One of my best family memories of Bermuda was the time we served at a church feeding program on a Sunday afternoon. The island’s population is a little over 60,000 people, so the homeless population is not very high. In fact, we fed a total of 20 people there that day. My husband and I were asked to fill in at the last minute and didn’t have time to find child-care so we were forced to bring our six year old daughter along. We had some apprehension. Was it safe for her to be around these people? As we approached the church, we were greeted by the outreach director who gave us a few simple instructions and left us to figure out the rest. The meal that day was hotdogs, canned soup and ice-cream. Nothing took any real preparation to make. I was a little surprised at some of the people that were there day. Some of them weren’t homeless. They were working people who needed a little help getting by. I was also a little surprised at the amount of decorum and order in the place. The church had a zero-tolerance policy when it came to fighting, cursing and other bad behaviour. If they broke the rules, they weren’t allowed back. None of them were there to look for trouble.They were all extremely polite and grateful for the service. I guess I had painted a picture in my mind of what a homeless person was like up close.
I was pleasantly surprised by the way our daughter responded to the day. She was a refreshing sight for the regulars. She served with enthusiasm and was more than eager to give second and third servings. She even wanted to help clean up when we were done. Unlike me, she didn’t have any preconceived ideas about the people who were there that day, but was more curious about who they were. She asked us why they didn’t have houses to live in, where they would go after they left that day and where their families were. We decided to reward her with ice cream for her help and decided that we would make this a monthly tradition. It was actually part of God’s plan for us to bring her along that day. The opportunity had created a love for serving others in her and renewed it in us. We learned a lot as a family that day. As a couple that’s in ministry full-time, my husband and I often find it difficult to find the right balance between our calling and our family. We learned that day that the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. We can actually pass on what God has taught us by including our children in ministry experiences. We had learned that there were practical ways we could help instill a passion for service in our children.
1. Include them
Very young children still love spending time with their parents. This is a great way to fulfill your ministry commitments while teaching them in an informal setting. Take them along to your feeding program like we did, or have them do the dusting on your day to clean the church.
2. Explain to them why we serve
It’s easier for older children to catch the vision if they have a clear understanding of why you do what you do for God. Capitalize on the enthusiasm and curiosity of little ones, but still use it as a teaching opportunity to explain that service is an outpouring of your love for Jesus.
3. Reward them for their acts of service
We sometimes shy away from the concept of rewards because we feel like our service should be completely motivated by love. This should be true to some extent, but even adults don’t always have this built-in motivation. In addition to this, even Jesus spoke about rewards. Children respond to rewards and positive feedback. Eventually, the joy of serving will become reward enough for them.
4. Make it a lifestyle
Children love the familiar. They love to know what’s coming next. Make a weekly tradition of helping grandma clean her house or serving periodically at the soup kitchen. When something is done consistently it becomes a habit and once formed, it can become part of the foundation of our lives.
Serving feels good but remember, it’s all about Christ anyway. Remember the words of Jesus, from Matthew 25:44-45,
Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’
Photo Credit – Creationswap