I am a firm believer in starting good habits as early as possible. This should especially apply to starting the habits of living a godly life. One of the easiest, most enjoyable godly habits to start with your child is teaching them to serve others.
Our daughter was just over a year old when she actively participated in her first service project. Our church had collected cans of food to take to another congregation in town who served the poor in our city from their building. Our daughter would take cans of food off the shelves and put them in the bags or boxes we were taking downtown. At other times she would reverse the project and take cans people had donated and place them on the lower shelves. She was also able to hand them to me to place on higher shelves.
Last summer I had the children at our church make testimony quilts to give to the children who use the homeless shelters in our town. Homeless shelters often require the people who stay there to vacate the premises during the day. Sometimes families with children may stay at a shelter, but then feel uncomfortable and return to living in cars or other less than warm places.
The goal was to create not only something easily portable a child could use to keep warm, but to have it remind the child that God loves them even during rough times. We have done this several times over the years. The children who make the quilts have a blast. It allows us to use the talents of the women in our congregation who sew and the agencies who receive the finished products are always thrilled.
Parents often have a difficult time finding service opportunities for their family. Many organizations do not allow children and even teens to volunteer because of liability issues. Even churches sometimes make it difficult for a family to do a service project together.
The good news is that it is very easy to plan your own service project. If you follow the steps below, your project should be successful. Someone in need will be served, your family will learn the value of serving others and God will be glorified. As an added bonus, your children will learn a lot of practical life skills that will help them in other areas.
I have to admit, I secretly enjoy a good Star Trek episode from time to time. Not so much that I own a pair of Vulcan ears, but enough to have a few favorite episodes and catch phrases. On one of the newer versions of the franchise, the captain would say, “Make it so”, when told of how something should be done to solve a problem.
I think one of the hardest parts of parenting is knowing when to be an advocate for your child and when to step back. Everyone secretly fears become a “pageant” or “backstage” Mom. We have had some experiences recently that helped me realize at least one time where I think you need to jump in and intervene.
One of the more discouraging events of my Christian life occurred shortly after my baptism. I was young, enthusiastic and wanted to start serving the Lord immediately. I asked one of the leaders of the church what I could do and was told I was “too young” to help. Thankfully a more understanding adult overheard the conversation and quickly found a responsibility I could take on at church.
In our desire to help our children enjoy their childhood, I think we have often lost sight of the fact that children want to help. Although they may complain about cleaning their rooms, the idea of being responsible for something important will put a light in almost any child’s eyes.