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.
Children can begin serving God almost as soon as they begin walking and saying a few words. Sound impossible? It really isn’t. The problem is most people tend to think young people begin serving God in their teens. Yet that is late – for some young people too late – to begin encouraging them to find ways to serve God.
In the beginning, the tasks should be simple and the time in shorter chunks. As they get older, try moving them into areas where they are showing they may be gifted by God and make the amount of each time of service longer. Elementary aged kids can even handle a little hard work!
So what are some of those beginning ways toddlers and preschoolers can serve God? Here are some of our favorites:
Handing adults things they need. Sounds silly, but to a toddler, being able to help an adult is a huge, exciting deal. Toddlers can hand you cans of food you are boxing up for food pantries or other objects being donated. Just make sure you need their help again almost as soon as they have handed you an item. If the gap is too long, they will wander away. Don’t make them work too long – you want this to be a positive experience.
Filling bags with school supplies or other donations. If you are working on gift bags of school supplies, activity bags for foster children – any type of repetitive bag filling – little ones can help. They will need organization and training to be successful though. Line the items up – a pile of eraser packs, then a stack of notebook paper, etc. Help the child open the bag and show them how to go down the line putting one item from each pile in the bag. Be aware that you will need teens or adults to double check each bag and make the finished bags neat. Some little ones will be able to do this independently, while others will need someone to walk beside them and cue them what to put in the bag next.
Making artwork that can be used to encourage others. Honestly the “quality” doesn’t matter. People love getting art from little ones. Have them tell you what they would like to say to the person and write it on the art for them. Don’t forget to get them to “sign” their artwork.
Visiting the lonely. Older people in homes, shut-ins, widows – there are a lot of people who get lonely. A young child will brighten almost any day. Make sure young ones are fed and well rested to minimize meltdowns. Some young children are shy so bringing a book for the person to read to them or their favorite game to play can help relax everyone.
Making cookies for appreciation gifts. Let them pour the ingredients into the bowl or stir. Teach them how to measure ingredients if they are older. Get them to help you roll the cookie dough. Watch for food safety with little ones, but they can actually do quite a bit. Then have them go with you to deliver the cookies they made.
Cleaning activities. Often serving involves cleaning and organizing before and after. Young ones may not be able to do a lot, but they can take small items from one place to another, dust, etc. (Watch them carefully around dangerous items like cleaning fluids.)
Inviting people to church. Part of serving others is helping them learn about Jesus and how to become a Christian. Start little ones sharing their faith from the beginning. Encourage them to invite their friends to come to church and church activities with them. If they do it from an early age, it will become a natural thing for them to do when they are older.
Encourage them to pray for the needs of others. Preschoolers can understand when someone is sick or sad. Begin having them pray for the people they know and their needs. Then point out as you see God working in that situation.
There are plenty of activities young children can do to serve others and share their faith. Our parent ministry Teach One Reach One Ministries has tons of service project ideas tied to Bible stories that can also be used with your older children. Children who begin serving others in their toddler years often become children, teens and adults who continue to serve God. It’s definitely worth your time and effort.
For a few years public and private schools required students to participate in acts of service. The thinking was that it would raise up a generation of young adults who gave selflessly of themselves to help others.
For some young people, it may have worked. Many however, just put in their required hours and moved on with their lives. God asks us as His people to serve Him, in part by helping others. The story of the Good Samaritan is a Christian classic. How can you raise kids who serve as part of their Christian identity instead of merely replicating what schools have done with mixed results?
The difference is in the heart of first you – the parents – and then how that is passed on to your children. The key is to make being children of God a part of your family’s core identity. Serving others should be more a part of your family DNA than the secular things that define your family identity.
There are some things you can do to make serving others a natural part of how your children interact with others:
Serve others regularly. If your family only helps others once or twice a year, it’s more of something you do to fill time – not part of your family’s DNA.
Start when your kids are toddlers. It’s amazing how much even the tiniest of children can do to help others. If your kids are well behaved, most groups will welcome them to work along side you as you serve others.
Don’t wait for formal programs. Look for opportunities to serve neighbors, friends and family. You want to teach your kids how to see the opportunities God gives us to serve others each day – not just when someone organizes a big service project.
Help your kids find ways to serve using the gifts God has given them. Don’t worry too much about those spiritual gifts in Corinthians. For now, focus on the talent gifts God has given them. Help them discover and develop the gifts God has given them. Then help them find creative ways to serve others using those gifts. Making a direct connection between the gifts God has given them and serving others will connect a lot of what your kids are learning about God to their actual life.
Don’t forget the faith piece. As things happen while you are serving, refer back to scriptures that discuss those issues. Find ways to share your faith as you serve those who aren’t Christians. Find ways to encourage the faith of the Christians you serve. The ministry of Jesus is a great example of connecting serving others and sharing the good news of the Gospel. Teach your kids how to do the same with those they serve.
Don’t forget to have fun. Yes, serving others and sharing our faith is serious business. That doesn’t mean it can’t also be fun. The fun doesn’t all have to be silly, laughing fun (although we still talk about the time our then four year old accidentally had her hair painted by her Nana as we were serving an inner city ministry). There is also fun to be found in using your gifts, seeing the relief or joy on the faces of others, learning new things, seeing new places and having new experiences.
Taking the time to regularly serve together as a family – making sure to bring God into the process – will help serving become part of your kids’ core identity. With hearts that belong to God, they will be well on their way to becoming productive Christian adults.