Inspired to Serve

Last week, I had the opportunity to co-teach two classes at Revive Texas. The first, how to share Jesus with children, almost wrote itself. The second topic, how to inspire children to serve, held more challenges. 

I quickly realized that this topic is easier to DO than explain. Let’s start with two questions. I took several stories from past blog posts for my examples. 

Think about a time in your life when you received an unexpected blessing. How did that one act make you feel? How would you like to do the same for others?

What would you do if you were given a day where you could do anything? A day without boundaries, money is no object, and the sky is the limit. How would you spend your time and resources?

When it comes to serving, I do not tell my children they are too young or too little (even when they were much younger and smaller). Instead, I include them in everything I do. I grew up with this example, so it was natural for me. I enjoy making meals for new moms, someone who’s recently had surgery, or those who’ve lost loved ones. My kids work alongside me, and we often make the deliveries together.

For my family, serving is not an extra thing to do. Instead, it is part of everything we do. It’s been said that the family is the church in miniature. I think it’s more than that – family is the heart of the church. When our families are healthy, loving, and serving, the church reflects those characteristics and thrives. When our families are hurting and struggling, the effectiveness of the church suffers. OUCH – that stung a little bit!

If you aren’t doing anything in this area, start small. Encourage children to do simple things like opening the door for others. As they get older, they can help people carry their dishes in and out for potluck or walk people to their cars. Let them see you doing these things. Guide them in talking to people who sit alone, both members and visitors. I encourage my kids to especially show extra attention to our widows and widowers, in particular if they do not have family in the congregation.

All of those things happen at the church building. What about beyond the walls of the building? Again, start simple. Write cards or draw pictures for the shut ins, widows, widowers, or anyone on the prayer list. Teach them how to make phone calls and talk on the phone – this includes teaching them how to leave a message, since many people do not answer the phone if they don’t have that number saved already.

Let’s step it up again. Go visiting. Offer rides to others. Offer to pick up groceries, prescriptions, or other errands for people having a hard time getting out, again, especially if they don’t have family nearby willing or able to help. Take a meal to someone. Let your kids help in planning, making, and delivering the meal.

If you are in a stage of life where you do not have children or grandchildren nearby, invite children from the congregation to go with you when you visit. Offer to teach them how to make your signature dish that you take to those who need a meal.

In the Old Testament, we are instructed to teach our children “as we go.” Hundreds of years later, Jesus tells us to “go” and share the Gospel. Though the original languages are different, the words used here mean the same thing: As you go, whatever you are doing, teach others. Go does not always mean leaving one place to do something in another. Go often means take action right where you are. My job as a mom is to prepare my children to go into the world. When they are little, you teach them to look (“Watch where you are going!”) and listen (“Follow directions!”). These same lessons hold great value as we grow up and go about in the world. Look for ways to serve, listen to the needs of others, and take action. 

As many of you know Sherril, Christy, and I are Wavemakers. Wavemakers are people determined to make a difference in the world, one act, one person, at a time. This may include taking a meal to a new mom or someone recovering from surgery, taking care of someone’s yard, or simply sitting with someone who is hurting. Small ripples turn into big waves. 

A few years before we coined the term wavemakers, I wrote a blog post about helping others. “Usually, when we run errands and eat out at lunch, I use the drive-thru. Due to routine extermination at our apartment, I had time to kill so we ate at the restaurant. On this day, I had a friend with me (a friend without a vehicle who needed a ride to run errands of her own). As we ate, a raggedy man came in hunched over from the weight of the bag he carried. I watched him, in that “not watching” sort of way. He counted his pocket change over and over. As I threw away the trash and asked for a bag to take the rest of the food home (I get the special that includes 20 chicken tenders, two sides, and a gallon of tea – they nearly always put in extra chicken), I felt compelled to do something. I put some of the chicken and a couple of rolls in the box with the rest of the fries and gave it to him. He tried to tell me he didn’t have enough money. I told him I already bought it, that we had enough, and he could have it – FREE. It took a few minutes before he started eating, as though he did not know whether to trust the situation. I do not get these opportunities often either because we take our food home or because we have “just enough” in our living life one paycheck at a time. We are comfortable, and our needs are met, but we are not wealthy by most standards. The rest of the day, I felt this amazing high from helping someone else, someone truly in great need.”

When we lived in Germany, we traveled to many places. So much of the captivating history and architecture of Europe is found in their church buildings. These ornate structures cost millions of dollars to build, restore, and maintain. Often, at the doorways or on the steps leading up to the cathedrals, you will find beggars, some crippled, all dirty and ragged – in great contrast to the building they lean on for support. In higher tourist areas, like Pisa, panhandlers, vendors, and beggars are not allowed within a certain proximity to the historical buildings. My husband would have loved more time to explore these buildings and learn more about their “mysteries” (some contain crypts and artifacts). The children were much too impatient, active, and loud to enjoy such exploration for hours at a time. I welcomed the reprieve, because of the overwhelming sadness of the contrast from the very poor outside to the very richly decorated inside.  We help when we are able, even in other countries. We occasionally gave these individuals some Euro change or our to-go boxes. Sometimes people react in fear to the indigent citizens lurking in the doorway. The only time we really experienced “fear” during our travels involved the taxis in Italy.

We often get hung up on our limitations. Instead, let’s shift our focus to what we CAN do to make a difference, with every day. Ronald Reagan said, “We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.” Jesus said, “Whatever you do for the least of these, you also do for me.” (Matthew 25:40). He is the originator of The Golden Rule (Luke 6:31). Later, the Apostle Paul continued this teaching: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:3-4). How can you help the least of these today? Are you willing to be Jesus to someone with a need?

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