Ephesians 6:7 says “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord and not men.“ However, just telling our children to serve others isn’t enough. We need to model compassion for others to our children.
So how can we, as parents, grandparents, teachers, and youth leaders, make the application for our children from the physical act of service to the motive we need to have? For one thing, our motive must be for Jesus and not ourselves. Matthew 6:3 says “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing…” Explaining to our children that we help others, not so we can brag about it, but so that we can honor Jesus is a great step in explaining this passage.
1. Remind our children to put others first in a me-first society. Teaching our children (and modeling it through our own behavior) to put others before ourselves can be a daunting task.
I’ll never forget when my girls were younger and I had split a cookie in half (inadvertently, one piece ended up slightly larger than the other) and told them to each choose a piece. I watched from afar to see how things would unfold. My oldest, Sunshine, told my youngest, Doodle, “It’s important that the person who picks first should pick the smallest.” I grinned. Sunshine was getting it!
A moment later, my smile faded as I listened to the rest of Sunshine’s rationale. “And, Doodle, you can pick first.”
“I’m supposed to pick the smaller piece,” said Doodle.
“Yes you are,” agreed Sunshine, with a glint in her eye.
I watched as Doodle picked the smaller piece, leaving the larger piece for Sunshine, who knew how to manipulate the system!
Our job is to continue to impress the importance of putting others first on our children, even when they don’t “get it” the first, second or one-hundredth time! (A side note: years later, Sunshine is now one of the most generous and giving people I know!) 🙂
2. Hone in on each child’s unique personality and their God-given gifts. Each child has their own unique personality and will each have different ideas of what types of service projects they would like to undertake. In addition, they each have their own spiritual gifts. One of my children has a heart for world missions and has decided she wants to be a missionary. She is the vice-president of her missions club and she already receives a fair amount of mail!
My other child has absolutely no interest in missions. However, she has a deep love and devotion for younger children and at her tender age is already a mentor and childcare worker at our church.
Discover your child’s gift and passion. Discuss with them and ask if they could help one person in this world, who would it be? And what type of help would they want to provide? Some children have a heart for animals; some have a heart for those who are terminally ill. Still others have a heart that breaks for those in orphanages or foster care.
3. Allow your children to see the benefits that can be found by including your neighbors or others in your community in the service acts. I remember a couple of years ago when a friend of mine discovered her young son had cancer. It was amazing to me to see the Body of Christ join together to come alongside of this family in their time of need. Denominational lines were crossed as several different Bible-based churches offered daily prayer support, made and/or purchased meals, remodeled their home, made monetary donations toward the medical bills, and held fundraisers.
All over the country, communities and churches are coming together in amazing ways for the benefit of those who struggle with life-threatening illnesses, natural disasters, and unemployment – and it’s making such a difference!
4. It’s never too early to start our children on the path of serving and blessing others. We started our children serving others when they were babies and would accompany us to the nursing homes. Although they don’t recall the details of those days, my husband and I were still cementing within our children a permanent foundation of following Jesus’ command to love their neighbor.
5. Pray as a family that God would place someone in your family’s path – someone who needs help. Allow each child their turn to pray for this important topic.
6. Allow each child to choose someone to help on a regular basis.
7. And then serve with your family! And serve again and again! Serving fosters Christian fellowship both within your own family and with your neighbors – it unites families and brings us closer to God and each other.
For more ideas, including “Up for Discussion” questions at the end of each chapter to help families look deeper into the reasons behind each activity, check out 77 Ways Your Family Can Make a Difference available at your favorite bookstore.