Putting Our Faith Into Action
Jesus calls every one of us to serve. He calls us to love others, giving of our time, money, and abilities to care for those in need. Unfortunately, in a culture that demands much, we often find ourselves without the time, money, or motivation required to give and serve. We are busy, and busyness and service seem to pull us in opposite directions. To serve others, we first have to be willing to give.
The theme for our current school year is service. Specifically, Faith in Action. It is important to be reminded often of our calling to love and serve others because we are so often inclined to the opposite. As our Head of School, Dr. Barrett Mosbacker, said back in August, the idea that it is more blessed to give than to receive contradicts our natural inclinations of self-indulgence. Companies often appeal to our selfish desires to sell products, but Dr. Mosbacker also points out that “contrary to manipulative marketing, we are happier and blessed when we focus on serving others. Serving others shifts our focus from ourselves to others and cultivates empathy and gratitude.” Truthfully, by giving of our time and resources, we not only do as Jesus commands, but we mimic Christ himself.
For 36 years, our seniors have participated in Senior Service as part of a larger Faith in Action program, where each Thursday morning during the school year, they go out into the community and volunteer. Seniors serve in more than 70 nonprofit organizations in St. Louis such as hospitals, schools, animal rescue centers, and various humanitarian ministries. Senior Service does a lot of good for our community and our city, but we want to encourage all our students to serve—not just seniors. To accomplish this, we introduced an expansion of the Faith in Action program to include all grades from 7th through 12th beginning this school year.
When it comes to service, our initial thoughts are often that it is just another thing to add to our already busy schedules. Why do we have to volunteer and not get paid for the work? The answer is simple. As Jesus says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” At Westminster, we want all our students to realize there are many opportunities to do good in their communities.
“I think we should serve others because, as Christians, we need to realize that God served us first,” says 8th grader Megan Mueller.
“Jesus came to serve, and to try to be more Christ-like, we should show love to those around us through our actions. We can stand out for Christ by being willing to help others.”
In the gospels, Jesus commands his disciples to go to the corners of the earth and proclaim the good news that Jesus himself has conquered death for us. Jesus also commands his disciples to go out and heal the sick and serve those in need—not for our own gain but to love as he loves. The purpose of expanding the Faith in Action program is not to add more work for our students. Our hope and prayer is that students see this as an opportunity to be good stewards of the gifts God has given them by sharing with others.
Leading with service is one of our core values at Westminster. For years, Dale Ribble, head coach of the boys varsity basketball team, has had his players volunteer in the St. Louis area throughout the season with organizations such as Crisis Aid International—a nonprofit that provides care for various communities and neighborhoods in St. Louis. Along with our athletes, many of our students have sought out opportunities to serve in various ways at Westminster. Likewise, every Tuesday, the Spanish club serves Los Vecinos—a Hispanic community in Chesterfield. Students spend their afternoons tutoring and mentoring grade school children. Gina Meeks, Spanish teacher and sponsor of the Spanish club, says she has been blessed to see students so eager to serve. With our core value of service, many students have sought out leadership positions within the Westminster community and have been a tremendous blessing.
Each year during Homecoming weekend, we host Carnival. Hundreds of families come to our campus for games, rides, food, and to see our varsity football team compete. In order to pull it off successfully each year, members of our Student Council work tirelessly to plan, coordinate, and operate the event. Similarly, students in our Ambassadors program attend many of our school events, such as New Student Orientation and Open House, welcoming new and prospective families to Westminster. These students do not serve because they want to earn service hours but because they want to serve and lead. According to Mrs. Meeks, providing these service opportunities is important because it allows students “to see the needs of others as well as the results of being willing to sacrifice their own time.”
7th grader Eleanora Ottolini has personally been blessed by the time she has spent serving at Delmar Gardens. “It feels so joyful to get to help others how Christ helps us,” says Eleanora. “I enjoy the smiles and how happy it makes me feel. I love showing people how much I love Christ and how much he’s done for me.” It is a joy to see our middle school students full of desire to show Christ’s love to others because that is what we are all called to do. This core value of service is at the heart of the culture of Westminster which is to enable our students to discover and embrace a biblical view of the world and integrate that view into every area of life.
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul writes, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others.” Self-indulgence and selfishness are prevalent in our culture because it is easy to focus on ourselves. Too easy. We focus on our wants and desires rather than focus on others. In their Bible classes, students learn that we live by four types of relationships: our relationship to God, to ourselves, to others, and to creation. By expanding the Faith in Action student service program, our students can intentionally seek opportunities to mimic Christ and lean into their relationships with others and with God’s creation.
