For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
On our way to church I shared with Grace, “Don’t forget, you’re scheduled to serve in children’s ministry during second service today.”
“I haven’t forgotten. I can’t wait!” Her excitement is always off the charts when it comes to spending time with little people. After all, Grace’s tagline on her babysitter business cards reads “Because every child needs a little Grace.”
“Grace, would you like to be on the schedule to serve every week?” Right now she’s on the semi-monthly rotation.
“I wish I could work with the kids every day.” She said seriously.
My four kids are very different. Only Grace enjoys hanging out with a gaggle of clucking kiddos. We saw Grace’s love of little ones at a very early age. She was always the first to run and peek into the nursery at church after every service. We knew this would be a great spot for her to spend time helping and serving others.
I believe the love of serving must be nurtured. I guarantee your child will never wake up and tell you, “I can’t wait to help someone today for no money and zero recognition!” Nurturing Grace’s love of children to serving began by doing things she may not have wanted to do, like sweeping a floor of crushed goldfish crackers or collecting dirty diapers and cleaning up toys.
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
It makes me sad when I only see adults serve others. Years ago, I remember being at a church potluck event. After the meal concluded it was the adults who jumped up to clear tables, scrape dishes, collect garbage and wash utensils while kids went off to play. Whoa! Wait a minute here. Where were the teenagers? Why wasn’t the youth group elected to help at this event? Where were the kids, period?
Call me “old school” but we need to encourage our kids to serve outside of their day to day chores of making their beds and putting away their own laundry. We let them run off and play because we think we’re being nice. We’re not being nice. We’re robbing them of the opportunity to step outside of their own wants and needs for a few minutes. We’re stealing real growing opportunities.
Here’s a few ideas for nurturing a servant’s heart in your child.
- Play Date Helper. They next time you’re on a play date, show your little one how he can help his friend by picking up his toys. You may have to get down on your knees and model this a few times, but the earlier you teach your child to give a little of himself the better.
- Family Events. Have your children go around and serve appetizers to the guests. Make sure they clear the table for the host. One of my favorite photos is of my son, David, at a Thanksgiving dinner. Standing tall and so proud in his construction paper Indian headdress, and holding two dollars he received from his great Uncle Marty for clearing the table.
- Meals on Wheels. I’m on the meal ministry at our church. Just this week I brought dinner to an elderly couple. The husband is dying of cancer. My children always help me put meals together or at least deliver the food with me in person. I want them to see the blessing such a small gesture of serving means to someone.
- Grandparents. Our son, David, was a teenager and would make sure to help his Papa and Nana take down the Christmas decorations and would come back weeks later to take down their tree. If you want to promote service, send them to their grandparents. Not only will they breathe encouraging words of life and love into your child, they will probably get some homemade cookies out of the deal!
- Community Service. There are groups all over your local area that could use a little help. I guarantee it. All you have to do is call.
- Any Church Event. Your children will never hear the word, “No.” if they get up and help, or better yet, if they show up to serve. If this isn’t something your child is used to doing then maybe you can plan to help as a family next time. Modeling this example is always the best tool to teach a child to serve.
The next time you’re at a family gathering, a friend’s house, or a church event, don’t allow your child to stay seated. Gently remind them to get up and bless others with a little selfless serving. Your child is never too young to learn how to love their neighbor. If Jesus Christ our God and Savior humbled Himself and came to earth serve us, we need to encourage and nurture the same blessed character in our children.