This year has been harder than most for many people. While others may struggle with loneliness, sadness, hopelessness, discouragement, depression and other negative feelings at any point in time, the problems and issues of this year have tested almost everyone to some extent. What a great opportunity for your family to reflect God’s love and hope to others.
While there are many things your family can do to encourage someone, this year, it’s important to encourage as many people as possible. It’s difficult to know for sure who is struggling the most at times. The reality is everyone can use some encouragement, love and joy over the remaining few months of the year.
Your family may want to set some sort of specific goal, like making a special effort to encourage a specific number of people each week. Or you may want to find some way to encourage multiple people each day. You may even want to form a lose alliance with other families in your church and encourage each other by sharing ideas or working on a larger project together (but safely socially distant).
The sky’s the limit, but here are a few ideas to get you started.
Create encouraging chalk drawings. If your neighborhood is like ours, a lot more people are milling about the neighborhood exercising or playing. Why not draw messages of encouragement on your sidewalk or driveway with chalk? If you know for sure your neighbors would appreciate it, you can decorate their driveway, too. Or pull out paper and create chalk drawings for people to display inside and brighten their homes.
Interact joyfully with others. Whether it’s online or from a socially distanced neighborhood exchange, encourage your family members to smile at everyone they encounter – even if they are wearing a mask. Give a friendly greeting. Ask how they are doing and actually listen to the response. Have your kids learn some riddles and jokes to ask those who want to engage in conversation a little more. Extroverts and those with severe restrictions on going out are most appreciative of any sort of positive social interaction.
Make or purchase and share little treats with others. Place it on the doorstep, ring the bell and run back about ten feet to keep others safe. It’s amazing what some flowers, cookies, apples or other small treat and a few minutes of conversation can do to encourage someone.
Send real mail. It’s rare and a bit exciting to get “real” mail. Why not send letters, cards, children’s artwork or care packages to people you know? See how creative you can be in what you send.
Offer to pray for everyone you meet. We know a couple who has asked every restaurant server they have had for years if there is anything than can pray about for them. The responses have all been positive, pre-COVID. I can imagine anyone you ask today will have something they would like your family to pray about. If you want to make it truly meaningful, keep a written record, pray multiple times about the request and check back in with the person later to let them know you have been praying for them.
Help meet the basic needs of others. Whether it’s job loss, COVID, hurricane damage, wildfire damage or one of the other multiple issues plaguing many this year, a lot of people have unusual needs for basic supplies like food and clothing. Find creative ways for your family to help meet some of these needs…even if it’s just cleaning out your closet and donating clothes and toys to someone who needs them.
Run errands or do outside chores for others. Some people are severely restricted in their activities because they are in high risk groups. Or they may still be recovering from COVID or another illness that makes it impossible for them to maintain their yard and exterior of their home. Depending upon your family’s risk tolerance, you and your kids may be able to help with things like yard work, grocery shopping, outdoor maintenance projects and more.
Make and share scripture art. You can find all sorts of ideas on our website and on Pinterest. Find verses that are encouraging and create scripture art you can share with others.
Sing or play music in your yard. Granted this one depends upon your family’s level of talent and the personality of your neighbors. We have several young people in our neighborhood who practice their instruments outside in the afternoons, adding a little joy to those exercising in the area. We’ve even had a neighborhood troubadour in the past who played his guitar while riding his skateboard around the neighborhood.
Go apple picking or fishing and share the wealth. Take an outdoor, safe family outing to an orchard, farmers’ market or fishing area. Share some of what you get with friends or neighbors – especially those who can’t get out or would appreciate some safe interaction when you put it on their doorstep.
What your family does to encourage others is not as important as actually doing something to encourage the people around you. Not only does it help others, but it teaches your kids how to be like Barnabas and become encouragers to those around them. It’s also a great way to teach them how to reflect God’s love by serving others and sharing their faith. It’s a great way for your family to spend time together, too!
The more your family works together to serve others and share your faith, the more it will become natural and easy for your kids to continue to live that way as adults. Fall is a great time to serve others. As you serve, you can find ways to point others to Jesus. If you are serving Christians, you can find ways to encourage their faith.
Here are some ideas for fun Fall family service projects to get you started.
Apples. Do you have an apple orchard somewhat close to you? Take the kids and go apple picking. When you get home you can create little gift baskets or bags of apples to share with neighbors.
Hand Pies. Take some apples and this recipe and make apple hand pies for people. Make sure you are wearing masks and handling them with food gloves after they come out of the oven, to keep recipients safe from any COVID germs your family might be carrying. Adding a reminder to reheat should also kill any germs.
Pumpkins. Most areas have pumpkin patches. Grab your kids and go buy pumpkins for at risk people who aren’t getting out much. You can also offer to carve their pumpkins when it gets close to the end of October.
