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BYU Education Week: ‘Service is contagious’

‘We have the obligation as community members, as fellow travelers on this earth, to look out for one another, to open our eyes, and to extend a hand of gratitude,’ says Chris Crippen at BYU Education Week

PROVO, Utah — In the 1970s, Church President Spencer W. Kimball said: “Each of us has more opportunities to do good and to be good than we ever use. ... Whatever the size of our present circle of effective influence, if we were to improve our performance even a little bit, that circle would be enlarged.”

Emphasizing the Prophet’s invitation to improve service efforts “even a little bit,” Chris Crippen — the director of BYU’s Center for Service and Learning — said members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can “see what we can do to be a little better in serving our community, starting at home.”

On Thursday, Aug. 24, Crippen taught a lecture at Brigham Young University’s Education Week 2023 called “Expanding Our Circle of Service.”

Chris Crippen sitting next to a presentation slide that says “Expanding Our Circle of Service” at the front of a lecture hall.
Chris Crippen teaches a lecture about the simple yet powerful effect of service on the community, at BYU Education Week 2023 on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023, in Provo, Utah. | Joel Randall, Church News

Service starts at home

The family unit is the “learning lab of service,” said Crippen.

“The best thing we can do is love our neighbor, which starts with the people who live in your home and share the same walls as you. That needs to be our core.”

Crippen said he has personally learned much about service from his family, including what it means to love, to sacrifice, to put others first and to collaborate.

“These are the people that God has given you for this mortal probation,” he said, “... the people that deserve the most of your love and attention. It starts at home. It ought to always start at home. And then it expands.”

Simplicity in service

Crippen shared a video from the nonprofit Life Vest Inside about simple, meaningful acts of service. In the video, a man helps up a teenager who fell off his skateboard, and the teenager in turn helps a lady carry her groceries. The camera follows individuals one by one as they first receive an act of service then are inspired to serve another in the chain of service.

“Service is contagious,” said Crippen. “People will see it, and they want to join in. They want to be part of that.”

Making a difference in the community, he said, can be as simple as sharing a smile. The important thing is to look outside oneself, otherwise an opportunity to serve may be missed. 

Crippen said, “We have the obligation as community members, as fellow travelers on this earth, to look out for one another, to open our eyes, and to extend a hand of gratitude and smile. And even just saying hi can be a significant service.”

A presentation slide with the “JustServe” logo and a quote from JustServe specialists saying that the program works miracles.
Chris Crippen teaches at BYU Education Week 2023 that one way to serve the community is through JustServe, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023, in Provo, Utah. | Joel Randall, Church News

Ways to offer service

In addition to spontaneous acts of service, Crippen shared resources through which Latter-day Saints can find service suggestions:

  • JustServe: A website and app provided by the Church to find service events by location, date and category.
  • United Way: Opportunities to strengthen communities, especially in education, income and health initiatives.
  • “This Is Ministering”: A page on the Church’s website with resources to become a better minister.

Crippen also encouraged listeners to be good receivers of the service of others: “We need to be more receptive of the gifts that others are striving to offer to us,” including asking for help when necessary. “We need to be willing to submit and ask for that help.”

Chris Crippen sitting at the front of a lecture hall, next to a presentation slide that says “It’s about people, not projects” with a picture of a hogan.
“Service is about people and not projects. We’ve got to keep the people first in our work,” taught Chris Crippen at BYU Education Week 2023 on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023, in Provo, Utah. | Joel Randall, Church News

‘Service is about people and not projects’

He shared the experience of a group that drove south to Mexico for a service project. On the way, in the state of New Mexico, they saw a Navajo hogan with only a blanket for the door to keep out winter air. The service group arranged for a local lumber dealer to provide custom doors for the hogan.

On the way back, though, the group realized the newly installed doors had been replaced with the same blanket originally in the entryway. The volunteers had good intentions of providing the hogan with doors, but they didn’t realize the blanket was there because of tradition, not because of lack of materials.

“We get into our own kind of paradigm and suddenly feel like we are the standard,” said Crippen. “... We may come into something with a great idea, we feel like our heart is good, and we’re there doing the right thing,” but it may not be what is needed.

He said that “service is about people and not projects. We’ve got to keep the people first in our work.” To do that, volunteers can “discover the need and not just do what they think is needing to be done.”

A way to decide this, he said, is through the Spirit: “One of the best things you could do to be an effective minister is to have the Holy Ghost with you. ... That ought to be one of our chief objectives.”

A presentation slide at the front of a lecture hall, explaining that everyone has several God-given gifts.
Chris Crippen teaches at BYU Education Week 2023 that God gives everyone gifts that can be used to minister like the Savior, on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023, in Provo, Utah. | Joel Randall, Church News
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