“Every opportunity we have at Westminster and as Christians to make a positive impact in the world is a good opportunity,” says senior Isaac Boss. “We do a lot at Westminster to serve our community, but as much as we can make a mark on the outside world, particularly in places where Christ isn’t as known, makes a massive difference in people’s lives.” Isaac has served each Thursday morning of his senior year at Mason Pointe Lutheran Senior Services. When he arrives, his job is to escort people with mental or physical disabilities from the dining room after breakfast to the living area. Together, they toss a beach ball around for an hour. “These things can feel so monotonous,” he says. “But it brings me joy to see how much joy such a simple thing can bring. It feels like it might even be the highlight of their day.” Service brings joy. It is a simple statement but enlightening in its realization. When we focus on others, it brings joy to those we serve as well as ourselves. Our hope is that our students find opportunities to serve and find joy in their communities including here at Westminster.
There are many opportunities for students to connect, give, and serve at Westminster. The Peer Connector program connects juniors and seniors with middle school students, providing our students with the opportunity to engage with others and build relationships. Juniors and seniors lead group meetings and take time every other week to answer questions, chat about what’s going on in each other’s lives, and encourage one another. Additionally, Westminster hosts In the Spirit of Giving (ITSOG) every November, a weeklong event in which students bring in all sorts of goods to be donated to organizations across the St. Louis area. Students also donate each year to support African Vision of Hope, an organization that seeks to provide education to impoverished children. These little acts of service seem simple to us but have a tremendous impact elsewhere.
Colton Albers has been around the Westminster community for a few years, having worked during the past few summers with Camp Westminster and this year as part of our Faculty Fellows program teaching business. “I have seen students serve one another through encouragement as small as saying ‘hi’ to a stranger in the hallway,” says Mr. Albers. “I’ve also seen our community of students come together in times of heartache and sadness to care for one another.” This past semester, seniors in the capstone entrepreneurship class that operates Pawprint Coffee began asking how they could do more for the community. The answer was the Pawprint Foundation—a branch of the Pawprint brand that plans to raise funds specifically for serving others, particularly in difficult situations. The past few years have been challenging, but our students continuously seek each other out for comfort and look for opportunities to make a lasting impact at Westminster—not just for today but for future generations as well.
In Matthew 25, Jesus tells his disciples, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me… Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
Service is hard and takes real sacrifice, but there is joy in caring for others. We love and serve one another because of the example set by our heavenly Father, who loves us wholly, and in turn, serving others produces healthy relationships and peace.
Throughout the Gospels, we see example after example of Jesus caring for the lost, the sick, and the broken. Jesus himself says in Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” We can tell our students they must complete service hours to receive a diploma. We can tell our seniors they need to participate in Senior Service to walk at graduation, but service is not just compliance. It takes a willing and loving heart which is part of the spiritual formation we desire for our students.
If our mission is to enable students to discover and embrace a biblical view of the world and to be able to integrate that view into every area of life, then spiritual formation has to be at the heart of what we do: academics, athletics, and student life. Every facet of life at Westminster is influenced by our desire to see our students grow in their relationship with Christ, and over the years, we have seen many examples of our students seeking out opportunities to love one another. Mr. Albers prays that students who are reluctant to serve or unsure where to begin understand that “service doesn’t have to be grand or complex. It can start with simple, small acts of kindness.” We hope that our students will give and love with willing hearts so that even when it gets hard and feels monotonous and repetitive, they can look to Christ and the example he sets for us.
Faith in Action. The purpose of the program is there in the name. Serving others is a practical way for us to put our faith in Christ into action, and all it takes is a bit of effort and intentionality to look past ourselves and our desires and see where God has called us to go. “My advice for others is to truly enjoy what you’re doing, and don’t just put on a smile,” says Isaac Boss. “It brings me joy that something that doesn’t take much effort for myself is so meaningful for other people.”
At Westminster, we deeply value our community. Students, parents, faculty, staff, alumni, and all of us connected to Westminster in one way or another are part of a culture that seeks to live the way Christ wants us to live. We serve, following in his example, not for our own personal glory but to share his love with a broken world. Join us in prayer for our students and our community as a whole that we continuously live according to Christ’s commands to love one another and serve those he calls us to serve.
This article was originally published in our alumni magazine, Chimes. Read more from the Fall 2024 issue.