In God, Kids and the Little Things, I shared how God will give your kids lots of opportunities to serve others almost every day. Often your kids (like the rest of us) will not even notice these things. They will go through their day oblivious to the chances God is giving them to serve Him, often by serving others and sharing their faith. They will miss out on some amazing God adventures because they didn’t even see His invitation to join Him. They will miss opportunities to grow their faith by watching how God works in their world.
If you want to help your kids not miss the opportunities God gives them, you will have to get them out of the natural human tendency to be a bit self-absorbed. We all have a tendency to get so wrapped up in what we are doing that we can cause mayhem in our wake and not even realize it. Forget about noticing those somewhat subtle invitations to join God in touching the lives around us. Sometimes we even miss the huge blinking neon billboards from people God wants us to serve.
There are some fun things you can do to encourage your kids to get out of their heads and notice the opportunities God is giving them to serve Him. Some kids will have personalities that are more naturally observant. My daughter was born noticing things most people totally miss. It’s easier for her to regularly see the opportunities God gives her than for me – well appreciated by friends because they can wear the same outfit five days in a row and I won’t even notice. I have to be very mindful to pay attention and not miss those opportunities.
No matter whether your children are observant by nature or more oblivious like I am, all of them can use practice in connecting the dots – noticing something about a person or situation, realizing it may be an opportunity God is giving them to serve Him and then taking advantage of that opportunity. Here are some of my favorite ways to start helping your kids become more aware when God sends them an invitation:
- Try a twist on the random acts of kindness. Tell your kids you want to take them on a God adventure. Go to a place with a lot of people – a mall, park or tourist area. Instead of just randomly doing kind things for random people though, you are going to see if you can pick up on invitations from God to serve others. Sit with your kids for a moment and just observe what is going on around you. Does someone drop something your kids can pick up for them? Does someone look particularly sad or lonely? If you have the money, pick up a couple of small gift cards for a free coffee or ice cream and offer them to those people. Does someone look lost and confused? Can your family help them find what they need? Do some people look like they could use someone to just say hello and that someone hopes they have a good day? Do they see someone doing something for someone else and not being thanked? You get the idea. Spend time with your kids noticing how many people God puts in their path that they probably don’t even see, but yet whom God may want them to serve. Point out to them that many of the things they were able to do to serve others cost no money and only a few seconds of their time. Ask them which of those opportunities would also give them a chance to verbally point people to God in some way.
- Have a family challenge. Pick a “regular” day for your family. It might be a school day and work day for everyone. Tell them at the end of the day you want to see how many small opportunities people noticed and how many they were able to use to serve someone. Pray as a family that morning that God helps you notice and take advantage of the opportunities God gives your family to serve Him. Ask Him to give the members of your family the wisdom and courage to do what He wants them to do in those situations. That night at dinner, have everyone share about their day. Remember, this is not an opportunity to brag about how great everyone is for helping others but to help everyone realize God gives us lots of opportunities to serve Him that we normally don’t even notice. After everyone has shared discuss how your family can be more observant and find more ways to serve God every day.
- Teach your kids how to pick up on subtle signs of hidden emotions. There are many ways to do this. Find photos of people. Ask your kids to identify the emotions they see on the faces of the people. You can find samples that are specifically designed to help people identify emotions or just use pictures in magazines. Or go to an art museum and have your kids analyze the emotions the people in the paintings are expressing. Want to have some real fun? Pull out family photos from before your kids are born. Particularly fun are the ones where you and your sibling were fighting right before your mom said “smile”. Are you and your siblings really happy or actually still angry? What are the clues the smile doesn’t really reflect your true emotions? As they get more comfortable with the concept, transition to their favorite television shows or movies. Can they tell other emotions the actor is portraying but that aren’t necessarily stated yet – or at all?
- Work on manners and considerate behaviors with a knight/princess challenge. Are your kids still young enough to enjoy stories of knights and princesses? Point out that often the best way we can serve others is by doing the things a knight or princess would do based on their years of intensive training in manners, civility and chivalry. Have a day where they go in public (dressed appropriately if they so desire!) and practice those good manners – holding open doors, offering to help carry packages, saying please and especially thank you, giving up their seats for someone else, etc. Older kids can do the same things without perhaps the knight and princess part of the activity. Talk about how good manners and courtesy are great ways to reflect God’s love to others – especially in a world where these behaviors are becoming more rare.
There are a lot of ways to help your kids become more observant of the ways God will give them to serve others. Spend some time talking about it and practicing it. You never know what God adventures He may give them if they are willing to notice and participate!