Teaching Children To Serve~Guest Post

by adustyframe ~ July 30th, 2013

One of the challenges in having five children in a wide range of ages – 21 months to 13 years in my case – is that it can be hard to find outreach and volunteer opportunities to do as a family. It is not easy to find places that will allow us to take a 21-month-old to “help” work!

Over the years we’ve become pretty creative in helping our children learn to reach out and contribute to the world around us and to our church. We’ve also learned a few things along the way…

Four key lessons:

• As with anything, start early! As you’re working around the house or walking down the street, get the toddler involved. Ours loves to help throw trash away, vacuum or push chairs in under the table, etc.
• Set the example: as your children see you working around the house or helping others, they might still take a while to recognize those opportunities to help on their own, but at the least, they will be less likely to balk when asked to be part of a greater contributing effort of the family.
• Make it fun whenever you can. Not all volunteer work is going to be fun, but the more we try to include rewarding moments or fun times, the more our children will look forward to their volunteer time, as opposed to seeing it merely as a “duty.”
• Keep an open mind to what opportunities are there for volunteer work. This is perhaps my most important of the three lessons learned. For years, I put of dong any physical volunteer work because you can’t take a toddler to a food bank to “help.” Really, until your child is about 13, very few places that assist homeless people will allow a child to help. This is partly because of liability issues, and partly because (let’s face it), the younger a child is, the more he’s going to need hand-holding and redirection to do a good job.
• Find a good mentor. This is especially important for boys, it seems. Having a strong, positive, male mentor that may – or may not – be a family member can really help a boy’s attitude about working for others.
• Help the children see the importance of even the smallest jobs. They may not always recognize that sweeping or vacuuming (jobs often done out of the limelight) is just as important as serving the food, which is done in a more public view.


Good places to look:

So where is a good place to look for family-based volunteer opportunities? Well, I’ll throw out some examples of what we’ve done or seen done by others in hopes that it will help fire up your imagination and make you ready to grab opportunity when it strikes.

• Walk around the neighborhood two or three times a week with sacks and gloves. Pick up trash that you see along the way.
• When you hear about other families having major changes or life events, invite the kids to help make a few freezer meals for that family – or have them help make a few to keep in the freezer for when those occasions arise. Sometimes it’s even nice to make a meal to give out “just because”.
• If you belong to a religious organization, there are often good opportunities to find there especially: yard clean up days, spring cleaning, getting and sorting food and clothing donations,
• Our oldest three sons now serve as acolytes each week; girls of a similar age to our boys have opted to join the choir, help pass the collection basket, helped as greeters or help in other ways.
• Our family stays behind on occasion to do the weekly cleaning of the church.

• Children can help gather care packages and supplies to be sent to deployed military men and women.
• One child saw a pamphlet for SAMP (Support a Mission Priest) at church last year and determined he was going to raise at least $50 to send in (and he made his goal! In return they sent him a lovely wooden ornament at Christmas time.)
• We have gone to “welcome home” events at BWI airport in the past as well.
• Visit a nursing home – granted, you should be very aware of the energy level and how tired/hungry/cranky Susie is right then, but it can be a great way to emphasize that our elderly should not be forgotten. Many Homes will accept children as young as 8 or 9 to work as candy stripers

Encouraging our young ones to look for and solve problems in the world can bring amazing volunteer opportunities your way, right from inside their own minds! Here are a few more prominent examples of that as well…

In short: If a family looks beyond food banks and soup kitchens, there are many opportunities for children of nearly all ages to serve, and the more we serve together as a family – whether at home or “out in the field” – the more likely it is that our children will look to serve as teens and adults.

“Melissa Edens is a stay-at-home, work-from-home mom to five. Her blog is “niche-less” but focuses on homeschooling, healthier living, sometimes-healthy-but-not-always vegetarian and vegan recipes, working from home, Young Living Essential Oils, supporting military troops, reviewing good products, and living life with a large group. When she has a little extra time, Melissa likes to mentor others in her various ministries. Life is full of Joy – go out and grab it!”



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