LEADING YOUR KIDS TO SERVE
Posted by Geoff Surratt
I grew up hating church. I didn’t have any theological problems with church, I was just bored. Sitting still for more than ten minutes was torture, and sometimes our services went on for two hours! The worst part is that my dad was the pastor, so we were there every time the door was open. And the door was open a lot: Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night.
Sometimes we had “revivals” (which I assumed was a Greek word for “torture young children”) It meant going to a church service every night of the week. My number one goal was to grow up and not go to church. My number two goal was to be an astronaut, but I figured that would get me out of church as well.
Several decades later, and I still attend church almost every weekend. How did I wind up right back at the place I loathed? There are a few reasons:
One is a strong conviction that, as flawed as it is, the local church is the hope of the world.
Another reason I never left the church is that something changed in me between elementary school and when I left for college.
My attention span didn’t increase; I still struggle to sit still for more than ten minutes. The big change for me was that in middle school, I began serving in the church; I joined the children’s ministry puppet team.
For the first time church wasn’t something I watched, it was something I did. I was part of a team, and we enjoyed what we did. Eventually, I became a leader in the student ministry. And by the time I graduated from high school, I was speaking on a regular basis at our weekly high school gatherings.
Serving transformed me from a reluctant spectator to an engaged participant. 36 years later, and I’m still committed to the local church.
I saw the same pattern in my own kids. When they were young, we had to drag them to church. But in middle school, when they began to serve, their attitudes changed. By the time they graduated from high school, they were each spending more time serving at church than my wife and me, and we were both on the church staff. Today each of them serve full time at their local church.
As a parent, one of the biggest things you can do to help your children connect with God and with the local church is to model and encourage a lifestyle of serving. Here are a few ideas how to get started:
Find serving opportunities as soon as possible
It is never too early to sow the seeds of a servant’s attitude in the hearts of your children. Reward them when they help pick up the toys at home. Encourage them to offer to help their teacher clean up when class is over at church. Always look for ways they can begin serving others.
Invite your children to serve with you
Volunteer to serve regularly in their class at church, and invite them to help you. They can help pick up toys, hand snacks, and clean up when the other kids are gone. If you serve in a younger class, invite your older kids to help.
Help them find a place to serve on their own
When my daughter was in middle school, she began teaching herself to play the guitar. It quickly became apparent she had a lot of natural ability, but she was too shy to ask if she could play in the middle school band. I talked the youth pastor into inviting her to play, and that opportunity still shapes how she serves. There are many places in your church where your middle school kids can serve; children’s ministry, greeters, ushers, musicians, vocalists are just a few. Don’t be shy about asking adult leaders how they can involve your kids in serving.
Make serving a part of the rhythm of your house
One of the reasons I began serving in church is it was just a regular part of who we were as a family. My dad, my mom, my brothers and my sister all served in the local church, and serving took the highest priority.
As you look at your family schedule and all the activities you juggle on a weekly basis, which are most likely to have a long term impact on the spiritual development of your children? Baseball? Cheerleading? Chemistry homework? Learning a lifetime of serving others?
I believe, and have seen in my own family, few things in life have a more positive impact than learning to serve.
About the Author:
Geoff currently serves as Associate Pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Parker, Colorado and coaches churches and leaders around the country. He is the author of The Multisite Church Revolution, The Multisite Church Roadtrip, and Ten Stupid Things that Keep Churches from Growing. Geoff is married to Sherry, and they have two awesome kids, a wonderful daughter-in-law, and the most beautiful granddaughters on earth.
Posted by Holly Crawshaw
On Sundays when I was growing up, it didn’t matter if we were facing imminent danger or in the throes of a natural disaster, we were going to church.
Literally, I can’t remember not hearing my mom’s alarm clock go off every Sunday morning at 8:00am—because, of course, church was always preceded by a solid hour of Sunday School (bless those volunteers).
My parents could have had World War III with each other on Saturday night. I could have had the measles. My brother could have gotten kidnapped. There was never any question . . .
IT WAS SUNDAY AND WE WERE GOING TO CHURCH.
I remember some Sundays thinking, If we could just stay home this ONE Sunday and watch cartoons and relax . . . But, nope. Sunday rules—it’s church-day.
My parents went through a pretty trying super awful divorce when I was in middle school. Dealing with their own grief and disappointment, they stopped going to church.
But we didn’t.
My three siblings and I continued in the robotic fashion of our youth, waking up and going to church every single Sunday. But… it was different then. We had huge, shame-shaped holes in our hearts. We needed church now—now, more than ever.
Guess what. We’re all still attending church. (So are my parents, but that’s a dramatic blog for another day.)
I don’t tell you this because I think church is the cure-all. Or because I think all people in church make perfect decisions. Or because I think going to church makes you a better Christian. But when I look back on my church-going years, there were always one or two people I was connected with that kept me (and my siblings) on-track.
Ms. Leigh Ann. Amy. Jeff. Robin. Elizabeth. My student ministry. My college group.
Where would I be without these relationships? I’m not sure, but I can tell you that having these voices speak truth to me during some of the darkest years of my life brought light and hope and the chance to be vulnerable. I needed them. I needed someone other than my parents. I needed to widen my circle of influence. And by attending services, youth group, and church outings, my starving soul got the nourishment it needed to avoid massive regret and heartache.
Fast forward some more.
I have two daughters. For most of their lives, I got up before the sun rose on Sunday mornings to help run a children’s ministry. A few years ago, I stepped down from my position to pursue full-time writing.
On Sundays, when that alarm starts blaring, I am 100 percent tempted to sleep in. To let my kids watch cartoons. To sit around the breakfast table and not rush out the door with half the family missing shoes and bows and Bibles.
But then I remember the 12-year-old Holly who needed to be buoyed by multiple relationships—relationships that ultimately kept her from drowning. I hope my kids never need mentorship nearly as much as that middle school version of me did. But I would be selfish to rob them of the richness found in being surrounded by wise and caring adults.
Whether it be a church group, a club leader, a teacher, or a hand-chosen mentor, our kids need other voices in their lives.
How are you widening the circle of influence in your child’s life? No, really. I’m curious. And beyond that, are you that voice for someone else?
About the Author:
Holly Crawshaw is a wife, mother, and writer who eats sour candy and laughs at her own jokes. She served on staff with North Point Ministries for six years, the latter of which was spent as Preschool Director. She and her husband, Ben, are raising their two daughters, Lilah and Esmae, in their hometown of Cumming, GA.