Adding An Outreach Program to Your Club

Elaine Dimoulas is a club leader. Her family has been a part of EverReady, a Chicago-based Speech and Debate Club for a number of years. I started noticing pictures this year on their Facebook page- their club was doing community outreach. Fun stuff! I caught up with Elaine to ask her about their Outreach Program…

I asked Elaine, what prompted her to start a Community Outreach Program for their Speech and Debate Club…

After being involved with the Speech and Debate for a couple years, I realized just how much time, energy and love gets poured into our students by their parents and coaches. In fact, parents and coaches work tirelessly to help their students cleverly craft and present their speeches. They devote themselves to teaching debate and many clubs teach their students how to defend their faith through the study of Apologetics. They invest countless hours and money to attend and run tournaments of excellence in order for their students to become thoughtful, critical thinkers who can clearly articulate what they wish to communicate.

I began the outreach events in order to offer our students the opportunity to share their thoughts and beliefs with vulnerable individuals. My greatest joy was observing our students share the gospel message with the people they met. Our students, who usually come from stable homes, also had the opportunity to learn from people who had experienced great loss and pain or had made serious mistakes in their lives; who often feel hopeless and unloved. I wanted them to desire to use the skills and talents given to them by God and sharpened by parents and coaches to bless others and that’s exactly what happened!

After conducting outreach events for a couple years, I learned that they are much more beneficial than I ever thought they would be. Both our families and the people we met were positively impacted by the visits. I vividly remember a time when we ventured out to a men’s homeless shelter and one of our students presented an illustrated oratory speech about a dog sledding trip with his father to Canada. The men were enthralled by the presentation. No sooner had he completed his speech, nearly all the men in the room swamped him with questions. They wanted to know all about his father and their relationship. That day, this young man was able to give a mini-parenting course to these men through his speech and by lovingly answering their many questions. It was an extremely touching experience.

I also learned that philosophy should never be taught in a classroom. It should be taught in the midst of struggle and pain. It should be learned from the real world rather than professors. We all have much more to learn from pain, loss and life experience rather than a textbook. People loving people and demonstrating the love of God is the only way to positively impact our world. The outreach program isn’t just for students in our club, families and alumni participate, as well.

Roger Farrell, an Alumni from EverReady had this to say about the Outreach experiences…

“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40-45, English Standard Version).

“Debaters quickly learn the value of questions. This can be made abundantly clear by conversing with any of the numerous competent debaters I know. These students have honed their questioning skills to remarkable levels. Although often a source of frustration for family members (and regret for moms), this incessant querying of anything and everything helps students work through presuppositions and live more intentional, authentic, lives. In my six-year Speech and Debate career, I learned many useful questions. These range in value and profundity. However, one question in particular has helped me time and again when evaluating important life decisions and beliefs: So what?

Yes, I am using rhetoric for shock value (another thing I learned from Speech and Debate). Allow me to translate. Parents and alums, remember the word impacting? (Competitors, if you are somehow unfamiliar with this term, please fire your debate coach immediately and go beg an experienced debater to teach you. Experienced debaters, please start impacting.) Asking “so what?” is a request for impacts. Few inquiries are so applicable to our daily decision making as this simple question. It directly affects our ability to make good life choices. (That last sentence was an impact.)

Critical thinking and rhetorical prowess are extrinsic values. I.e. they are not valuable unless put to good use. Hence, why the NCFCA mission statement has the clause about addressing “life issues from a biblical worldview in a manner that glorifies God”. To be worth your or your student’s time, you must find a God-glorifying outlet.

During my competition years, our club began hosting outreach events to nearby nursing homes and shelters. I participate in these and other outreach opportunities to this day. While never glamorous (or even fulfilling in some cases), these activities are undeniably God-honoring. Furthermore, these environments are filled with unexpected blessings (from intriguing true stories to old ladies trying to set you up with friends). I strongly recommend you consider participating in your club’s outreach activities or organize your own.”

Currently, EverReady visits the Alden Poplar Rehab Center in Hoffman Estates every other week. But over the years they have been to many nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

They have worked with the Wayside Cross ministries; both their woman’s homeless shelter (LifeSpring) and their men’s day shelter (Elgin Wayside Center). We have been to the Maryville Academy; a shelter for underage girls.

They also go downtown Chicago and feed the homeless chilli and hot chocolate, singing hymns to the homeless and presenting skits. They walk along the city streets giving out tracts and Bibles, warm clothing in the winter, praying with the people. “The Lord has granted us amazing experiences!!”, states Elaine. “Currently we are preparing to go into the Illinois Youth Center/Juvenile Detention Center. Its tricky because everyone who wants to go needs clearance. If you want to pray for us; we are prayerfully considering starting a ministry called Offering Outreach. It would be a prison ministry. We would present a praise offering (skits, songs, speeches, poetry, juggling, Bible stories, etc.) Then we would break off into smaller groups for a small group activity like painting, choir, obstacle course in the gym, etc.) I’m excited but it tricky working with people.”

What will your club do for the community surrounding you? If your club would like to be showcased on Lasting Impact!, please contact us. We would love to hear more about what you and your club is doing!