Jesus called us to follow his example of service by laying down his life. How can we teach our kids to put others first and not just seek to be the best?
By Contributing Writer Liz,
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness. -Philippians 2:5-7
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul describes Christ as taking the very nature of a servant.
The King and Creator of the entire universe came to us as a lowly, humble servant.
Repeatedly through the Bible we are called to think of others before ourselves and to act in service to one another.
It can be tempting (at least for me) to think of serving as being these big, grand acts, like being a missionary overseas, pastoring a church, feeding the homeless, making BIG sacrifices to serve in BIG ways.
While these are most definitely amazing things, the small, daily acts of service mean just as much – routinely putting others before yourself, the ability to find joy in bringing another joy, being humble and lifting others up.
Although there are many ways to serve, there are three main areas of service I want to instill in my children as they grow up in our family.
1. First Place Isn’t Always the Best Place
Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.” – Luke 9:48
Our culture is obsessed with being the best.
And while there is nothing wrong with doing your best, first place isn’t always the best goal. Especially when you are looking at things from God’s perspective.
God cares much less about the place of prestige you are in and much more about your heart and how you are using the gifts He has given you to serve others.
Being part of a family gives one plenty of opportunity to practice not always being first. Every day I am breaking up fights over who gets to be first or who gets to win the game. These moments are great for lovingly pointing to the example of Christ to think of others more highly than yourself.
Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. – Philippians 2:3-4
2. We Were Given Gifts to Bless Others
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. – 1 Peter 4:10
God blesses and gifts each of us in different ways, but one thing remains constant – we were blessed to be a blessing. Our gifts are not for us to horde to ourselves, they are to be used to serve others.
There are many ways to include your children in this way of serving, but a big one for my aged kiddos is sharing. How great would it be to instill in our children a heart for sharing their gifts with others?
And while I don’t think that forcing your child to share their most prized possession will do a good job of giving them a heart for service, I do think that we can begin to gently show them the joy that comes from blessing others.
We can also lead by example in giving of our own gifts, whether it be money, time, or talents. Including our children in the process, explaining to them what we are doing and why as we go along, can be a great way to draw them into the love of serving.
Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. – Ephesians 4:28
3. We Will Be Known By Our Love
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. -John 13:35
With all the craziness going on around us in the world, the one thing that Christ said we would be known for is our LOVE.
Not our social status, our politics, our skills, or our wealth – our love. And to show the world that we are His disciples is to point the world to the One that we are following.
And what is one of the best ways to love others? By serving them of course.
I want my children to know that the most important thing they can be known for is their love. While being known for academics, excelling at sports, or being great artists would be nice – having kids that are known for their love and how it points others to Christ would be amazing.
One way we can do this is by pointing out when we see them acting in a loving way, much like we would when they do well on a homework assignment or score a goal in the big game.
(I am actually going to be doing a whole series on teaching your kids about loving God and loving others soon over on my blog, Steadfast Family. I’d love for you to follow along here so you can join us!)
“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
– 1 Corinthians 13:13
We must pray for our children.
There are a lot of things that we as parents can do to instill a love of serving in the hearts of our children. However, the most important thing I haven’t yet mentioned – and that is prayer.
Pray for them to have hearts that desire to follow after Christ’s example. I know I could definitely use improvement in this area, because it is so important.
While as parents we are in the business of discipling our children’s hearts, we know that the real heart work is done by the Holy Spirit. Let us never cease praying for God’s work in our children’s lives.
Serving Like Jesus in the Mundane
Richard Foster writes:
In some ways we would prefer to hear Jesus’ call to deny father and mother, houses and land for the sake of the gospel than his word to wash feet. Radical self-denial gives the feel of adventure. If we forsake all, we even have the chance at glorious martyrdom. But in service we must experience the many little deaths of going beyond ourselves. Service banishes us to the mundane, the ordinary, the trivial.
Jesus’ greatest act of service was dying on the cross – definitely a grand and magnificent feat. But the simple act of washing his disciples feet, THAT was service. Look at what Jesus said after that small event:
Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. – John 13:14-17
It is in the washing of feet, a mundane job reserved for a lowly servant, that Jesus commands his disciples to follow his example.
This is the example that I want to follow and it is how I want my children to live as well. The great thing that I have discovered is that there is no better place to learn a heart for service than in the home.
What ways do you use the home environment to teach your children to serve?
Other Resources You Might Like:
- 10 Books to Breathe Life Back into Your Home
- The Three Main Purposes of the Christian Home– Made to Give Life Podcast Episode 14
- 5 Myths About Hospitality that Can Keep You from Serving