By Katelyn Melgren
According to Dale Schrag, director of church relations and campus pastor, “meaningful work done in the community is the purest and most delightful form of play.”
Service is a major part of Bethel College’s identity. This is exemplified in Bethel’s motto, “Seek. Serve. Grow.” It is also one of the college’s four main ethics found in the mission statement, “an ethic of service, that deems concern for the powerless to be intrinsic to the Christian gospel and stresses peacemaking and voluntary service.”
Service day has been a Bethel tradition since the 1950s. Schrag said he remembers having service day when he was a student, although it was a little different. Students used to be hired out to perform service activities for various organizations. Those organizations would then pay Bethel for the students’ work. Now, service day is completely voluntary, with students providing unpaid services.
In past years, service day has been held in the spring. This year, it was held during the fall semester.
“One of the reasons service day was moved this year is because the spring semester was getting overloaded with other events that cancelled regular class days, and we realized that fall had fewer conflicts, so service day could be moved to fall and allow us to distribute those kind of events across the academic year,” explained Vice President of Academic Affairs Brad Born.
Students were able to sign up for their desired service opportunities during multiple lunch on multiple occasions to make participation easily accessible. Schrag acknowledged he was hoping for sixty percent participation overall from the student body, which would be the highest participation percentage in Bethel’s history.
There were roughly an equal amount of service project opportunities both on and off-campus for students to participate in this year. “We usually ask just about every non-profit organization in the area with a reasonable chance they could make use of student services,” Schrag said.
Faculty and staff headed some of the service opportunities. Professor of Psychology Paul Lewis led a group of students from his General Psychology and Abnormal Psychology classes to Prairie View for a tour and to provide some needed assistance. Professor of Biology Jon Piper also led a group of students in prairie restoration pruning.
A number of athletic teams join together to work on single, larger-scale service projects. For example, the men’s and women’s basketball teams joined forces to clean up Thresher Gym and clear out Sand Creek.
Having service day in the fall, instead of the spring, affects the types of jobs available to students. Schrag mentioned Olivia Bartel, director of Camp Mennoscah, usually needing help from Bethel students to clean up the camp after it has been dormant during the winter in preparation for summer activities. Last spring, two fifteen passenger vans went out to help. With service day happening in fall; she expected a lighter workload and asked for only one van.
Schrag recalled some of his fondest memories growing up were when his community gathered together for the harvest or butchering.
“That bigger sense of community was fun. I’d like to recreate that for students,” Schrag said. “Chopping out honeysuckle, working on Sand Creek Trail, or putting out Christmas trees in Et Cetera Shop gives you a taste of that sense of community.”