Everyone I know wants to be a success. The world’s definition of success is a lot different than God’s definition. God’s Word tells us that we achieve greatness by serving. Mark 10:43-45 says, “… whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
The more I work with people the more I realize that both children and adults are selfish by nature. None of us has to take a class on how to put ourselves, our wants, and our desires before others. We get that on our own just fine. It’s just the opposite with serving; we have to work at training both kids and adults to have and demonstrate a servant’s heart.
The only way I know to do this is to be intentional about cultivating a heart in kids that cares about others. It all starts with giving them the Word on the subject. Proverbs 3:3-4 says, “Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man.” Whatever we want kids to do, we must always start with the Word. We build kids’ faith on a subject by teaching them the Word on that subject, so they can line up their thoughts with God’s thoughts. Make sure that you teach kids about God’s love for others on a regular basis. 1Corointhians 16:14 says to “Let all that you do be done in love.” In that same book back in 13:1 it says, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or clanging cymbal.” You just can’t separate loving God and loving His people. They go hand in hand.
The next step to cultivating a heart that cares about people is to move kids into action by letting them be moved by love into doing something. 1 John 3:18 says“Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” Hebrews 10:24 goes on to say, “And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” True love moves us into the action of good deeds—deeds that meet the needs in others. I think John 3:16 is really the best verse to show that God’s love always moves us into action. “For God so loved the world (that’s everybody) that He gave (did something) His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” If the God-kind of love moves Him into action and we need to be like Him, it should move us into action.
Step three is to develop a plan to involve kids in serving others. Look for places kids can serve.
1. The kids can help straighten up the classroom after service.
2. Involve kids in serving their peers by serving as ushers, greeters, sound and media helpers, check-in helpers, and praise team participants. Come early to pray before service and let them take the offering.
3. Look for ways they can serve your church. The children’s classes can take turns filling the communion trays. They can serve at a workday. I bet your closets and rooms could use straightening and cleaning. What about a car wash for single mothers of your church done by your kids … free! There are many other things your kids can do within the church, like serve at dinners and other church functions. If your leadership team will brainstorm, I know you’ll come up with ways to put a “heart to serve” in your kids.
4. Look for ways to serve your community. We do food drives a couple of times during the year for “Feed America First.” We organize a toy drive at Christmas. I’ve collected shoes, had kids bring coats in the winter and did a program we called “H.U.G a kid” that provided hats, underwear and gloves for needy kids. Once we even collected toothbrushes for kids in my bus ministry who didn’t have their own toothbrush. I’ve organized school supply bags for needy families and had kids sweep up at an event I did to provide free haircuts for kids before school started. But my favorite that both my own daughters have done most of their lives is to visit and sing for nursing home folks. This is one of the best things you can involve children in doing that gives them a heart for others.
5. I also have always tried to involve children in international missions. There are all kinds of wonderful organizations that you can raise money for. Figure out a way your kids can sponsor a child from Compassion International or World Vision. Franklin Graham’s Christmas Shoebox program is another great thing your kids can do. I’ve had kids make birthday cards for missionary kids and write to our missionaries. There are tons of things you can do when you take a look around while putting your head and heart to it. The sky is the limit!
The main thing children need to know is that you don’t have to grow up to make a difference now in serving others. Every task I’ve ever had a children’s ministry intern do, my daughters have done to help their dad on Saturdays when they were little. I have watched families who look for areas to serve together as a family and when their kids grew up, they still looked for places to serve and give back.
We can also put a servant’s heart in the adults we lead by modeling these 15 rules to live by for serving and caring for others.
1. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Put yourself in their shoes with every decision you make. Desire to be helpful and make a difference.
2. Smile (even if you don’t like to smile or don’t feel like it)! A smile can be contagious. In fact, it can start an epidemic. Never forget that the joy of the Lord is your strength! So if you want to stay strong, watch that joy gauge.
3. Greet everyone like they are special because they are! Just imagine the difference it would make if you had every leader say to all the folks that came to church, “I’m glad you came to church today!” People of all ages like to hear, “I’ve missed you! Where have you been? It is so good to see you!”
4. Maintain a Christ-like attitude no matter what! (WWJD) Look for the overall good in people. I’ve never understood why people choose to believe the worst about others. Be positive! Prepare yourself before people start coming. Get your game face on! Think about why you are here. Get focused. Pay attention and be alert to others. Be upbeat and excited.
5. Think kind thoughts about others. (The ministry is all about people.) Think about their good traits. Remember Jesus loves everyone, so you should too.
6. Take responsibility for your mistakes. Get in the habit of making “I” statements. Never shift the blame. Take notes of what you said you would do and do it!
7. Be a good listener. The best way to show you genuinely care about others is to listen to them. Listen for not only what others are saying but also what others are feeling.
8. Look for ways to go beyond what’s expected. Remember Matthew 5:41, “Whoever shall force you to go one mile, go with him two.” Going the extra mile puts you ahead, and it also sets you apart.
9. Use wisdom. Years ago someone taught me that the voice of wisdom and the voice of God are always the same. A true servant does not walk in their own wisdom but in godly wisdom that comes from God’s Word!
10. Keep communication simple but thorough. Be clear. Don’t use code words or abbreviations. Stick to the point! (Just the facts.) Be honest, don’t over promise and never under perform.
11. Know when to call in a manager or coordinator. When people are angry; when you’ve tried every solution possible and they’re just not getting it; when you don’t have the authority to provide the solution that’s needed; and when you don’t know exactly what to do and when those above you need to know.
12. Thank kids and parents for attending. Say things like, “I can’t wait to see you next week! Thanks for bringing your child.” Tell children, “I’m sure glad you were here today.” One of my favorite things to say to others is, “I had fun teaching you today!” Always go out of your way to thank visitors for coming. You only get one first impression.
13. Brag on positive behavior of children to their parents. Everyone likes to hear good reports about their child’s behavior.
14. Take notes of anything you promised or communicated to adults. Report that to the coordinator or manager who needs to be aware of your conversation. When in doubt, communicate. Over communication is better than under communicating.
15. Follow up and just check on situations of conflict. A little PR goes a long way. Not only is it important to train children to care about others, but our leaders must also demonstrate a true caring heart for those we minister to. You’ve heard me say this before, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” Desire it, teach on it, model it and look for ways to put it into action.