Wednesday, 13 September 2017

7 Ideas to Teach Children To Serve (Without Reading to Seniors)

Ok, I know the title sounds goofy, but here's the thing: Whenever I ask for suggestions about ways my kids can serve in our community, inevitably one of the most common responses is, "You should go to the nursing home and read to the seniors." I have no doubt that nursing homes are full of lonely people (show me a place that isn't these days). It leaves me guessing, however, as to whether or not seniors have more patience than I do when it comes to listening to a child phonetically make their way through a 50-page book (ugh!). 

But, honestly, here are the two greatest deterrents for me to attempt this with my children:

1. I don't have the time or desire to set up weekly or monthly reading visits.

2. The thought of dragging my two-year-old down to the seniors home while threatening convincing him to sit still for an hour while the older kids read sounds painful.

If you are a reading-to-the-seniors supporter then may God bless you in your diligence! For the rest of us though, read on. The Bible makes it clear that if we are to follow Christ and pick up our crosses we are to become humble servants. Part of that means we are to serve others. If you desire to raise children who include serving as part of their daily living then here is a list using some of what we do in our home to encourage you. 

(Side note: we have three kids ages 10, 8, and 2. These are ideas that can be used and adapted across a wide range of ages)

1. Share your garden and meet your neighbour. 

This year we overplanted our lettuce (not on purpose, but it worked out). We came home from holidays and had enough overgrown lettuce to share, so we picked it and tossed it in bags. We then went ringing doorbells of neighbours we didn't know. We introduced ourselves, and learned a bit about them (the toddler thought the walking part was great!). The kids had such a fun time that next summer we plan on planting too much on purpose. It was an easy way to get to say "Hi" to a neighbour without too much pressure. Plus who doesn't love fresh produce? The Bible tells us to love our neighbour, but if you don't know who your neighbour is how can you love them? As a starting point, find a reason to get to know your neighbour.

2. Hand out drinks to local workers.

Whether it is the postman, a construction crew, a delivery man, or someone else, everyone gets thirsty. Keep a stash of styrofoam cups on hand. If you see someone close by working go with your kids and take them a beverage. If it's cold outside, brew a pot of coffee or tea and take it out. If it's hot, make some lemonade or take out ice water (anything cold would be appreciated on a hot day). 

3. Shovel a sidewalk when no one is looking.

Part of raising children to serve is to teach them the joy of giving privately and without reward. Jesus tells us, "...when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." (Matthew 6:2-4) 

Grab a shovel next time it snows and have your kids shovel a neighbour's driveway. Or help someone on your block who maybe can't do the heavy work and shovel their walk. Obviously if your kids are little you will need to do most of the work, but bigger kids can certainly do this on their own. Don't ring the doorbell, don't ask for money, just do it. This can be adapted through varying seasons as well (lawn cutting, leaf raking, etc.)

4. Read your Bible together.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 tells us that "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." 

It is clear that God's word need to be rooted deeply into the hearts of our children. It is in knowing His Word that He will be able to guide their paths as they grow. If we want to raise servant-minded children their minds must first be rooted in God's promises and commands. They must first know who God is, and all He commands and promises. Then, they will be more equipped to share this good news with others. 

5. Lay hands on others who are sick.

This is a great way to get your kids to begin to feel comfortable about praying for others. You can do this at home with each other, or with friends, or family. If they are little you lead the prayer, as they grow they can do it own their own. I have loved watching when my kids (as young as three years old) would lay their little hands on one of us when we are sick. And you know what? God answers those sweet little prayers! (see: James 5:14-15)

6. Let them learn by watching.

This requires a little courage (and patience) on your part. We have all had that moment in a line-up at the store when a stranger starts talking to you and suddenly you know their entire story and the current crises they are facing. Be willing to be obedient to the Spirit's leading here, but if you feel prompted, offer to pray with them right then and there. Very rarely will someone turn down the opportunity for prayer. I know that line-ups can be stressful times (especially with little fidgety children), so it doesn't need to be a long-winded experience. Keep it simple. God can move mountains with the smallest of prayers. Allowing these moments to interrupt your day will become commonplace to your children. It will knock down fear of looking "odd" or "out of place" in a public atmosphere.

7. Serve each other.

While the Bible talks about going out, we also need to be willing to serve in our own home. Cook a meal when Mom is tired, do a load of laundry for a sibling, pick up someone else's mess without being asked. The point is to think beyond your own needs and see others' needs.

I hope that gives you a few ideas to incorporate into your day. Raising children who serve the Lord does not need to be costly, nor does it need to take hours every day. It isn't about carving dedicated weekly time to serving, but is about learning what it looks like when we live daily in faith. 

How do YOU serve as a family? I'd love to hear what you do!



  1. These were all such great ideas - and so practical with kids! I have 4 between the ages of 10 and 2, and one of the things we have done is taken the older 3 to a shelter for women and children. We served lunch and played with the kids there. It worked out well since kids can naturally play without instruction.

    1. What an amazing idea!! We don't have something like that around here where children are included, but what a fantastic way to get everyone involved in their community!!