Tuesday, October 18, 2011

let the children serve

"can i help you?" my 3 year old asked his big sister.

she was carrying boxes from the house, two at a time, loading them into the back of our car. her arms were full. i was busy carrying boxes, too, but i heard his kind offer from across the driveway and it stopped me in my tracks. i choked back happy tears, gave my little guy a high-five, and thanked him for being such a good helper. i continued loading boxes and held on tight to this Proud Mommy Moment.

my son wasn't offering to help his sister just so he would get a high-five. he didn't even know i was listening. he simply saw her arms were full and did the most natural thing. the more i thought about this, the more i understood:

children naturally want to help and serve.

even as a little tot, my daughter wanted to comfort other people's crying babies. and while sharing might not be the easiest thing for a toddler to do, if they know someone is in need, they will likely share their most prized possession. when all chaos breaks out in our house- the doorbell ringing, dogs barking, phone beeping, baby crying, water boiling over - my children step into action, doing what they can to help.

this instinct needs to be nurtured. because let's face it: we are raising up the next generation to grow the kingdom of God.

here are some simple but meaningful ways children can serve others every day, with scriptures that i found supportive:

1. give to children and people in need. encourage your child to sort through their clothes, toys, and books on a regular basis to give to children who might have nothing. bag up the gently used goods, find a local mission organization, and let your child give. (Matthew 19:21)

2. prepare a meal for someone in need. maybe one of your family friends who has a new baby, a new neighbor, or someone you know recovering from illness or surgery. involve the kids in planning the meal, preparing the meal, and delivering the meal. even young ones can help bake cookies. (Matthew 25:35 

3. help your neighbors. take a walk with your children in your neighborhood and have them be on the look out for needs. toss your neighbor's newspaper up closer to their front door. pick up trash in the yard. move their basketball to a place where it won't roll.  (Mark 12:31)

4. put the cart back. when shopping and running errands, children can help by pushing shopping carts back to the "corral" or the area where they belong. kids love to push the cart! explain how this is helpful to the store employees, to people who need a cart, to shopper foot traffic, and to keep the carts from banging into vehicles in the parking lot. (Luke 6:31)

5. use their talents to bless someone. my daughter is a talented artist and loves to draw. my Grandma is in an assisted living apartment where the walls are blank and the days are long. by using her own talent, my daughter can bless Grandma by mailing her drawings on a regular basis. maybe your child plays an instrument, dances, writes, or makes beautiful pasta jewelry. whatever it is, her talent can bless someone in need. (1 Peter 4:10)

6. hold the door open for others. this is something i have taught my children as soon as they were physically strong enough. at the store, at church, at preschool, at the gym, and even at home, encourage your child to open the door and hold it open for the next person coming in. (Romans 12:13)

7. pray for the needs of others. at mealtime and bedtime and anytime you pray with your children, ask if there is anyone else that needs prayer. last night, my daughter said, "yes. pray for my brother... that he will feel better." let younger children hear you praying for others, like the little girl that fell at the playground, or the boy at preschool that is sad at drop-off. praying for others helps kids see beyond their own needs and wants, and helps them learn that God is a great BIG God that loves everyone. (James 5:13)

8. pay for someone else's anonymously. just a few dollars can go a long way for someone in need, and giving in this way is a two-way blessing. do your kids earn allowance? tooth fairy money? next time you take your children out to lunch, to the coffee shop, or the arcade, have your child give the cashier a dollar or two "for the next customer." watch the joy your child experiences knowing the next person is getting a secret surprise. we are blessed to be a blessing! (Psalm 21:6)      

9. volunteer in the community. even young children can serve in your community by helping the librarian stack books, helping clean up after Sunday school, or helping a teacher pass out papers at preschool. encourage your child to ask "how can i help?" (1 Cor 15:58)

10. speak the truth about Jesus' love. teach your child what the Bible says, sing songs about Jesus, and help your children memorize scripture. then, when your child meets someone in need, he will have the word of God in his heart to share with the person in need. i overheard my daughter, who was about 4 at the time, and her friend talking about something scary they saw on a TV cartoon. they recounted the frightening image together, and then my daughter started singing to her friend, "God hasn't given us a spirit of fear...but of power, love, and a peaceful mind!" and they both broke into giggles. memorizing scripture verses and singing songs about Jesus is planting seeds of faith in children's hearts, and those seeds grow into "fruit" they can apply to daily circumstances. (Deut 11:18)

now... go! nurture your child's sweet natural desire to be the "hands and feet" of Jesus! 

"what does the LORD your God ask of you 
but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, 
to love him, to serve the LORD your God with 
all your heart and with all your soul, 
and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees..." 
Deuteronomy 10:12-16 NIV

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