Pumpkin spice muffins. Grab a box of spice cake mix and a can of pumpkin (regular size, not extra large). Mix the cake mix, can of pumpkin and about ½ of the empty can of water. No need to add the other ingredients on the cake mix box. Put the batter in a muffin tin lined with muffin papers and bake at 350* until firm to the touch. Once again, wear masks and food gloves when handling cooked muffins. These taste better warmed, so that should also kill any germs when the recipient reheats them.
Fall Garden. Winter kale and cabbages as well as some herbs will produce during the fall months. Depending on your zone, you may still be able to plant and harvest foods you can share with others…especially those in food insecurity.
Fall flowers and decorations. Sunflowers, mums and other fall flowers are often cheap to purchase. Or have your kids gather acorns and colorful leaves and make an art project. Take them to someone who can’t get out safely to purchase those things and brighten their day.
Nuts. You can’t do this in every location, but in some places you can pick edible nuts off the ground. Make sure you are allowed to do it and know you are picking edible nuts (chestnuts for example can be edible or inedible depending upon the tree). Give them quickly as nuts can go rancid over time.
Leaf raking. This fall service project staple really does make a huge difference in the lives of homeowners who are in poor health or physically disabled. Make sure you are disposing of the leaves the way the homeowner wants them to be removed or used.
No matter which service projects you choose to do, having your kids make cards or drawings with a note and a scripture written on them, pretty much guarantees their faith sharing scripture will end up on the refrigerator of the recipient. It’s a great way to teach your kids about faith sharing and encouraging others as you help them choose which scripture to use. If they want to get really creative, they can make scripture art to share – with a service project or as a service project on its own.
You will have to carve out time and use some family resources to do some of these family service projects. It’s a great way though, to create family memories and help your kids learn how to put the pieces of a Christian life together.
The great thing about kids and teens is their passion for changing the world. They notice things many adults have given up on trying to change. They have the innocence and passion to believe complex problems have simple solutions and that they have those solutions.
Unfortunately, Satan has a vested interested in the world’s problems remaining untouched. He will do what he can to discourage young people – especially Christian young people who might also teach those they are helping the things God wants them to know and do.
You can’t totally protect your kids from Satan’s interference, but you can lessen his effectiveness by teaching your kids some basic truths.
God has a plan. Find it. Follow it. God doesn’t want our world to be full of sin and chaos any more than we do. He gave us free will though so we aren’t just robots He controls. Unfortunately, many people believe because God doesn’t force us to follow His plan for how He wants things to be that He doesn’t have one. God has a plan. Your kids just need to be taught how to figure out what God’s plan is for solving the problem about which they are passionate and follow it. When they do that instead of trying to force their plan on to God, the implementation and results are often easier and better.
Pray. A Lot. Then really listen for God’s answers. Many people who want to make the world a better place, forget to pray to God for His guidance and assistance. Or when they do, they ignore all of the people and circumstances He sends to tell them to go in a different direction. Prayers often don’t seem to work, because we fail to remember it’s a conversation and we need to listen as much, if not more, than we talk.
Use their gifts or ask someone to help who was given the gifts you need. There are times when God asks us to do something for a period for which we are only adequate. In general though, God has built everyone a lane and their most effective ministry occurs when they stay in that lane. World changers often give up because they are trying to do tasks which God meant for them to ask others to do.
Take advantage of the opportunities God gives them. Sure, their plan may be more fun than the opportunity God is giving them right now, but there is a reason He wants them to serve in this way at this moment. Turning down those less glamorous, less fun opportunities God gives them to serve, may mean their personal ministry will never reach its full potential.
Be patiently impatient. God’s timing is perfect. Sometimes that means we need to wait until it is in His plans for us to do the next thing. On the other hand, sometimes God can’t use us, because we refuse to do all of those little things He is giving us to do now. Or we procrastinate for any number of reasons. Or we let others discourage us from pursuing the dream God has given us for our personal ministry. The key is balance.
Do their homework and be humble enough to learn from those who have gone before them. There is often an underlying arrogance about those wanting to change the world. They believe because previous people have failed to completely solve the problem, they have nothing of value to teach newcomers. They may indeed have a bright great new idea that will work. Or they may be getting ready to waste a lot of unnecessary time, energy and money on something that is not going to work. Ask questions, listen, learn…then analyze and make choices.
Remember bigger isn’t always better. It’s better to start small and let God give them a larger territory if it’s in His plan rather than starting too large and failing miserably – hurting others unnecessarily in the process.
Empathy Works. Sympathy doesn’t. Too many people in ministries and charities are full of sympathy. Unfortunately, that reads like they have all the answers and the people they are serving have nothing of value to offer. Empathy looks for commonalities. It learns from those it is serving rather than assuming it is the only one with the solution to the problem. Empathy loves like Jesus.
