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.
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?
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 toddlers 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!
Fast forward to many years later. Sunshine is now one of the most generous and giving people I know. She is the first to give assistance, even without being asked, and the first to share what she has with others.
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.
Doodle has a heart for world missions and decided at age five that she wants to be a missionary to Haiti. She has never once wavered from that goal.
Sunshine has a deep love and devotion for younger children and has already been a mentor and childcare worker at our church, a VBS teacher, and a soccer coach.
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. 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. Pray for those in your neighborhood. Each month, we choose two families in our neighborhood to pray for. We have also gone on walks and runs in our neighborhood and prayed for the people who live in each house.
Serving others 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.