Children can begin serving God almost as soon as they begin walking and saying a few words. Sound impossible? It really isn’t. The problem is most people tend to think young people begin serving God in their teens. Yet that is late – for some young people too late – to begin encouraging them to find ways to serve God.
In the beginning, the tasks should be simple and the time in shorter chunks. As they get older, try moving them into areas where they are showing they may be gifted by God and make the amount of each time of service longer. Elementary aged kids can even handle a little hard work!
So what are some of those beginning ways toddlers and preschoolers can serve God? Here are some of our favorites:
- Handing adults things they need. Sounds silly, but to a toddler, being able to help an adult is a huge, exciting deal. Toddlers can hand you cans of food you are boxing up for food pantries or other objects being donated. Just make sure you need their help again almost as soon as they have handed you an item. If the gap is too long, they will wander away. Don’t make them work too long – you want this to be a positive experience.
- Filling bags with school supplies or other donations. If you are working on gift bags of school supplies, activity bags for foster children – any type of repetitive bag filling – little ones can help. They will need organization and training to be successful though. Line the items up – a pile of eraser packs, then a stack of notebook paper, etc. Help the child open the bag and show them how to go down the line putting one item from each pile in the bag. Be aware that you will need teens or adults to double check each bag and make the finished bags neat. Some little ones will be able to do this independently, while others will need someone to walk beside them and cue them what to put in the bag next.
- Making artwork that can be used to encourage others. Honestly the “quality” doesn’t matter. People love getting art from little ones. Have them tell you what they would like to say to the person and write it on the art for them. Don’t forget to get them to “sign” their artwork.
- Visiting the lonely. Older people in homes, shut-ins, widows – there are a lot of people who get lonely. A young child will brighten almost any day. Make sure young ones are fed and well rested to minimize meltdowns. Some young children are shy so bringing a book for the person to read to them or their favorite game to play can help relax everyone.
- Making cookies for appreciation gifts. Let them pour the ingredients into the bowl or stir. Teach them how to measure ingredients if they are older. Get them to help you roll the cookie dough. Watch for food safety with little ones, but they can actually do quite a bit. Then have them go with you to deliver the cookies they made.
- Cleaning activities. Often serving involves cleaning and organizing before and after. Young ones may not be able to do a lot, but they can take small items from one place to another, dust, etc. (Watch them carefully around dangerous items like cleaning fluids.)
- Inviting people to church. Part of serving others is helping them learn about Jesus and how to become a Christian. Start little ones sharing their faith from the beginning. Encourage them to invite their friends to come to church and church activities with them. If they do it from an early age, it will become a natural thing for them to do when they are older.
- Encourage them to pray for the needs of others. Preschoolers can understand when someone is sick or sad. Begin having them pray for the people they know and their needs. Then point out as you see God working in that situation.
There are plenty of activities young children can do to serve others and share their faith. Our parent ministry Teach One Reach One Ministries has tons of service project ideas tied to Bible stories that can also be used with your older children. Children who begin serving others in their toddler years often become children, teens and adults who continue to serve God. It’s definitely worth your time and effort.