Equip and empower. Don’t boss and control. Ineffective leaders feel the need to control and boss people around. Effective leaders find people gifted in certain areas and equip, support, nurture and empower them.
Remember the ultimate goal is to help as many people as possible get to Heaven. Earthly needs and problems are important. If we help solve those, but don’t teach anyone about what God wants for them and from them, we have failed as Christians. We cannot and should not ignore earthly needs, but we can’t let them distract us to the point where we forget eternity is forever and our primary goal should always be to help people spend eternity in Heaven.
Who knows what good works God has planned for your children? If you help them learn these truths when they are young though, it is much more likely they will help the world be more like God planned it to be.
It’s been a few weeks (anyone else losing all track of time?) since we shared with you some service project ideas you could do with your kids during COVID. We thought you might appreciate a few more ideas.
Spring cleaning. Most of us have more things than we ever really use. Talk with your kids about needs versus wants and the importance of our generosity to God. Then help your kids go through their clothes and toys to find donations for families who are struggling financially right now. Contact your church or local urban ministry to see how they want you to donate the items you have gathered.
Create a joyful yard/house/balcony/windows. Follow your local restrictions, but make your house or apartment joyful for those who walk or drive by and see it. Be creative, but respectful of neighbors as you design and execute your joyful exteriors.
Create social media “shorts”. Encourage your kids to design, film and edit short encouragement films designed to bring joy to those who see them. They should be less than a minute and you can post them on your social media accounts if your kids are too young for their own.
Sing a song. Or play an instrument. If your kids have mastered an instrument or sing and it’s not painful to listen….have them practice outside in considerate hours (avoiding nap times if there are little ones nearby). Or have them film a song that can be posted on social media. Encourage them to find songs that are uplifting or soothing to share.
Make face masks and find a way to share with those who will now need them. Areas that are beginning to reopen may require face masks for everyone and many still have trouble finding or affording them. There are lots of patterns online now for sew and no sew versions you and your kids can make and give to others.
Send notes, cards and drawings. Yes, this was in our last idea post, but it’s more important now than ever. Many people are beginning to struggle with depression as this continues. Challenge your kids to come up with something special and mail them to people others may forget.
As you help your kids with these service projects, don’t forget to talk about why it is so important to God that we serve others. Talk about ways to share your faith as you serve to encourage Christians or point those who aren’t Christians to God. Make this a time when your family serves others and shares your faith.
Your kids are probably homeschooling now, regardless of their regular school situation. Contact with others outside your home is strongly discouraged. In most places though, we are still allowed to walk in our neighborhoods and do things in our yards as long as we don’t come close to others.
Your kids can use this time to reflect God’s love to your neighbors. There are quite a few things they can do to serve and encourage the people nearby. Encourage them to be creative, but here are some ideas to get you started.
Chalk sidewalk art. Send a neighborhood email and offer for your kids to decorate the sidewalk near their mailbox or their driveway with colorful chalk drawings. Remind neighbors to stay inside while your children work. If you have public sidewalks in your neighborhood, most localities allow chalk drawings which will wash away in the next rain. Encourage your kids to come up with cheerful designs that point people to God in some way.
Mailbox art. Have your kids make works of art and tape them to the mailboxes of neighbors. Once again, encourage the use of cheerful colors and finding ways to incorporate scripture or point people to God in some way.
Encourage a neighborhood cheer project for the kids in your neighborhood. Have your kids make fliers and distribute them in your neighborhood. Encourage neighbors to put a specific type of object like a stuffed animal or a drawing of a giant Easter egg in the window of their home where it can be seen by children taking walks with their families. Encourage the families with small children to go on a “treasure hunt” to see how many of the chosen objects they can see in the windows of homes while they are walking with their parents.
Design work out stations. Have your kids design a special workout families can do at certain spots on their family walk in your neighborhood. Space the ideas far enough apart and make them quick enough so families don’t risk exposure to the germs of others. For example, draw a hopscotch board with chalk on a corner sidewalk and tell families to hop rather than walk that distance. Or at a certain landmark, jump up and down ten times. Be creative and distribute the ideas to everyone in your neighborhood digitally or otherwise.
Share Spring. If you have flowers or shrubs blooming in your yard, share them with those in your neighborhood who can’t get out at all. Have your kids decorate containers to put the flowers in with a little water. Then put them on a doorstep of a neighbor, ring the bell and run far enough away to not spread germs when your neighbor opens the door.
Offer weekly check in calls. Have neighbors sign up to receive a weekly video call from your family. Encourage your kids to come up with stories to tell, a song to sing or other things to fill the time after making sure the neighbor is fine.
There are so many ways your kids can use this time to be creative in the ways they serve others and share their faith without endangering themselves or others. Take advantage of the opportunity to teach your kids how God wants them to live their lives.