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.
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!