In my previous two posts regarding a Mission-Minded Family, I share about Finding Our Passion (part 1) and Finding Your Passion (part 2). In part 2, I talked about how you can find your purpose and passion and make it your mission. To instill serving and helping others into the hearts of our children, it starts with us!
Part 3 is about allowing your kids to serve in a hands-on capacity. But first, let’s get the conversation flowing. Before school, I remind my kids to look for ways to help others. After school one of the questions I ask is “Did you help a teacher or a friend today?” We even talk to God about serving, “God, please give us an opportunity to help someone today.” This helps your child recognize when someone could use a hand and opens their eyes to how they can serve.
Becoming mission-minded starts with a servant’s heart.
Before bringing your child along to serve in the community, ask yourself these three questions:
- Have you been before?
- Has your child asked to help?
- Is your child ready?
Have you been before?
I think it is important for you to scope out the mission. You need to be able to know what to expect before bringing a child into a place that you will be serving. It is perhaps best to have already established relationships with the people who run the organization or the people whom you are serving before adding kids to the mix. That way you can best determine how your child will react and interact with the people that will be around them.
Has your child asked to help?
I have had several people tell me, “I want to take my kids to do ______ to teach them how good they have it.” Of course, we all want our children to be thankful and humble. However, the mission field is not the place to start that conversation. You can teach that to them at home by engaging them in many conversations about the world. Teach your children about different cultures and people groups. Teach them about poverty, hardships and struggles that others may face. You can share with them ways that you have served and what your experiences were like. If these are all part of normal conversations you have with your children, they will ask to join you. If they haven’t asked to join you, you may get resistance or a bad attitude while trying to serve. However, if they do ask you after hearing all of the different things you have talked to them about, they are more inclined to be excited about it, ask questions, plan, anticipate the event and hold themselves accountable to certain tasks.
Is your child ready?
Readiness is hard to gauge. You must first determine if your child is mature enough to be hands-on while serving in any capacity. If you take your toddler to the food kitchen to serve lunches, for example, are you able to give 100% to the task at hand? Likewise, is your child in a position to actually help or will he or she be a hindrance to the mission? If you are having to be more hands-on with your child than the people you are serving, it may be best for you to serve by yourself for a few years before your child tags along. Start off by sharing stories and pictures with your children to get the conversation going.
Determining if your child is ready
When our son asked us if he could join us on our next mission trip, we didn’t say “yes” immediately. We know the hardships, discomforts such as heat, lack of electricity and running water, hours and hours of travel and the long days that come along with international missions because we had been there before. We also were able to think about ways that a 10-year-old would be capable of helping out (see why question 1 is so important?).
You know your child better than anyone else. Sometimes that is great in deciding if your child is ready to serve! You know your child’s greatest strengths and can determine where they would be best suited to help. However, you also have seen your child at his or her worst moments. You have seen the meltdowns, insecurities, disrespect and talking-back and you think, “Will they ever be ready?” You need to take a step back and look at them through the lens of, perhaps, their teacher, or your friends and family. How does your child act in the company of others? Asking them to hand out craft supplies at a nursing home is different from asking them to fold laundry or put dishes away. You may be surprised to see what your child is actually capable of.
For our son, we told him that he needed to prove to us that he was ready to go on a mission trip by doing the following (these three things can also work if you are planning to work for a few hours within your own community):
- Eat everything put in front of you – without complaining. Our son can be a picky eater. We knew that eating full and balanced meals would give him enough energy throughout the day. We also did not want our son offending the women who had worked so hard to prepare our meals – and we especially didn’t want him leaving food on his plate when others outside would have gladly eaten every last bite. If you are working long enough hours, mealtime will come and your child has to come to grips with the fact that “you get what you get and you don’t pitch a fit.”
- Listen the first time. Now this is just something that we’d love for our children to do all the time, but especially if you are planning on them to help serve the community. My husband and I lead the mission team to Haiti every year. If our son was going to be one of our team members, we needed to be able to count on him just like the other team members. If we said we needed him to sort through supplies to gather materials needed for an event, we needed him to do it right away without question. Simply telling your child “I need to be able to count on you to help” puts a new level of responsibility to their obedience.
- Be a self-starter. I don’t know about your kids, but my kids will step over a sock a thousand times instead of bending down to pick it up and put it away. We asked our son to open his eyes to the needs we had in our own home, and to go the extra mile to do them. If he was to join us in serving, he first needed to serve in our home.
But there are other ways to help out without stepping far outside of your front door that will still teach your children the value in serving others. Here is one example:
Cookies for a Cause
Ava, age 8, decided she wanted to put her skills to use by selling cookies at her mom’s Bible study group to raise money for Haiti. With her mom’s help, she made videos each week to tell the women what cookies she was making and to remind them to bring their dollar. Last year she raised enough money to purchase three food boxes with 216 meals each. That’s 648 meals! This year, Ava has set her goal high to raise $200! Just a few months in and she has already raised enough money to provide over 1,000 meals for families in Haiti!
Isn’t that amazing? I love how this idea was all her own and her mom was 100% board to help her accomplish her goal! This also wasn’t just a one-time thing; it is an ongoing, weekly service project.
Other ways you can serve with your kids:
- Deliver lunch/desserts to a local fire station or police station
- Do laundry for an overwhelmed family (the kids can help fold laundry)
- Send letters, pictures, or cards to encourage others
- Collect toiletries for a local shelter
- Bring water to work crews
- Raise money for your favorite cause
- Sponsor a child in a foreign country (see my first post)
- Pick up trash at the park (wear gloves)
- Collect shoes for Emmy’s Shoes
- Visit a local nursing home to sing songs, do crafts, put on a puppet show, etc.
- Collect children’s books or toys and deliver it to a local hospital
- Put together care baskets for teachers and administrators at your child’s school
The ideas are endless!