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.
WIPE THE SLATE CLEAN
Posted by Autumn Ward
So there we were, standing on a sidewalk in the middle of downtown Gatlinburg, Tennessee. A couple in their mid-thirties with three kids ages 5, 8 and 10 struggling to have fun and enjoy a vacation together.
It wasn’t happening.
People were passing us on either side much like water going around a rock in the middle of a stream as we argued over kids not obeying, how much money had been spent, who was chewing too loudly, and whatever else we could get mad about. To be honest, I don’t really remember what we were upset about . . . what I was upset about . . . but boy was it getting ugly (and by “it” I mean ME).
I do remember it was CHRISTMAS. And rather than having peace on earth and goodwill towards men, I was having an all out total meltdown. No seriously, I was losing it. I felt like screaming or throwing something or even hitting something (or someone). Before I knew it I blurted the words, “I’m done. Let’s just forget it and go home” and then I walked away. Yes, I turned my back on my family and walked away (not my best moment).
There are many “not my best moment” moments in parenting. Oh, we strive to be our best, do what’s best, say what’s best—all those best things great parents do—but it’s hard. Parenting is hard. And the more I try to do my best, the more I realize how hard it is.
One thing I learned during this “not my best moment” is that what I do—what you do—after times like these can actually become your best moments as a parent.
I made it about ten steps down the sidewalk and then stopped. My heart was heavy with conviction. I was wrong. And I knew it. As the rage turned into remorse I made the choice to turn around and go back to my family. I had no idea what I was going to say or do, but in those ten steps back I came up with this:
“Guys, I love you. I love Daddy. I love Joseph. I love Sarah. And I love Anna. Mommy was wrong. I was wrong for my attitude and for getting so angry. I want to have fun with you. Do you think we can start over?”
My family responded with a heartfelt, “we forgive you” and, “we love you” and then did something I will never forget. They began admitting their own contributions to the Ward family “moment.” Each one said what they did wrong and asked for forgiveness. They had followed my example.
That’s when I came up with the “wipe the slate clean” thing we do. I told them to pull out an imaginary slate (I explained it’s like a chalkboard, they got it.) and pretend to write down the things they shouldn’t have said or done and then we would pull out our imaginary erasers and wipe them away.
And that’s what we did.
On the same sidewalk where I had my meltdown, we wrote down our wrongs and wiped them away. We had a clean slate. A new start. Another chance to get it right.
“This is why Jesus came, kids. Forgiveness. God knew we could never be good enough on our own so He sent Jesus to take our punishment. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, our slates can be wiped clean. We can have a new heart. Ok, now who’s ready to hug it out and go have some fun?”
It turned out to be an awesome vacation and one of my best parent moments.
My kids are now 13, 16 and 18. We have wiped our slates clean more times than I can count. When things start unraveling in our home, tempers flare and words are carelessly thrown around any one of us will say, “Hey, we need a clean slate. Let’s start again.”
Kids don’t need perfect parents. Which is good news for you and me because perfect is not possible.
Kids do need imperfect parents who are willing to humble themselves, admit their wrongs, ask forgiveness and let it go.
When we do this we give our kids a front row seat to the gospel, the grace of God, Jesus living and breathing right in front of their eyes. Our kids are watching and waiting. Let’s make sure we give them His best.
“He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” Psalm 103:12
About the Author:
Autumn Ward has been a writer for The reThink Group’s First Look preschool curriculum for the past 10 years and is the Creative Director for Parent Cue Initiatives. She believes every parent can be a spiritual hero in their child’s life and it’s never too soon to begin sharing God’s story of love with them. Autumn and her husband, Chad, live in Cumming, GA with their three teenage children Joseph, Sarah, and Anna.