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SERV 231/232 Foundations of Service, Mission and Social Change


This course focuses on service and mission, both as a central motivation for all we are and do and as the call from God for a special assignment to share the Good News of Jesus with our neighbors through word and deed. By combining academic study of the mission of the church in the world with a summer experiential Service-Learning activity, the course offers students a unique opportunity to relate classroom learning with everyday experiences. The course draws on perspectives from sociology, theology, missions and concepts of Service-Learning in a discussion-oriented classroom setting.

For most students the course serves as elective credit. It does meet some requirements for practica in some programs.

If the summer activity is in a cross cultural setting and meets the parameters, it will satisfy the cross cultural requirement by providing a waiver for the requirement.

There are three components to the course:
  1. A Spring Semester Course
    This is a regular 3 credit course in preparation for your summer
    service project. It meets Monday evenings from 6:30 to 9:00
  2. A Summer Mission/Service Activity
    Students serve with a mission or service agency in the United States or
    internationally, putting into practice and testing what they have learned.
  3. A Fall Semester Course for Reflection
    Students meet for a 1 credit course to reflect on and learn from their summer experiences. By reporting, in-depth, what they observed and did, students consequently link their reflections with ideas and concepts studied in the previous spring.

Financial Assistance is Available
In order to compensate for lost summer earnings and assist with other expenses, Messiah College provides generous financial aid grants to students who participate in this course. These grants are applied to tuition, board, and room the year following the summer experience. The amount of the grant is based on student need, the length of time the student serves, costs associated with the service assignment, and the total amount of assistance available from the college.

Summer Mission/Service Activity
During the summer, students serve in an "internship like" assignment with a mission and/or service agency which they arrange themselves with the help of the instructor of the course and the Director of Summer Missions in the Agapé Center. Most denominations have summer mission and service opportunities. There are many independent mission and service agencies which have summer programs. In recent years students served in the following assignments.

Guatemala - Working with children in an orphanage
Manor, PA - An internship in a congregation
Honduras - Working with food production and development
Ireland - Working with a local church doing counseling
Belize - Working in a university sponsored environmental project
Nicaragua - Partnering with local people working for justice
China - Teaching English
Appalachia-Doing home repair
Costa Rica - Living with a local pastor and helping with Bible School
Detroit - Assisting in a ministry with Muslim people
Zambia - Working in a hospital and on Malaria research
Camden, New Jersey - Working with youth programs
Arizona - Office work with Food for the Hungry
Zimbabwe - Helping a seminary investigate using wind power

Mission Awareness week in early November is a great time to explore possibilities. More than 25 mission and service agencies will be on campus.

If demand is high, enrollment may be limited. SERV 231 Foundations of Service, Mission and Social Change is listed on the course schedule under Service Learning and students register in the same way they register for other courses. Students should contact the instructor prior to registration. The course is counted as elective credit; however special arrangements can be made with various majors to use the credits to fulfill major requirements.

You should receive "permission" from the instructor before you register. Or send an e-mail to Chad Frey to indicate your interest and to get a form. Forms are also available at the Agape Center for Service and Learning

Download the application here.

For more information
For more information and to discuss summer activities, contact:
Chad Frey

Director of the Agape Center for Service and Learning

Phone:  Ext. 7255


FAQ Frequently asked Questions

1. What kind of service/mission activity during the summer "counts?"
Most anything that involves some kind of service or mission activity with a group of people different from yourself. The activity should relate to an on-going program rooted in a community, be strongly supported by local people, be with an agency that reflects a "wholistic" understanding of the Gospel and reflect good practices of service/mission. There should be a local contact person who can provide personal and program support during the summer, as well as love and care for you. You can work in the Unites States or internationally.

2. How long must the service activity be?
As long as possible. You will contribitute more the longer you stay and you will learn more too.

3. How do I find a summer activity?
Students are responsible to find their own service/mission activity. The instructor of the course, in addition to the staff at the Agape Center for Service and Learning are available to help. Many agencies which offer summer programs visit campus the first week of November. Talk to them. Your pastor likely knows of possibilities and your denomination most likely has programs as well.

4. How does the financial aid work?
The financial aid grants are intended to compensate for lost summer wages. The amount is based on your financial need, the length of service, and the cost of the service activity. It becomes part of your financial aid package and is applied toward tuition and board and room the year following your summer activity. Half is applied each semester. Check with the Financial Aid Office to determine how the grant will affect your financial aid package.

5. How do I get money to pay the costs of the summer activity?
Some summer programs provide a stipend. Some cover your costs. BUT, most require you to provide your own support and transportation. Many agencies have a set fee. The financial aid grant through this program is applied to tuition and room and board so is not available to help pay summer costs. Most students raise their own support. Many congregations provide grants. Students can apply for grants from the World Christian Fellowship in the Agapé Center.

6. What if I am going to be off campus the fall following the summer experience?
It might be possible to arrange a reflection experience. Discuss this with the instructor.

7. What about cross-cultural credit?
If your summer activity meets the cross-cultural parameters, you can receive a waiver for the Messiah College cross cultural requirement. To meet parameters, the activity must be cross-cultural, it must involve you deeply in the culture, and you will be asked to keep a journal which the instructor will review.

8. What kind of credit does the course provide?
The Spring Semester is 3 hours credit and is graded. The fall is 1 hour credit and is Pass/Fail. For most students the credit is a "pure" elective. There are some majors which allow this to meet a practicum requirement, but that must be worked out with your advisor and the instructor of the course.

9. What must I do to get in the course?
See "Application" above. A form is available in the Agape Center for Service and Learning.  You can send the completed document by E-Mail to  You should receive "permission" from the instructor before you register.

When you have decided to take the course and have consulted with the instructor, you register just as for any other course. SVC 231 is listed in the course schedule. Register during the November registration period or any time up until the course begins.

10. What do I do next?
Pray to determine whether or not you are being called to take this course. Consult your parents. Come talk to Pat Olcott at the Agape Center for Service and Learning to make arraingments to meet with the Director.  Visit the agencies during Mission Awareness week. Contact your pastor for suggestions.

11. How do I contact the instructor?
The instructor is best reached through Pat Olcott at the Agape Center between 8-3 PM.  Drop in any time. Come prepared to suggest several times you would be available. See the contact information above.

12. How much work is involved in the class?
The course is designed as a seminar. The assignments are graded on a competency basis. There are no tests, so students determine what they want to explore in depth and have the opportunity to treat some things at a more superficial level. There is a lot of reading and writing.

My philosophy is that we learn by writing our responses and reactions to things we read. Writing also provides an opportunity to synthesize what we read. It also makes sure we have prepared for class discussions. Students are involved in grading themselves based on their understanding of what they learn and how seriously they engaged the material.

My sense is that students work hard and about as much as other 3 hour classes, but without the pressure of other classes.

A recent syllabus is attached. It will likely change a bit, but it does give an idea of the reading and the assignments. Click here.


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