When our children already have everything. At a time when our children are growing up in a me-culture. When it is more natural for our children to think of themselves rather than somebody else. We must be intentional about teaching our children to think of others before themselves, to grasp a bigger picture of their world and to serve for the greater good of the world, in which God created them for.
But where do we start? Although we may love for our children to experience how people live in a third-world country, that is not piratical for the majority of us.
However, active service is within our reach. Here are three ways to train our children to serve right where they are, from broad ways down to, what I believe is, the most important way to train our children to serve:
3. Serve Along Side Community
At least once or twice a year, we try to organize or participate in a service project with friends or church members.
We have served at a soup kitchen, myself and all four children with me. The youngest, at two, three or four, were able to put salt and pepper shakers on the tables, set cups out and other small tasks. The older, at five, six or seven, were able to help with the small tasks and serve food. At one point, I had a baby in her infant seat, one on my back and two helping me serve the dessert!
We have joined a couple of families in putting on a pancake breakfast to raise money to buy a pig for a family in Guatemala.
We have invited friends to make bracelets for orphans in Russia, through Craft Hope.
We have invited friends to paint sun catchers with us and then took the sun catchers to a local nursing home, to brighten an elderly person's window and day.
2. Serve Your Community
As a family, throughout the summer, we pick Thursdays to be our "Thoughtful" day or service day.
We have gone to a nearby park to enjoy a picnic and then pick up trash.
We've brought a plate of cookies to each of your surrounding neighbors.
It can be as simple as writing a letter to a child we sponsor!
These small deeds make a big impact, not just on the receiving end, but on the heart of our own children!
However, serving others does not have to be an organized event or happen on a specific day.
1. Start with Family
Serving starts with family, right in our home, and practiced everyday.
We see it when a child holds the door for those of us behind him. We see it when the youngest needs her blankie and one of her siblings jumps up to get it for her. We see it when one chooses to use some birthday money to surprise his siblings with ice cream at the park. We see it in thoughtful words.
Every now and then, we assign a sibling to each child and challenge them to serve that sibling in some way throughout the day. It's a fun way for them to practice intentional serving.
These are the kinds of thoughtful or "service" acts our children may already be doing! And these are the things we can encourage and tangibly train, if our children are not already doing them.
So if you find yourself dumb-founded over ways to involve your children in serving others, look closer rather than so far out of reach.
Because we miss the point when we serve others outside the home, but remain self-serving within the home. It must start right here.
The service our children practice within their homes will manifest itself within our world. A child who holds the door for his siblings will hold the door for a stranger. A child who stops what he is doing to help his sister, will stop what he is doing to help someone in need. A child who spends birthday money to surprise his family with ice cream cones learns how it feels to be generous with his money. A child who puts thoughtful words to paper will bless many.
So, take heart sweet mamas. Training our children to serve is within our reach. We can seek a couple of larger service projects to involve our children in each year, but let's not overlook all the ways we can train our children to serve everyday. You're probably already doing them!
Make a list of all the ways your children already serve within your home.
How can you build upon how they are already serving?
77 Ways Your Family Can Make a Difference, written by my friend and author, Penny A. Zeller, is a great, practical book on ways to incorporate serving with your family! I'd love for someone to win her book!
Simply leave a comment and I'll put you in the drawing to be randomly drawn June 19th, one week from today!
Updated: According to Random.com, the winner of this giveaway is the lovely, Emily Wierenga! Thank you for your generous comment, Emily!