Opening Doors for Service
To really teach your children to develop a servant’s heart, you must take them by the hand and lead them, showing them how to do it.
When our daughter Laura was about 10 years old, I began taking her to visit an elderly couple from our church who were retired missionaries. At first she was shy and didn’t talk much, but as time went on, she would ask him to tell his stories. He had been a missionary in Germany and remembered being present at a Hitler rally. He would tell of how he came to the Lord as a boy in Canada and how the Lord led him to life a life of faith, going out to serve Him and how the Lord would always provide for his needs.
I would tell Laura to listen for little hints of things “Uncle Jim and Aunt Lillie” liked. He has diabetes and couldn’t eat much sugar, but he was delighted to receive those little packets of jam and jelly you get in restaurants. She would ask the waitress if she could take a couple extra home for her Uncle Jim. She learned that Aunt Lillie loved the color purple, Cadbury candy bars and certain types of flowers. That way she learned to plan little gifts to bring to them when we would visit. They didn’t get out much and just to watch their faces light up when we would visit was a delight.
Sometimes, we would take them to a local restaurant for lunch. We would think of things happening at church or in our family that we could tell them about, bring them pictures to look at or books to read. Laura tells how Mom did this to train her how to have a servant’s heart, but she says she feels she was the greater beneficiary of blessing.
Once when we thought Uncle Jim was close to death and we visited him in the hospital, he was on pain meds and confused, but he related to Laura how he had been to China that day. A lady kept begging him to come and share the gospel and persisted so much that he had gone that day to share the gospel with her. It made such a huge impression on Laura, that as he lay close to death, the gospel of Christ was foremost on his mind, not his own suffering. He lived to the ripe age of 100, and Laura and I visited him just days before he died at which time he clearly prayed for us. Laura not only learned how to serve others but how God blesses one for obedience to Him and gives you a double blessing for being willing to obey.
We looked for other opportunities to be a blessing to others, new moms in our church or family, widows, families moving or just needing a break…. the opportunities for service are endless. The key is to become alert to seeking out needs in others and then plunging in to meet those needs when possible. I remember when our son Rick installed motion detector lights for a newly widowed lady in our church to surprise her and ask what he could do to help her, things like taking out the outside furniture in the spring or cleaning her gutters- things her husband used to do for her. Another son would slip a hundred dollar bill to a family in need or go rake leaves for an elderly couple, pump their gas, etc.
Your job is just to get your kids thinking this way and take them along with you as you reach out to others, and it will soon become a way of life for them. We have seen the benefits over and over again in the lives of our kids even as they have grown up. Instead of seeking pleasure for themselves, train your kids to be alert to the many needs around them. Maybe they can’t meet every one, but find some they can meet. Lead them to pray for needs they can’t meet.
About a year ago, I was talking with my youngest daughter, Kasey, and told her to find an older couple in church to try to be a blessing to. She thought, “well, what can I do?” I suggested she just have a ministry of hugs. Find an elderly person or couple, purpose to go up and hug them and give them a cheery hello every Sunday morning. She did that and now has two couples and a widower she looks for every week who we often will go visit. They ask for her, love to receive those hugs and think she’s a pretty special little girl. She, on the other hand gets the blessing of hearing the stories of their lives, (some are veterans of World War II) and learning from the wisdom of lives well lived. God honors the mixing of age groups- all benefit from the contacts made. Consider asking people into your home who have lived godly lives. Serve them and see what blessings God will bring about in the lives of your family members.
next week- part 4- A glimpse into the lives of kids raised this way.
God has ordained the family to be the basic training ground for our children to learn to become people God can use. It is our job to guide our children in character and to then create service projects to help them apply what they have been learning to their daily lives.
As a young mom, I guess I was kind of forced into this way of thinking. I had my first child at age 20 (he was actually born on my 20th birthday). Our other children then came about 18 months apart and then up to two years apart. Consequently, I was a young mom with many little guys and an acute sense of responsibility to train my little ones to serve the God I had recently given my life to at the age of 16.
