How the Church’s JustServe initiative offers a unifying remedy for the divisive ills of the day

Division and disruption seem pervasive in today’s world — but for the many still hearing the Savior’s charge to be His disciples and “love one another,” disunity’s remedy can be found in serving alongside one’s neighbor in a common cause.

“When we serve together,” said President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “we realize that our similarities are stronger than our differences.”

Legions of Latter-day Saints and many others are unifying their communities — even while following the Lord’s second great commandment to “love thy neighbor” — by participating in JustServe.

As many already know, JustServe is a Church-operated initiative that links volunteers of all backgrounds with properly vetted organizations and service projects designed to lift the burdens of others in their communities.

Since its official launch in 2012, JustServe has connected hundreds of thousands of volunteers to over 100,000 projects ranging from massive service initiatives — such as the recent Project Protect mask sewing effort — to small-scale efforts requiring a few people.

Millions of service hours have been donated through JustServe, and the number continues to grow exponentially, even during the ongoing pandemic.

JustServe’s primary objectives, declared President Ballard, are “simple and powerful”: Relieve suffering. Care for the poor and needy. And enhance the quality of life in the community.

Whenever an individual, family or group volunteers for a JustServe-sponsored project, he added, “the light of Jesus Christ is spread and increased throughout the world, allowing more and more people to feel of His love.”

JustServe can be accessed online at JustServe.org and through a dedicated app.

Serving others: a divine impulse

Caring for others, said Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé in a recent JustServe video, is “in our DNA” as disciples of Christ. 

And, of course, the commandment to “love one another” is not limited to those inside one’s family or ward. JustServe is an inspired vehicle to connect with people across all social, racial, religious and economic demographics through service.

JustServe is more than a program or website, added Bishop Caussé. “It is a movement and a way that we can live our covenants.”

Relief Society General President Jean Bingham calls JustServe.org an “inspired” resource during turbulent times. “Perhaps now, more than ever, there is a need for good people of all faiths to come together to strengthen our communities.”

President Ballard said busy Latter-day Saints can correctly point to their service-minded duties within their own wards and stakes. But people of all backgrounds can realize elevated blessings by serving others outside their Church units, particularly people that they don’t know.

“When members engage in service outside of the Church and reach out to their own communities, the blessings will follow,” he said.

In 2006, then-Elder Ballard was the chairman of the Church’s Missionary Executive Committee. Elder Richard J. Maynes, a General Authority Seventy, was also serving on the committee.

The two men and several others recognized a need to help missionaries find ways to serve in their communities during “those down hours” of the day when traditional finding and teaching opportunities were limited.

Most missionaries were eager to serve the communities where they labored — they just didn’t know where to begin.

JustServe.org homepage
JustServe.org homepage Credit: Screen shot: JustServe.org

“JustServe was the key for missionaries to find service opportunities in their assigned communities,” said Elder Maynes, who is now an emeritus General Authority.

Elder William and Sister Sidney Price were called as Church service missionaries in 2011 and helped start the online JustServe initiative. By early 2012, a pilot program of JustServe was underway in the California San Jose Mission.

Soon it was incorporated into many other missions.

Since its inception, JustServe has never been used as a proselyting tool. “It’s service for the sake of service,” said Elder Maynes, “It’s an opportunity to build relationships.”

And since its beginnings, JustServe offered benefits beyond the fruits of a specific service project, he added. Participating mission presidents began reporting fewer cases of homesickness and other missionary challenges. Both the recipients of service and the givers of service were being blessed and strengthened.

Elder Jeremy Jaggi, a General Authority Seventy, and his wife, Sister Amy Jaggi, witnessed firsthand the unifying power of JustServe when they lived in California.

JustServe volunteers participate in a service project at Richmond Elementary following the 2019 earthquake in Ridgecrest, California.
JustServe volunteers participate in a service project at Richmond Elementary following the 2019 earthquake in Ridgecrest, California. Credit: JustServe

When Elder Jaggi was called to preside over the Utah Ogden Mission in 2015, he “fully embraced that opportunity for missionaries to participate with the community and with members in JustServe projects,” he said in the video.

Sister Jaggi, meanwhile, was thrilled that JustServe offered the Ogden missionaries opportunities to connect with the community through Christ-like service.

“The fastest way to warm up a community,” she said, “is to jump in and serve.”

Service is an anchoring element of the Church’s relatively new worldwide Children and Youth effort — and JustServe offers a priceless tool for such efforts, said Elder Lynn G. Robbins, a General Authority Seventy and chairman of the JustServe Steering Committee.

“It brings so many opportunities for youth to serve in their communities,” he said. Young men and young women in Florida, Colorado, Idaho and Utah have started “JustServe clubs” in their own schools.

Elder Maynes added young single adults looking for an ideal dating experience should first consider JustServe.

“Why not go on a JustServe date,” he asked, “and get to know one another by serving together?”

Tapping into JustServes endless potential for good

JustServe will be a decade old in a little over a year. But many civic leaders — along with some local Church leaders — are still discovering the initiative. 

“We have over 10,000 community organizations that are accessing JustServe to meet their needs, specifically looking for help with your volunteer organizations,” said JustServe global manager Heath Bradley.

JustServe volunteers help clean up debris and weeds at Richmond Elementary following the 2019 earthquake in Ridgecrest, California.
JustServe volunteers help clean up debris and weeds at Richmond Elementary following the 2019 earthquake in Ridgecrest, California. Credit: JustServe

People often want to follow a divinely-placed impulse to care for others, he added. They simply don’t know where to begin. Logging into JustServe.org or utilizing the JustServe app and locating a volunteer project in their community “is a great way to start.”

Elder and Sister Price marvel at the many people — both the beneficiaries of service and the benefactors of service — who fight back grateful tears when they speak of JustServe projects in their community.

The Prices wondered how interest in JustServe would be affected by the ongoing pandemic. 

“We even worried it might go dormant for a time,” said Elder Price. “But instead, people have discovered thousands of ways to work from home and engage their children in meaningful service.”

Seeing lives being blessed with each new JustServe project “is so gratifying,” added Sister Price.

Elder Robbins said JustServe “is softening hearts.” That result will become even more commonplace as the Christ-centered initiative expands its reach across the globe in the coming years.

“JustServe is expanding into other countries,” he said. “And it will continue to be the Church’s foremost community-outreach initiative.”

Several youth from the Colorado Springs North Stake represent JustServe during the Monument Hill Kiwanis parade in Monument, Colorado.
Several youth from the Colorado Springs North Stake represent JustServe during the Monument Hill Kiwanis parade in Monument, Colorado.

President Ballard appreciates the good that JustServe has already accomplished. But his focus is firmly on the future as JustServe further taps its vast potential.

“JustServe has become a blessing everywhere it has been adopted,” he said. “It is a blessing to those who receive the service. It is a blessing to those who give service. It is bonding missionaries and members and their communities.”