Daylight broke through the darkness. I stumbled my way over blankets and pillows as I headed to the front door. Overwhelming gratitude filled my heart. We survived a pretty scary night. With the worst part of the hurricane behind us, it was time to assess the damage. As I leaned into my husband on the front porch, the strong tropical wind blew fiercely against our bodies. Tree limbs, uprooted trees, and downed power lines marked our road. I felt the arms of my little ones wrap around my legs. We squeezed a little tighter and thanked God for His protection.
By early afternoon, the hurricane curfew was lifted. We began hearing reports of severe damage across our community. With each passing hour, the demand for assistance increased. Our county emergency agency couldn’t respond fast enough.
Something incredible emerged from this disaster. Local churches came together, with families just like yours and mine, to meet the needs of strangers in practical ways.
With rakes, trash bags, and supplies in hand, we hit the streets. Without hesitation, my husband and I chose to bring our two oldest children with us (ages 8 and 9 at the time).
They had just experienced their first major hurricane. Their eyes were wide open to its impact. As they heard stories of destruction in surrounding neighborhoods, we could see compassion building inside of them.
How could we not bring them? They desperately needed to see that they could be a part of the solution. My children didn’t have to wait until adulthood to be involved. They could make a difference in their community today.
7 Steps To Becoming a Family Who Volunteers
As parents, we need to give our children plenty of opportunities to serve. We must show our children how to live missionally. Here are seven steps you can take to becoming a family who volunteers. These steps are intended to help you create successful serving opportunities with your children.
#1 – Help Your Children Discover God’s Call to Love and Serve Others
As you consider the many ways your family can serve, the best place to start is in your home. Your little ones need guidance and training to understand why they should give selflessly. Before hitting the streets, gather your family together. Teach them God’s heart for His creation. Discuss the Lord’s plan to utilize our gifts and abilities to reach others. Talk about how much He gives to us and how we can offer our time, talents, and treasures to build His Kingdom. Bottom line, let’s be intentional about shaping our children’s hearts in this process of becoming a family who volunteers.
Here are practical ways to come together as a family to develop a giving heart in our children:
Open God’s Word together and go on a hunt for verses that teach about God’s love. Discover verses that focus on loving and serving others the way Christ did. Hold a fun competition to see who can find the most verses on these topics.
Make a weekly challenge to memorize verses together. When your family meets the challenge, treat everyone to something special.
Do you have an aspiring artist or author in your family? How about actors or musicians ready to take the stage? Read a Bible passage on something Jesus did to show selfless love towards others. Allow your children to get creative with recreating the scene or sharing an art piece that represents the story.
Talk around the dinner table or as you’re tucking your kids into bed. Encourage them to share a time when they did something to help another. Begin to explore ways your family can work together to make a difference more often.
#2 – Believe in Your Children (Even If They Offer Resistance)
My family and I have been actively serving in our church for many years. My kids enjoy being by our side and seeing how their gifts and abilities can make a great contribution. From the youngest to the oldest, everyone plays a part in building God’s kingdom.
But let me be completely honest with you. Even after all these years of serving, we still experience occasional resistance from our children. They may be tired, grumpy, or having an off day. Trust me when I say, these moments are not easy.
Yet, the way we respond to a resistant child can make all the difference. To win the heart of a child who is being oppositional towards serving, we need to engage them in the “why”. A great way to do this is to spend one-on-one time with your resistant child. Share your own experiences with volunteering. Describe what you did, who you impacted, and how it made you feel. Get your child thinking of ways he can use his skills or abilities to make the same impact.
Language matters as well. In our home, we change up the wording. Never do we want to tell our children serving is something we have to do. Rather, it’s something we get to do. One final thought, if you have an unwilling child, talk to the Lord about your concerns or frustrations. Ask Him to transform your child’s heart and to unify your family as you seek ways to serve together.
#3 – Choose How You Will Volunteer Together
This is where it get reals. Select your project as a family. Provide your children with a few options to choose from. In one of my previous articles on Building a Heart of Compassion in Our Children, I touched on this topic.
Has the Lord placed a certain people group or organization on your heart? Is there someone directly in your path you can reach out to? Look for ways to get involved by partnering with your church or community agencies. Perhaps, your church is hosting a community outreach or project. Maybe there’s a local agency whose mission resonates with your family. Sign your family up! Large organizations provide many opportunities for families to volunteer. They already have the logistics figured out. They just need extra hands (that’s you!) to come alongside of them to make it happen.
As you choose your volunteer opportunity, allow your children to offer input. This involvement allows them take ownership of the project. Dozens of opportunities exist all around you. If you’re ready to get started, check out this list of opportunities below.
#4 – Talk About The Specific Need Before Heading Out
After you choose your project, educate your children on what’s to come. If you’ll be serving with an organization, gather materials about the agency and describe how it is making an impact in the community. If you will be serving a specific people group, discuss the possible reasons why they need help.
Get as detailed as possible with your children on what the serve opportunity will look like. Describe what you’ll be doing and how long it will take. Make your expectations clear ahead of time when it comes to participation and attitude. Encourage open dialogue on what they can expect to see and feel. Allow them to ask plenty of questions and do your best to provide clear answers.
Educating your children in advance will allow them to connect with the project personally. Providing upfront information will also help alleviate anxiety your child may be feeling over a new experience. When you provide details, be enthusiastic as you engage your children’s minds and hearts.
#5 – Pray Together
Before heading out, pray together. Here are prayer points you can focus on:
- Pray specifically for the people you will be reaching.
- Ask God to open doors for you and your children to talk with and minister to others.
- Invite the Holy Spirit to open the hearts of every person you will be reaching.
- Ask the Lord to give your family a greater understanding and compassion for the people you will be serving.
For specific prayers you can pray on building compassion in the hearts of your family, check out the link below.
#6 – Process What Took Place
After you complete the serve project, take time to process your experience as a family. Treat your kids to ice cream or some kind of fun treat after completing the project. As you sit and relax, allow them to share their thoughts and feelings with you. Ask open-ended questions. What did they like about it? What did they not like? How did they make the most difference today? Encourage everyone to share and listen attentively to each child.
7. Do It Again!
For certain kids, serving comes easily because kids love to help. For others, though, it might feel like pulling teeth. Either way, the more you make serving your community a rhythm in your family, the easier it will become. Schedule future projects and follow the above steps again and again.
Go Make a Difference!
If we want this world to be a better place, it begins with how we raise our children. Let’s be intentional with teaching our children the importance of serving others. Let’s show them how to live and love like Jesus everyday. What would this world look like in years to come if we made this commitment? Think about it for a moment. When we look at raising our kids from this perspective, the question is no longer how will I ever be able to get my kids to serve? Rather, the question becomes: How can I afford not to teach my kids that they can make a difference in this world starting today?
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