Our culture often shouts from the mountain tops when someone helps someone else. As an educator, I understand. Society wants to encourage others to serve. They believe giving special attention and praise to people when they serve others encourages people who are more reluctant to serve others also.
Unfortunately, even in our churches we have had to point out the “good deeds” of members to reinforce and give examples of how God wants us to live our lives as Christians. Our ministries have to post the good things they do to encourage others to get involved by serving or giving. As a result, our kids may grow up believing they deserve a “pat on the back” every time they serve someone else.
Matthew records Jesus telling us a different way to think about serving. “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1-4 NIV)
Talk about living counter culture! If we want our kids to serve like Jesus asked them to serve, you will have to intentionally teach them to think about serving in secret. Thankfully, it can be one of the more fun things to teach your kids about living the Christian life. Here are some ideas to get you started.
- Do something for your neighbors. Bake cookies, rake leaves, leave a special surprise on their doorstep (for more fun – ring the doorbell and run). Even if the neighbor you serve “catches you”, teach your kids to resist the temptation to tell others what they did.
- Cover everyone with kind words. This is a subtle way to serve others. Even the person you are serving may not realize they are being served – they will just go about their day a bit happier and feeling a bit more loved. Can your family say something intentionally kind to everyone you speak with over the course of an entire day? It might be harder than you think! Don’t forget about the “invisible” people – the people who serve you in stores, restaurants, teachers, the mail person, the garbage people and more. Most go through their entire workday without anyone even acknowledging they are people and not robots – much less saying anything intentionally kind to them.
- Send anonymous notes of gratitude, admiration and love. How exciting to open your mailbox to hand written notes, drawings from kids or other expressions of love. They are so very rare today, they will be valued for a very long time. Have your kids think of fun ways to sign them – “From a secret friend” or other (non-creepy!) ways to sign something other than their names.
- Do something extra on a mission trip or during a service project and don’t tell anyone what you did. This is a great one for your teens. Often, there are opportunities to serve others outside of the “official” duties. These are often overlooked or ignored in favor of rest or having fun. Encourage them to say “yes” instead of “no”. Or to be the one who quietly helps everyone with all of that extra luggage. Or grabs everyone a bottle of water. They can still report back as needed about the trip itself, but leave out these little details.
- Do extra jobs to earn money and then give it to church or a ministry anonymously. Or maybe they can purchase items the ministry needs and leave them anonymously. It may not seem like much to you or your kids, but sometimes that one extra item is exactly what they needed.
You get the idea. Have fun with it. How many things can your family do in secret without getting “caught”? There are so many things you can do to serve others that won’t even cost your family a bit of money. In teh meantime, your kids will be learning how God really wants them to serve others.