For a few years public and private schools required students to participate in acts of service. The thinking was that it would raise up a generation of young adults who gave selflessly of themselves to help others.
For some young people, it may have worked. Many however, just put in their required hours and moved on with their lives. God asks us as His people to serve Him, in part by helping others. The story of the Good Samaritan is a Christian classic. How can you raise kids who serve as part of their Christian identity instead of merely replicating what schools have done with mixed results?
The difference is in the heart of first you – the parents – and then how that is passed on to your children. The key is to make being children of God a part of your family’s core identity. Serving others should be more a part of your family DNA than the secular things that define your family identity.
There are some things you can do to make serving others a natural part of how your children interact with others:
Serve others regularly. If your family only helps others once or twice a year, it’s more of something you do to fill time – not part of your family’s DNA.
Start when your kids are toddlers. It’s amazing how much even the tiniest of children can do to help others. If your kids are well behaved, most groups will welcome them to work along side you as you serve others.
Don’t wait for formal programs. Look for opportunities to serve neighbors, friends and family. You want to teach your kids how to see the opportunities God gives us to serve others each day – not just when someone organizes a big service project.
Help your kids find ways to serve using the gifts God has given them. Don’t worry too much about those spiritual gifts in Corinthians. For now, focus on the talent gifts God has given them. Help them discover and develop the gifts God has given them. Then help them find creative ways to serve others using those gifts. Making a direct connection between the gifts God has given them and serving others will connect a lot of what your kids are learning about God to their actual life.
Don’t forget the faith piece. As things happen while you are serving, refer back to scriptures that discuss those issues. Find ways to share your faith as you serve those who aren’t Christians. Find ways to encourage the faith of the Christians you serve. The ministry of Jesus is a great example of connecting serving others and sharing the good news of the Gospel. Teach your kids how to do the same with those they serve.
Don’t forget to have fun. Yes, serving others and sharing our faith is serious business. That doesn’t mean it can’t also be fun. The fun doesn’t all have to be silly, laughing fun (although we still talk about the time our then four year old accidentally had her hair painted by her Nana as we were serving an inner city ministry). There is also fun to be found in using your gifts, seeing the relief or joy on the faces of others, learning new things, seeing new places and having new experiences.
Taking the time to regularly serve together as a family – making sure to bring God into the process – will help serving become part of your kids’ core identity. With hearts that belong to God, they will be well on their way to becoming productive Christian adults.
Many families make at least a day trip to the beach during the summer months. It’s a great way to enjoy nature, get some exercise and just have fun. Did you know though you can also have fun at the beach using its resources to teach your kids about God? You don’t have to “sermonize”, just work in casual observations and conversation as you do various activities.
There are probably a ton of things you can do at the beach to point your kids to God, but here are a few of our favorites:
Watch the sunrise or sunset. Take your towels and sit with your kids enjoying the beauty. It’s a great quite time to have a family devotional. Or just talk with your kids about the beauty of God’s creation and how much He must love us to give us so many beautiful things to see in our world. End your time with a prayer thanking God for His blessings.
Take a walk along the shoreline. This is a great time to have those important parent/kid talks about anything and everything. Let your children take the lead. If they are reluctant to talk, asking an open ended question might get them talking. This isn’t a time for lecturing, just listening and trying to get to know your children’s hearts.
Collect seashells (Don’t keep any with animals still inside.) This is a great way to get your kids to notice God’s creativity. Talk about the diversity in the shells you find. If you keep finding the same type of clam or oyster shells, challenge your kids to look closer and see if they can notice differences in the same type of shell. Talk about the creativity we have if we are reflecting God’s image. Discuss the gifts God has given them to serve Him. Encourage them to think of creative ways to use those gifts to serve others and share their faith.
Notice the waves and the tides – high and low. Talk about how God knows what the world needs – and more importantly, what we need. What are the advantages of each tide? Or just tides and waves in general? (For example, coral needs the action of waves to grow. Coral tanks in aquariums have to create fake waves to keep the coral alive and growing.) What things does God give us that we need? Or have a discussion about needs versus wants. There are a lot of possible application lessons in the waves and tides.
Do something with your child that is exercise – running, swimming, biking on the boardwalk bike path, peddle carts, etc. Afterwards talk about the importance of keeping our bodies healthy so we have the strength and health to serve God. Talk about the other areas of health like mental, emotional and spiritual. What does God want us to do to stay healthy in those areas? What new healthy habits can your family develop?
Build a sand castle. If you build it near the water’s edge, you know what will eventually happen. When your castle is damaged or destroyed by a wave, you can talk about the things that can destroy or damage us. Talk about the ways you could protect your sand castle. Then talk about the ways God tries to protect us by giving us commands to follow.
The beach can be an amazing fun family vacation. It will create lots of family memories. Why not also use that special family time and the teachable moments at the beach to strengthen your children’s spiritual foundations? It’s time well spent.
“It wasn’t my fault!” This one sentence from your children can test every bit of godly patience you have managed to acquire in a lifetime. Why? Because it is often followed by a long list of excuses – most of which are just ridiculous.
The reality is your child made a choice – probably not a great one from his or her response. The “it’s not my fault conversation” is merely an attempt to wiggle out of personal responsibility and consequences.
Sadly, we live in a world that actually encourages people to define themselves by their victimhood. While some people actually are the victims of crimes, manipulation and the evil actions of others, many are the victims of their own poor choices. Encouraging them to have a lifelong victim mentality is not in anyone’s best interest.
Art should be a major part of every person’s childhood. You don’t have to be artistic yourself though, in order to use watercolors, crayons, markers, clay or any other art supply to help your kids grow spiritually.
Young children are awesome artists. Their art is pure and true. They aren’t worried about what other people think of it. They produce art for the sheer joy of being creative. Older children and teens are often scarred by art experiences in school, but given art supplies and a supportive environment, most will soon remember the joy of creating.
God created each of your children with unique gifts, interests and
characteristics, knowing they would also have unique opportunities and experiences that would all work together to prepare them for the good works He wants them to do.
As a parent, one of our assignments is to help our children discover and develop in all of these areas and then teach them how to find and do the good works God has planned for them.
What are the best ways to do that though, when it seems like you already have so much to do in Christian parenting? It will take some intentionality on your part, but it’s not as difficult as you may think.