Yes, it’s October and 95* in Atlanta, but colder weather will eventually come – even to the Southern U.S. You can do a fun Fall family service project, while also teaching your kids things God wants them to know.
Grab your kids and a Bible. Share with them the story of Joseph and his coat of many colors found in Genesis 37. Explain to your children that Israel can get cold in the winter months. Some places even get a few days of light snow. Joseph’s coat may have been to keep him warm as well as a way for Jacob to show him love.
Explain that many children in your area don’t have enough warm clothes like, sweaters, coats, hats, gloves and thick socks. Some families can’t afford to keep their homes warm during the winter and their kids may need to wear heavy clothing indoors.
If your children are older, get them to help research places in your area that will help you get warm clothing to children who need it. You may want to try churches, shelters, foster care agencies and orphanages. Some public schools may also be interested in receiving donations.
Once you have determined who will receive the warm clothing, it’s time to plan how much you will try to gather and how you will do that. Many families with young children often realize their kids have outgrown the previous year’s winter clothing when it begins getting chilly. It’s a great time to offer to collect any outgrown clothing in good condition.
There are other ways to gather donations. Your family may have things in good condition you no longer wear. Or perhaps your kids want to earn extra money and use it to buy socks or gloves. It could also grow to become a project for your church. This project can be as big or as little as you wish.
As you work on the project, have conversations with your kids about topics like empathy, serving others, faith sharing and more. Make sure your kids go with you to deliver the donations. The experience can give them a better appreciation for the need to serve others. You may even want to make it an annual family tradition.
Remember the story of the Good Samaritan? A man was robbed, beaten and left to die on the side of the road. The religious people who should have helped him, walked on by, too busy to help. The Samaritan, who culturally would have hated the victim, stopped and took the time to serve him.
That story should open our eyes to how important it is to God that we stop and help those He places in our path who have needs. Unfortunately, some of us are so obsessed with our own lives that we don’t even notice the people around us who need our help.
There’s a great way to teach your kids how to be more observant of those around them who need to be served. If you have the time, it’s also a great way to teach them how to use their gifts to serve others and to share their faith while serving.
Grab a Bible and read the story of the Good Samaritan to your kids. (Luke 10:25-37) Explain to your children that as sad as it was that those first people refused to help the victim, it’s even sadder when we are so self-absorbed we don’t even notice someone needs to be served.
Tell your kids you are going on a family service walk. It can be in your neighborhood or in a public place like a mall. As you walk, tell your kids you want them to be really observant and notice people that might need someone to help them in some way. With younger children you may have to give them clues like, “Look for people who look sad” or “Look for people who look like they could use an extra pair of hands to help them.”
Your kids can write down what they notice or just try and remember the things. (With young children, if they share in the moment, you may run the risk of hurting someone’s feelings.) After your walk, talk about what they noticed. Are there things they or your family can do to help those people or people like them? With older children, you can begin having discussions about discernment and how God wants us to use our resources to know the best ways to help people.
Doing this activity regularly can train your kids to be more observant of the needs of others. If your family follows up by actually serving some of the people you see, you will make an even deeper impression on your children. You may even want to encourage other families to do the same thing and then share with each other the needs you see in your community. It’s a great way to strengthen the faith foundation of your children and help them grow to their godly potential.
There are so many great lessons for young people in the stories of the life of Joseph. It’s a story of God making good things come from bad, of listening to and trusting God, of God’s perfect timing, of change and repentance, of forgiveness and redemption.
Why not do a service project that also gives you the opportunity to share these great lessons and the stories of the life of Joseph? You will need your Bible, your favorite bread recipe (you can find one recipe here) and the ingredients to make it.
Gather your kids and think of people you could serve with fresh homemade bread. The possibilities are endless. Have your kids help make bread. As they are working or while you let it rise, tell them the stories found in Genesis 42-50. Talk about the lessons God wants us to learn from those stories. Ask them which application principles they need to work on to be more godly. Brainstorm ways to help them remember to make the changes they want to make.
After the bread has cooled a bit, deliver it to those you have decided to serve. Your kids may also want to design cheerful notes and cards to give with the bread.
Serving others can seem to come naturally to very young children. As they get older, however, selfishness can begin creeping into their hearts. Suddenly, humbling serving someone else can seem not so great. Yet, that’s one of the things God calls His people to do on a regular basis.
There’s a fun activity you can do with your kids to help them understand the realities of the humble service of people like Rebekah in the Bible. You will need your Bible and a sealed gallon water jug (or two) for each of your children.
Read or tell your children the story found in Genesis 24. Point out to your kids the time when Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for Isaac. Explain Rebekah most likely had a clay jug or jar which could hold three gallons of water. Have your kids attempt to lift two or three gallon jugs of water at the same time (This activity is best done outdoors – just in case!).
Place a “camel” several yards away from where your kids are standing. Give each child one or two (depending upon age and strength) gallon jugs filled with water. Make sure the tops are sealed. You can do this as a relay effort or make each child water “a camel” on his or her own. Each child should carry the jug(s) of water to the “camel” touch the camel and carry the jug(s) back to the starting point (To be really authentic, you can have a pretend “well” at the starting point.)
Stop when each child has carried the equivalent of 25 gallons of water. Stop and explain each of them has now watered ONE camel. The servant most likely had four or more camels. You can continue until they have each watered four camels or until they are tired. Discuss how much hard work it was for Rebekah to water the camels. What might it have shown about her character that she was willing to do that for a stranger? Why might that be important to God and to the servant that she was that willing to serve others?
Discuss how she humbly watered the camels without complaining or expecting the servant to help her. Ask them how hard that must have been for her. What ways might God want them to serve others that are difficult? How can they remember to have an attitude of humble service – even though they are tired by the difficult task?
For a variety of reasons, many first responders have been criticized a lot recently. While some of the criticism may be justified, the reality is most are honest, hard-working people who risk their lives to help save the lives of others. Your family can have fun learning a little about someone in the Bible who had interesting relationships with authority figures and do something to serve first responders.
Grab a Bible and tell your children the story found in Genesis 37. Review how the Midianites sold Joseph to Potiphar, Pharaoh’s captain of the guard. Potiphar held an important position in Egypt and may have been in charge of the region’s safety. Review authority figures in your community who help promote safety. Discuss the roles of policemen and firefighters. Explain that they work very hard and often have to cook their own meals even after a long day at work. Many times they spend the night at their station so that they are ready to help citizens in need if they get an emergency call. Baking muffins for them to have on hand as a snack or with breakfast is a helpful treat.
Prep your baking space before you start the activity and have all materials accessible (older kids can help you gather needed supplies). Give each child a special assignment such as stirring (they can take turns with this), pouring, cracking an egg, setting the timer, placing cupcake liners in tins, etc. As you work, discuss the many specific services that our community helpers are responsible for. This helps keep your kids engaged while they wait for their turn. (You also want to emphasize cooking safety as you work and keep a safe distance between the oven and young children).
While the muffins are baking and cooling, have your kids create handmade thank-you cards.
Take your children to deliver the muffins and cards. Often firehouses are eager to meet kids and may even let your children take pictures and see the firetruck. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon together as a family.