me one of those shirts?
    Jenna@CallHerHappy recently posted…Cat’s Out of the BagMy Profile

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