The S-Word. Service.
How can we get our children, even little ones, involved in community service? (Or service at home, where we REALLY need it?)
I’m only half-joking about that serving at home idea. I think that we do begin to teach our children about service by teaching them to serve at home. I’m pretty sure the following idea came from a book called Managers Of Their Homes — assign chores to the youngest child capable of doing them. So as soon as my little guys could toddle to the trash can, they were throwing away their own diapers after a diaper change.
My 4-year-old can clear his place and his brother’s – and rinse their bowls – after breakfast. My 3-year-old can lay out his brother’s napkin for lunch, thus serving his brother. Little ones can fold washcloths and towels and help carry laundry to put it away, learning service to their family as they do it.
When I have packed bag lunches for the homeless man in our neighborhood, my preschoolers have helped. And we prayed together over the food before Daddy delivered it. One evening, our 10-year-old daughter went along to find Mr. Edward and deliver the warm food in the pouring rain.
When I teach KinderChurch, my girls like to help. Honestly, I’m not sure how helpful they are, but they are learning that serving is part of being in a church body. At our church in Virginia, the children often helped scoot folding chairs to the chair-rack after church dinners. It was fun for them and a service to the church. For several of the kids, it was just part of what you did after a church fellowship – you helped put chairs away.
Our church also had little pencils in the racks on the backs of the pews. One time, we took our little children and a couple electric pencil sharpeners to the church one quiet evening. Up and down the pews we went, sharpening pencils. The kids loved it! Kids love electric pencil sharpeners!
I know a mom who took her preschoolers to a nursing home and delivered the mail one day a week. The children benefitted from meeting and loving and serving elderly people, but they didn’t have to perform or feel on-the-spot for something to say. I think this idea is brilliant! Older elementary students could sit and read to an elderly neighbor or some residents of a local nursing home. Or a child who has been taking piano lessons for a couple years could practice at a local nursing home or assisted living facility one afternoon a week.
Recently, our family went to a neighborhood park that had recently been renovated. When we arrived, this beautiful new park was covered with litter. I was shocked! As our children began playing, my husband and I both started picking up trash and carrying it to the trash cans. Before long, my 8-year-old noticed what we were doing, and he too was carrying armloads of litter to the metal trash cans. I’m thinking we could probably make this a weekly event for our family — cleaning up trash at this park.
I know families who do fundraiser walks together, families who clean their church together, families who care for elderly grandparents together. Sometimes service for others will be planned in advance and sometimes it will be spontaneous. Once we pulled into our driveway in Virginia, and our elderly neighbor was sweeping the leaves off her driveway. My oldest quickly asked if she could go help. Our neighbor not only appreciated my daughter doing the work for her, she also appreciated the company as she stood and talked to my daughter as she swept.
Just writing this, I’m having so many ideas of ways we could be doing so much more! Because, trust me, we don’t do nearly enough of this sort of thing!
When serving others becomes a natural part of life, there is no way your children won’t learn how to be community servants! It will be as much a part of their lives as family movie night or Thanksgiving turkey or church on Sundays.
What about you? How do you involve your children in serving others? Or what great ideas do you have that you want to implement soon?