A few weeks ago, I wrote about the “yuck” I feel when my kids don’t want to serve. I promised I would share some things God’s been teaching me through it. These aren’t necessarily tips or guidelines in what to do with your child. These are simply lessons I’m passing on, in hopes that they will help you, too (I seem to learn best by mistakes—how much better if they are some else’s).
Lesson #1—Serving doesn’t define who they are or who we are as a family. It can be something we feel passionate about, but it is not who we are. We are in Christ. Let me clarify this a bit.
I think all families should have things that they are about—things that they all come together and rally around. It can be their kids’ school, it can be their church, it can be their neighborhood, a family, or an organization. You get the idea--it can really be anything. In fact, maybe it’s just about a concept—like serving—and you expose your kids to different ways to do that.
There’s a fine line, though, between this and creating an identity. We do these things out of an overflow of Christ in us—not FOR Christ or to impress Him. Since kids are such concrete thinkers, they sometimes mix this up. It’s our job to constantly turn them back to the Bible and reiterate the truth about who they are in their core. To make sure they know that even if they never served again, your love for them would not waver or change.
Lesson #2—Don’t take the refusal at face value—dig deeper. Usually—especially with kids who live in the day to day—their push-back is because of something else. When we talked about it the next night, Hope told me that she was tired and felt like we were always doing Lovepacs stuff and she just wanted to stay home and watch TV. So we talked through it. For once, I didn’t get defensive; we looked at a calendar and counted how many times we went to Lovepacs. In light of everything else she saw on our calendar, it was minimum. BUT, I did allow her to say how much she thought was too much and how much was enough. We also talked about the ebb and flow—there are some weeks things are busier (I related them to a soccer tournament—it’s a lot during that one weekend, but we don’t do that on a consistent basis). We also talked about whether we needed to lighten up on some other things so that it didn’t feel like we were gone every night. It was a great give-and-take discussion.
Lesson #3—Know your kids. I know that Hope doesn’t like things sprung on her. I had been planning to go to Lovepacs that night, but had failed to tell her we were doing that back when we decided to. She’s a creature of habit and is not scared to do different things, but likes to know what to expect. If I’d have done a better job in this case, she wouldn’t have lashed out at me. I can’t always forewarn her (and she’s learning about flexibility), but most of the time, I can give her time to get used to the idea.
Lesson #4—Give them a say in what you do. Just because you are passionate about it, doesn’t mean it touches them. Ask lots of questions.
· What do they see as a need around them?
· What do they like to do? Do they like kids?
· Do they prefer to be around older folks?
· Would they prefer to do something nobody sees or do they like to be in the middle of a group of people working together?
These types of questions can help narrow down what you want to do together. It shouldn’t box you in—you can find most of these types of things in the same serving experience—you just have to be intentional about the part your child is involved in and how you talk about it afterward.
Lesson #5—It’s okay if you show up to serve and they spend most of the time playing with other kids instead of serving. In the beginning, I tried to get my kids to come in, pack boxes and pray over them. They preferred to play football in the backyard. They are finding their own community. If I give them a task list, it sucks the joy out of it for them. Also, I had to look at my reasoning for wanting them to pack—and honestly, part of it was that I felt that if we were asking others to do it, my family should be leading in it. That’s not necessarily wrong, but it also made me put expectations on them to perform for others. Again—it’s a fine line to walk on this one. When I give them space and don’t expect them to do it, they are begging to be a part of it.
These are just a few lessons I’ve been learning. What have you learned with your family?