Having so much responsibility and no family nearby, I needed to train the kids from an early age to chip in and learn to do their part. I remember having my oldest two, Rick and Tim, up at the sink learning to dry dishes when they were 3 and 5 years old. It would have been easier and quicker I suppose to just do it myself and send them off to play, but I felt it was important for them to learn to be responsible. Looking back, I am very glad that I took the extra time to teach them how to do a job responsibly. They were part of our family and I would let them know they were needed and appreciated for their efforts. We used to tell them work can be fun and some days they believed it. More importantly though, they began to learn that God had a job for them to do and they were on this earth to serve God although at this stage of their life, their serving God came mainly through serving their family members. Our children need to learn to do all the functions we ourselves perform in a family context to someday be a successful parent themselves. Therefore, instead of just letting our kids play ALL the time, we taught them to help out with the needs of the large family, making sure we had playtime scheduled in for them as well. Our adult children are now VERY thankful that they learned to have a work ethic rather than just growing up being pleasure seekers. It has shaped the way they now live their adult lives.
As they grew though, we began to branch out and provide opportunities for the boys to begin to serve others beyond our family circle. When we would open our home to guests, as we often did, we began to teach the children to defer to the guests. We would have the children begin to serve the guests at the meal and clear the dishes, etc. If the guests had children, we would “assign” each one of our children to one of the guest’s children for the purpose of making sure that child’s needs were met, that he or she were not excluded, or belittled, etc. They would be responsible for trying to make that child feel special. They were to defer to the other child’s preferences in which game to play or what color plate they wanted. That way, instead of just thinking, “Oh, good, we’re going to have fun tonight, they would be focused on making sure the other child had fun instead.”
Philippians 2: 5-6 “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, …”
Here are some other verses to consider and teach your children on this subject:
John 15: 12-14, Galatians 5:13, Luke 22:24-27, Colossians 3
More next week!
One of our priorities in training our children was to try to teach them to be others-focused, or in other words, to build within them a heart of service. This doesn’t come naturally. We are all more attentive to our own needs naturally. We need to train our children to stop and intentionally think about what another person is going through and what we might do to help them out.
Perhaps one of the earliest tools we created to teach them this principle was what we called the
Head to Foot Bible Verse Board. Our first one for our son Rickey was made from a crude piece of plywood on which we laid him down and traced his outline. As time went on, and resources increased, we took a picture of our child, had it blown upto poster size, cut them out of the picture and attached their picture to a poster sized piece of paper. I then looked up verses of how to use the various parts of their bodies for the Lord and attached these verses to the same paper the picture was attached to. The idea behind this was to illustrate Romans 12:1 (“ I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy , acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”) which we wrote on the top of the sheet of paper, explaining how our bodies are a temple of God to be consecrated for His purposes. We then placed it in a poster sized frame and hung it in their bedroom. Each night before bed or nap time, I would let the child choose a different part of the body and we would review the verse associated with it.
KNEE- Ephesians 3:14 “For this cause, I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
EYE- Proverbs 4:25 “Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.” (Here is a reminder to control what we look at and to use our eyes to honor the Lord and His ways and not to be distracted with things of the world. )
HAND- Proverbs 10:4 “He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand, but the hand of the diligent maketh rich.” (Hence an admonition to be diligent in all that we do for God’s glory)
FEET- Proverbs 4:27 or Ephesians 6:15
The idea behind this was to instruct our child that they were not here to make it a goal to amuse or please themselves necessarily, but to submit their body to God’s purposes and His ways.
I Peter 5:5 in one version of the Bible instructs us to wear the overalls of humility in serving one another. For this reason, I always took their picture while they were wearing overalls and told them this was to be their attitude to others- to put on their overalls of humility and defer to the other person’s wishes whenever possible.
It was just a baby step in teaching them to have a heart of service.
More next week!