We have a great ministry here in Birmingham called Urban Purpose. I’m fortunate to call “friends” both of the guys who founded UP. It’s a growing ministry whose focus is on serving the poor and the homeless in urban Birmingham. The thing I most appreciate about Urban Purpose is that they don’t simply meet the needs of the poor, they do so in the context of building real relationships. Ultimately the goal is discipleship, which makes Urban Purpose different than many homeless ministries.
One of the main things Urban Purpose does is serve a big meal in a downtown parking lot on Sunday afternoons. My wife and I will take our teenage small groups down there on occasion, and our adult small group will occasionally go as well. But what’s really awesome is when we get to take our two oldest daughters down to help serve the meal.
We teach our girls about God. We read the Bible to them. We try and help guide and challenge them to live their lives as imitations of Christ. They are growing in their faith, for sure.
But when we have the chance to serve alongside them, their spiritual journeys hit warp speed.
There’s a nervous excitement on the way downtown. They pour themselves into serving while we’re there. You ought to hear the questions we get in the car on the way home. Some are insightful. Some are actually kind of funny. (Kind of like Abby’s “sweat” comment in the video below.) And inevitably, sometime days after we go downtown, one of our girls will bring up a question or a comment about some aspect of our time serving the meal. It’s a wonderful sign that they’re processing. They are working through what they’ve seen.
Most of all, they are slotting these types of experience. They have a perception of the world that is daily being shaped by the collision of what they know to be true about God and His ways, and what they see around them. When my children encounter those who are (frankly) dirty, needy, and look different than them or their mom or dad it is an uncomfortable experience. (In a good way.) But when they actively engage these men and women, when they speak to them, when they SERVE them, suddenly God’s love for the needy becomes less about stories in an ancient book and more about a value they are owning for themselves. And as my oldest daughter, Sara Frances, alludes to in the video below, with service comes empathy. They are drawn to these people in the same way Christ was.
Discipling our children is one of the primary callings we have as parents. And in my mind, there are few more meaningful ways to accomplish this than serving with your children.
What experiences do you have serving with your family?