This week we did one of my favorite things to do with the children at church – take them on a field trip. It always amazes me how few churches take young children places to serve others and do mission work as a church family. Children are so impressionable and remember things we have no idea they are absorbing from their experiences.
During class, our children continued learning how they could serve others and teach them about Jesus at the same time. Because our class time on Sundays is so short, we actually started the project Wednesday night. The children took white lunch bags, drew pictures on them and wrote “God Loves You” (or some version of that) on every bag.
Today in that center, we spent a little time with the younger ones developing empathy for senior citizens. Glasses smeared with sunscreen gave them a feel for cataracts. Marbles placed in gloves helped give them a very small taste of what arthritis might feel like. We also discussed Alzheimer’s, as the facility we were visiting has quite a few patients with it who live there.
After our talk, the children helped stuff the goodie bags for the residents. Fruit, crackers, sugar-free candy, note pads, stationery, pens, lotions, soaps and other goodies were placed in each bag. We even filled baskets with baked goods for the workers at the facility. (If you have ever had a loved one in assisted living, you understand how very valuable these workers are to your family!)
After lunch, several of the children and their families helped deliver all of the goodies to the residents. It was amazing how brave the children were about knocking on doors of strangers, handing them the bags, telling them what they had done in church and inviting them to come visit our congregation! A lot of adults are fearful to do those very same things.
If you are doing this as a family or small class, you may choose to only visit one floor or people who do not get visitors. Several members in our congregation donated the items for the goodie bags or baked muffins and cookies for the baskets for the workers’ break rooms. The children were able to stuff over 100 bags in less than an hour. Decorating them took a little longer, but since it was a Wednesday night, we really didn’t have many children decorating them. Assisted living facilities are a little easier for small children than nursing homes as most of the residents are in better health and communicate better with the children.
You may have assumed the assisted living project was all we had time for today, but we are a busy bunch! In another center, the children learned about the children’s home our congregation helped found and supports in Cozumel, Mexico. A lot of our children have been on mission trips there, but many of these children have just moved into our congregation and were able to learn about the work there for the first time. Of course, items from Mexico, photos and authentic foods were part of the learning process.
The children began working on aprons to give to the mammi’s that work in the houses on the campus of the children’s home. I bought fabric aprons from a local craft store. If I had more time, someone could have made them from scrap fabric. We used acrylic paint and rolled or paint brushed it onto the hands of our children. The children put handprints all over the apron in contrasting colors. Once they are dry, one of our teachers will add a scripture. I will show you the completed ones in a later post, but here is the beginning…
In our third center, the children watched a re-creation of the story of Cornelius. A sheet on pulleys and some “unclean” stuffed animals made for a vision that could be seen by the children too. The tongues of fire were a bit beyond us this summer, but the adults’ lively cries of “Look at those tongues of fire!” probably created some vivid memories! (The picture below is how the sheet looked before lowered from “heaven”.)
We try to keep our service projects simple enough that they can be done by others either with their families or in other congregations around the world. Many of the projects, like the apron one we began today, could be adapted for other uses. If you don’t have a children’s home, perhaps the women who cook meals for the sick in your congregation would appreciate them as a thank you and encouragement present. Or maybe your children could make them for workers in a soup kitchen.
Be creative, but remember the object is to help serve others, show them God’s love and teach them about God’s Plan for their lives. If we can give this legacy to our children, maybe God’s Kingdom will grow beyond our wildest dreams!