Christians tend to think serving others automatically produces amazing spiritual growth. While there are things we do easily learn from service, guiding our children and teens through the service is more likely to produce meaningful, lasting spiritual growth in their lives. In fact, if we don’t make it intentional, studies have shown any growth from a short term mission trip (for example) only lasts a year before the person’s spiritual gains return to pre-trip levels.
The problem with Christian service is that often our preparation is almost entirely focused on logistics. How will we get there? What will we do while we are there? What will we wear? Because we focus so much on externals, often those serving begin to focus only on the externals too. Was I comfortable? Did I have a good time? Did the people I was serving make me feel appreciated?
I don’t think those questions are the ones God wants us to ask as we serve others. In fact, this week I am giving a workshop (with help from my wonderful daughter) at the National Conference on Volunteering and Service for their Faith track on that very topic. I can’t share all of the information from the ninety minute workshop in a few paragraphs, but I will give you something to think about.
The next time you serve with your family, spend some time before you go thinking about how each member can grow spiritually while you are serving. Does your son complain all of the time? Maybe he can focus on increasing his joy. Does your husband get cranky when things don’t go exactly as planned? Perhaps he should focus on improving his patience.
Challenge each other to find scriptures to support your efforts. Extra points if each family member memorizes the scriptures that apply to the godly characteristic they are trying to improve while serving. During the project, check on the progress each of you is making. What do you need to adjust to reach your goal for the day? After your service, have a family discussion. Who met their goal? Who struggled? What can you do to continue the spiritual growth begun during your service? Taking these extra steps can make service a true spiritual growth experience for your family.
If you are interested in having the complete workshop conducted for your group, feel free to contact me for more details. There are also several parenting workshops available for groups. In the meantime, try adding “personal spiritual growth” to the to-do list for your next family service project.