You know about hugs, but how much do you know about HUGS? HUGS, or Hands Used for God’s Service, is a step in the direction of living out Matthew chapter 25. This hands-on program with a specific “mission” for every grade level is practical, downloadable, and easy for a Sunday Church School to implement. The HUGS program will help your Sunday Church School students learn to serve others by actually serving them!
The program was developed by Khouria Gigi Shadid, who told the story of its inception in a recent interview: “My cousin, Georgina, is known for giving great hugs. One day… she began telling me about how much she wishes she could go to the NICU at a hospital and just hug on the little babies there. I told her that her loving hugs are one of the gifts that God has given her and that she should share those hugs with as many people as she can. As we talked, Georgina expressed a desire to do more with that gift… but what? The essential question here was: What else can I do with my hands to serve God and to spread His Gospel message of love to my neighbor?
“I got to thinking and praying about it, and this HUGS idea was born. We use our hands to give hugs, and we can use our hands in many ways to serve others and give them not only physical hugs, but spiritual hugs as well. Hence, the acronym “HUGS” was born: Hands Used for God’s Service. How can we all use our hands to serve others and embody Christ’s commission in Matthew Chapter 25, focusing on those who are: hungry, thirsty, naked, prisoners, strangers, and sick?
“The mission of the HUGS program is to engage our church school children in acts of service, both small and great, to those in need. We want to instill in our children a spirit of gratitude and service, for Christ said, “Do it to the least of these my brethren and you do it to Me” (Matthew 25:40).”
She goes on to describe the goal of the program, as well as the focus for each grade level: “Each year, we would like our church school classes to participate in a service activity that we have suggested below. It might be a one-time deal, or something a class can choose to focus on throughout the school year. We must repeatedly ask the key question: ‘How are we using our hands and feet to serve God?’ When we use our hands in various ways of service to our neighbor, we are seeing the face of Christ in them.”
Grade levels and their “missions” are as follows:
Pre-K/K: Give hugs to family and friends
1st Grade: Open doors for others (stranger)
2nd Grade: Classroom canned food drive (choose a month) (hungry)
3rd Grade: Serving drinks (i.e. at home, instill spirit of hospitality) (thirsty)
4th Grade: Phone calls to shut-ins during Sunday School (periodically) (sick)
5th Grade: Write letters of encouragement to those in prison (prisoner)
6th Grade: Clothing Drive (i.e. coat drive – choose a month) (naked)
7th Grade: Cleaning the church sanctuary after services
8th Grade: Serving coffee at coffee hour (i.e. once a month) (thirsty)
9th Grade: Shoe drive, new & used (choose a month) (naked)
10th Grade: Be a Greeter once a month/mentor with ushers (stranger)
11th Grade: Food drive (choose a month) – contest with 2nd grade (hungry)
12th Grade: Visit a nursing home or shut in from church; (sick); Bring that person holy bread and the bulletin
Khouria Gigi continues, “One goal is that from the time a child enters pre-school to when they graduate high school, they will have participated in a variety of service activities addressing various needs.” The HUGS program is an excellent way to help Sunday Church Schools meet that goal. Find an overview of the HUGS program, as well as the link to every grade level at http://www.antiochian.org/matthew25/HUGS-overview-chart. Every grade level has a printable poster describing the mission for the students, a letter to the teacher to help you know what your students’ mission is, a printable letter to parents to help them know about the mission, and a related craft or activity to complement the mission.
So, why is the HUGS program important for Sunday Church Schools? Why should Sunday Church School teachers implement this program? Khouria Gigi summarizes this well in the aforementioned interview. “Since we do not live in a country or age of persecution as many of the martyrs did, most of us will face the judgment seat of Christ answering this question: Did you love your neighbor? Education is so important, and understanding the teachings of the Church helps us to grow in our knowledge of our faith. But knowledge will not save us, love will. That is why teaching our children to have a servant’s heart and an attitude of kindness and caring is so important. We can help our children learn to be kind and caring by performing those acts as a class and by encouraging it at home and at school.”
Read the above-mentioned interview in its entirety here: http://www.antiochian.org/interview-kh-gigi-shadid-teaching-service-through-hugs.
The following are links related to the HUGS program:
Listen to Kh. Gigi singing her song “The Least of These,” which perfectly accompanies the HUGS curriculum here: https://soundcloud.com/antiochian-archdiocese/the-least-of-these
The HUGS Program is a great way to begin leading our Sunday Church School students in a life of service. There are many ways to continue that service beyond the SCS years! Here is one of them:
The YES Program helps to present to youth and young adults the one true Way of life in Christ by training them to practice dying to oneself in order to serve the needs of others.
The HUGS Program is a great way to begin leading our Sunday Church School students in a life of service. Here is another way that they (and adults as well) can continue to learn as they serve:
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The HUGS Program is a great way to begin leading our Sunday Church School students in a life of service. College-aged students can participate in this way:
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The HUGS Program is a great way to begin leading our Sunday Church School students in a life of service. Service opportunities “at home” can include helping with this project:
FOCUS North America is an Orthodox Christian organization whose purpose is to bring Matthew 25 to life. The organization serves the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick and imprisoned at centers across the United States.