“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10 NIV).
How Kids Think
Children are selfish by nature. They enjoy the limelight. They like to receive gifts. They have learned to expect much from others. Children become so accustomed to having their needs met that they rarely think about serving others.
How God Thinks
We need forgiveness–and Jesus Christ is the only source. He modeled the ultimate selfless example—willingly giving up His life that others could be made right with God. Christ followers are called to mimic this heart of sacrifice—willing to give up their needs for others. Believers can freely give because Jesus has been so generous. In addition, the Holy Spirit empowers you and distributes spiritual gifts to serve others. When those gifts are offered in service to the church body and the community, people are encouraged, provided for and blessed (1 Peter 4:10)! As you learn to be ministers of God’s grace through serving others—selfish ambition loses its grip on your life and God is glorified!
One particular Saturday morning during a children’s ministries training at a large church on the west coast, I noticed to my surprise several teens. Their enthusiasm for learning and desire to serve in children’s ministry impressed me. When I asked questions, they responded and were able to quote Scriptures to me throughout the day. At the end of the session I asked the children’s ministry leader how the church had kept such a high percentage of the youth involved. She told me that the youth pastor constantly emphasized that everyone in the church should be making a contribution to the whole body. He focused on empowering and equipping them to serve. The students told me, “We have watched our parents serve since we were young children and we just assumed that we were supposed to do the same. When there was something that needed to be done at church, our family did it together. We have grown up being taught that this is not our parents’ church, it is our church as well.” This created a close community where the adults honored the younger people. The adults affirmed and valued the children and teens for their vital contribution to the body.
Carol truly enjoyed the gift of service. As a mother of three, she showed her children love and adoration through mending ripped jeans, cooking homemade spaghetti, and helping with homework. Her actions went beyond expectation—she sacrificed her personal needs for her kids. Her children received the service with joy—but were not motivated to serve each other in the same way. One day, she cried out to the Lord in frustration—asking for wisdom about how to instill this value in her children. Her kids benefitted from this modeling—but they also received her constant service as a sign that they were just fantastic kids who deserved such treatment. Something needed to change!
Carol continued to serve, but began providing frequent opportunities for her children to serve the family. With much whining—her kids began helping with the dishes, cleaning the playroom, and assisting mom as she cooked dinner. Ever so slowly, the children stopped resisting this new approach and began helping more cheerfully. Teamwork between the family began to emerge. Carol realized that her children needed her example, and they needed directed practice learning how to serve the family!
The Missions Trip
Kyle and Marie decided to accompany their church on a three-day local missions trip to a poor area in their community. This was the first missions trip Kyle and Marie had taken as a family and their eldest son, Jeremiah was old enough to participate in the activities. Kyle had discussed with his son all week the goal of helping the poor, sharing the gospel, and serving as a church. Kyle himself was nervous because he had shared the gospel overseas before—but not locally. He knew Jeremiah would be looking to him to model how to serve these people and help them—so he shelved his fear and prayed for courage.
When they were ministering as a group in a poor area—Kyle pulled his son aside and shared his desire for both of them to be bold that day. Jeremiah spotted a rough looking group of bikers off to the side preparing to go on a ride. Jeremiah was excited—his dad had talked about encouraging people by sharing Jesus with them and this looked like the perfect group. “Come on dad—lets go talk to these guys!” Kyle’s heart dropped, but the still, small voice of the Lord nudged him forward. Ignoring the gut reaction of fear, Kyle prayed for courage again and walked with his son to the group. Jeremiah’s enthusiasm broke the ice in the conversation; the young boy’s chatter engaged the rough looking group. Ironically, the first man they talked to loved Jesus and was excited to talk to them. Jeremiah asked the man—“Can we pray for you for anything?” The biker shared a health need and Kyle and his son prayed for the biker in the middle of the parking lot. They took a moment to encourage this man—and he received the words with a grin and a high five to little Jeremiah. The biker smiled as he left with his group—truly encouraged. Kyle quietly repented for judging the situation so quickly and not trusting the Lord! Jeremiah was oblivious to his dad’s internal reaction and was thrilled that he had been a part of encouraging someone. For the rest of the day the little team continued helping people and praying for them—they were learning how to minister as a family!
4 Keys: What You Can Do
Honestly appraise your child’s tendency toward selfishness. See where he/she tends to think only about self. Create opportunities for your child to serve others.
- Model humble service (Philippians 2:1-8). Jesus did not grasp for high position; He was willing to honor and help other people.
- Affirm that Jesus is your motivation (Matthew 25:35-40). Avoid serving to gain attention, approval, or position from others. Help people in need out of love for God.
- Use your time, talents, and treasures to serve others (Romans 12:3-13). Enjoy serving your church, neighborhood, and community together. Learn together how to offer your resources.
- Use poor attitudes as opportunities to grow (Philippians 2:13-14). If your child complains when serving others, give him/her an opportunity to repent for grumbling. Pray with your child for a loving, unselfish heart.
Discipleship Begins With Our Children
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