Have you ever noticed how difficult it can be to teach children what it means to serve other people. The moment we are born we immediately begin to do whatever we can to make sure our own needs are covered and that mindset can very easily mark our entire lives. It is true that some people have a more natural tendency to serve others, but it is very rarely our first instinct. I bring this up in the midst of trying to help raise 13 teenagers and seeing the tendency in their lives to always make sure they are taken care of first. If you have raised or are raising children (especially teenagers but really no matter their age) then you almost definitely know exactly what I mean. There are some stark differences to our particular setting and 2 of them are pretty big differences:
- Almost all of the kids living at All Things New have spent considerable time essentially raising themselves and taking care of their own needs without much help from adults.
- Our kids are being raised in an environment with 20 other children and they do have to fight for attention and for other things just based on that.
I do not mention those differences to make an excuse for our kids at all, but it does present some challenges as we think through how to best teach our kids what it means to truly serve others. I am not talking about doing chores at your own home or doing something while expecting something in return. I am talking about teaching our kids what it means to follow the example of Jesus Christ on the Cross and the teaching of Philippians 2. I want our kids to see the world in which they live as an opportunity to stand up for those who need it, to love other people as themselves, and to give of themselves without expecting anything in return. This is not easy! It is not easy to tell a teenager that they should think of others as being above themselves and to sacrifice their needs and wants for other people. It is especially not easy to teach someone that who is used to fighting for everything they have ever received and being taught to think of themselves first.
If you’re reading this blog and have some good ideas, please feel free to let us know. Teach us what has worked for your kids and how you have taught them what it means to serve other people. This blog came about as we were reading James 1 and I gave our kids an assignment. I told them in the next week do at least 1 thing for 1 person who cannot repay you. It also came at the same time we are planning an employee party where our kids will be serving food to our employees and helping to take care of them. I know this is nothing more than them trying to be funny but all the boys can say is how difficult it will be for them to serve food without eating it. And while this is just a joke it did lead Jess and I to think about how we can begin to teach our kids to serve. Not to always ask and to always take, but to really serve other people. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks…
What do my kids see when they look at my life?
When Apolon looks at how I treat other people and what I do around our home, what does he see? When Tony sees me talking to our employees or teachers at his school what kind of man does he see? When Dada and Misthafa see me interact with Jessica, do they see a husband who serves his wife? When Tilene, Babyson, and Samara see me interact with Sophie and Elijah do they see a father who serves and loves his children? Am I a servant? Are you? How can we teach our children what it means to give our lives to others if we do not practice that in a way that they can see and follow?
As I was thinking about this and getting ready to write this blog, I realized that my first step in teaching my kids how to serve others is to serve others. That is not my only step by any means. These children (and yours as well, trust me) need to be taught and reminded and then taught again and reminded again that their life is not just about them. They need to be presented with opportunities to serve others and when they choose not to, they need to be gently (or not-so-gently) reminded to get back on track.
As parents, leaders, pastors, teachers, etc. let’s accept the challenge to be the example of a servant that our kids need to see. I want all of our kids to see and know what a servant looks like by looking at me. At the same time, please pray for us as we try to teach this valuable lesson to our older kids especially and as we begin to think of ways to push them in this direction. To give them opportunities to serve, to force them to serve, and in the end to help servanthood be one of the defining characteristics of their lives.