Getting your kids to serve

This spring, my middle kiddo took on a pretty big task. After seeing a story on the news about a young boy with a rare genetic disease, she started brainstorming ways to help this complete stranger. So, in the middle of school and work and track season, my daughter organized a fundraiser, recruited her friends to pitch in, and spent hours (and hours!) making butterfly magnets. Then other people joined in and raised money in other ways, and the family of the boy recently received close to $5,000. (And that’s just the beginning.) 

There’s a story in the Bible where Jesus took a young boy’s gift of five loaves of bread and two fish and blessed it so that it fed around 15,000 people. This project might not have been on that same scale, but it really was a privilege to watch God take what started off to be a small effort and bless it beyond what we imagined. 

A number of people said, “You must be so proud” and “You raised your kids right.” Well, first, my heart was full and tears ran down my face as I watched my daughter hug the little boy’s mama on the day we met in person. And, second, I think all three of my kiddos are pretty great, but I struggle with taking the credit for that—after all, they also have their own struggles and weaknesses, and I can see my genetics hard at work there too. 

That said, we did raise our kids to see serving others as just something our family does. And it’s something your family can do too. It’s never too late to get started—or to get others involved too. Here are three aspects to consider when you get your family to serve.

Train your children (and yourself)

We are not born as service-oriented creatures, and it’s pretty tough to break our self-centered habits. My family members aren’t all excited every time we leave for a volunteer opportunity. There are times when we’re tired, feel the pull of other commitments, or simply want to stay home and wear stretchy pants. That’s why the Bible says you need to “train a child in the way he should go . . .” It takes consistent effort and discipline. You don’t wait for the right time or sit back until you feel like doing it. You simply do it. Then, once you do it, it’s pretty close to a 100 percent chance you will be grateful you went because you see how God used you to bless others. Plus with your kids, you get to see the fulfillment of the rest of that previous passage: “. . . and even when he is old he will not turn away from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

When you create a service habit, your children will simply see it as something they do for the rest of their lives.

Pick your charity
With so much hurt in the world and letters asking for your time and money, how do you choose? A few years ago my pastor asked everyone to consider:

  • What breaks your heart?
  • What are you thankful for?

Those are good guidelines for looking for places to donate and volunteer. You can’t do it all so pick one or two. In the past, my family has volunteered with military organizations; charities for single moms and families; and at church, food pantries, shelters, and mental wellness events. Some we serve at consistently; some were only for a few times. But each one of those fit into the two categories.

Need some ideas for your family? Join in on a charity walk or 5K to get some exercise and help your kids learn more about specific causes. Collect supplies for a local hospital or shelter. Visit a nursing home, deliver meals to a family struggling with cancer, drop off a care package for a new mom. Carry a bag and pick up trash on your walk or pay for the people in line behind you. Piggyback on someone else’s project. (Just look at the response when J.J. Watt helped after the hurricane.)

Reap the benefits
When you volunteer, it doesn’t simply help others; it helps you too. Multiple studies show that serving others helps counteract the effects of stress, anger, anxiety, and depression. People who volunteer stay healthier for longer periods of time and have a lower mortality rate. Volunteers are also more self-confident, because they gain a sense of accomplishment and purpose. 

But, do we really need scientific studies to confirm the benefits of simply doing what Jesus has called us to do? Nope. For people who believe in Jesus, we simply do good works because that is what we were created to do.

For more information on helping your children find ways to serve, check out another post  about getting your kids involved. 


Linda Buxa is a writer and editor who, while she was writing this, realized she had never before thought about the mom and dad of the young boy who gave his food to Jesus. She has now. 


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