Last night my wife and I had the opportunity to speak at our church’s discipleship/family worship event. We talked about the importance of serving together as a family. It was a great experience. (And it was really fun speaking with my wife.)
I started by defining service, just so we were all on the same page. I defined it as “work done on behalf of others for the sake of God’s glory.” We then looked at how we can see service as an integral part of God’s character (looking at how He demonstrated a heart for service through His interactions with people and His commands), as well as examining how Jesus perfectly exemplified service and challenged us to do the same. My wife then followed up with some practical examples from our own experiences, as well as a few suggestions on more creative ways to serve with our kids.
One of her points really struck home with me. It was cool to hear her articulate something that our family kind of does by default, but maybe not something I had put into words yet.
As she was talking about ways to serve with our children, she challenged the audience to serve as a family in ways that allow our children to pursue their passions.
This was cool to hear her put to words something we do, and yes, something we might have stumbled in to. (Sometimes you’re intentional about things. Sometimes you just get lucky. Whatever works.) As parents, we can often serve in ways that meet our own needs, through organizations or causes that we’re passionate about. This isn’t a bad thing. Anything that gets your family serving together is a good thing.
But when we operate like this, we miss an opportunity to let our kids steer our service efforts in ways that line up with their passions and personalities.
Looking back at how we’ve been able to serve with our kids, we’ve been able to do so in ways that line up with things their passionate about. We’ve done lemonade stands the past three summers that raised money for causes my kids care about. One supported a local ministry that works with children who have cancer. (My middle daughter has always been drawn to those who are suffering.) One supported a clean water initiative. My kids have a real heart for children affected by poverty (thanks in no small part to our longstanding involvement with Compassion International.) Furthermore, my oldest daughter has an entrepreneurial streak in her that comes alive when we do a project like a lemonade stand. It’s the best of both worlds.
There are many other examples . . . working with a local homeless ministry, volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House, raising money for the local Children’s Hospital . . . Whatever the cause, we try to make sure they encourage our children’s passions in a way that expands their worldview and grows their empathy for others.
If you’re already serving in a way that is in line with your child’s passions, awesome. If not, maybe considering engaging him or her in a conversation about how you can spend your time with a charity or organization that lines up with his or her interests.