Last week I wrote about how serving together as a family is important in the long-term faith journey of a child. Another critical component to the likelihood of our children staying connected with the church and with Christ from age 18-29 is if a young person is “entrusted with significant responsibility in a ministry at a young age.”
Interestingly enough, in the post from last week, choosing to serve together as a family naturally led to their daughters feeling a sense of calling and hunger to pursue an ever increasing role and responsibility within the local church. Which came first, their daughters having a passion to serve in a local church of their own volition or their initial service as a family? Modeling precedes independent pursuit, nearly every time.
Research shows there are 5 critical factors in raising children who stay true to pursuing a relationship with Jesus Christ once they leave our homes. What was one of the key factors? Children who serve WITH their families in a faith-based ministry, seemed more likely to stay connected to Christ and the church.
Serving together as families allows for a common experience for all family members. Yet the blessing of having this common experience through serving is actually quite uncommon. From my limited perspective, I would say it is rare to see families serving together.
I interviewed several families who I see regularly serving with their children in ministry. Certainly serving with your children is a good thing. But I wanted to know why. What was their deeper heart motivation to serve alongside one another as a family in a ministry?
Serving as Sunday School Large Group Teachers
Once a month a mom and her 14 year-old daughter present the large group teaching in the 1st-3rd grade Sunday school room. Why?
“It is something we get to do together. It is a way for my daughter to use her gifts. She has a ‘dramatic flair’ and enjoys being in front of others. She is using that side of herself to share God’s word. It’s a blessing to me as a parent to see her serve God. I did not have this opportunity growing up. She has willingness and that makes it really easy to partner together. She loves being stopped in the hall way and when a kid says ‘I saw you teaching in my room!’ How cool for her!”
It’s great that there was a willingness to serve on the part of her daughter. But what if there was unwillingness to want to serve?
Serving in the Nursery
Once a month at 8:15am on Sunday morning I see a family — mom, dad, high school son and daughter and 6th grade daughter — arrive to serve in the nursery. I asked the dad, “Why do this?” He quickly answers,
“As our kids got older, we had to force them to serve in the nursery. They didn’t want to do this. It was too early. But every time we got there, they realized it was so good. After a while, we all realized, it was fun serving together. Over the years they now look forward to being in the nursery together. It pays off as they experience it for themselves.”
Interestingly, he forced them. He knew it was valuable, it would pay off and they would love it. He led his family.
My main question still remained. Why did this dad see that it was worth it to momentarily “endure the groaning” of his kids for the end goal of his kids serving? He confidently said,
“My main reason was to force them to think about someone besides themselves. We will always take care of ourselves. We don’t have to tell them to take care of their own needs. We wanted to instill thinking about someone else. We remember being parents with young kids and needing nursery care. We want to give back. We tell our kids and remind of the why we are doing this.”
He concluded with,
“My kids tell stories all day long after we serve together. They share what some kid said in nursery, funny things a kid did or something that happened.”
A common experience – as a family.
Serving in Local Inner City and International Outreach
I asked a dad of a dynamic family who has served locally in the inner city and internationally with his whole family to explain his motivation for leading his family to serve together.
“I would say initially, we felt the main motivation of serving together was modeling. We wanted to show them the way we wanted them to live and conduct their own lives. It can happen next door; it can happen overseas. It is good for them to see our willingness to take risks, eat foreign foods, and endure the pains of travel. It is not about us and our comfort or preferences. It is about the Good News of Jesus. Beyond modeling, the blessings for us as parents are so rich. There is nothing like seeing God empower your children in ways they themselves have never experienced before. It is powerful to see God use our children, maybe for the first time, in the special way He created them, for His purpose. There is a unique and indescribable family bond that takes place as we as a family actually partner with God – sharing the gospel. The best thing is for them to personally witness and see God provide in unexpected and powerful ways. The testimonies that happen are real and special – and they personally experienced and witnessed God move and provide. These things build our faith – together as a family.”
Amen. Well said.