Kids are right at the center of God’s plan! Throughout Scripture, we see many times that God chose to use young people to accomplish His plans. We believe that God wants to use young people to fulfill His purposes and care for others. We are committed to helping children to develop missional hearts - becoming more aware of the needs around them and seeing themselves as a participant in the story God is writing.
It is our prayer that your family will Dream Big about serving together! We want to challenge you to set aside some time to intentionally pray, think, and dream about how God might want to use your family. We know there are some natural barriers to serving with little people, but there are so many rewards to pushing through the challenges! We invited some other voices, parents on the front lines like you, to share some thoughts that will encourage you in what you are already doing and spark some new ideas too!
We asked some of our very own NCC parents, “What are some of the ways you have encouraged your family to intentionally serve others?”
Here is what they had to say:
Erica Mongelli, Potomac Yard
One of our greatest desires as parents is that our kids would have a heart of service. It can be difficult in this stage of life (our kids are 5.5, 3.5, and 8 months) to find the time and ways to serve, but when we have, it has been so rewarding for all of us. We've found one of the best ways to engage young children is to use the things they already love in service. The past two years at Potomac Yard we have collected handmade Christmas, Valentine, and Thanksgiving cards and delivered them to a nearby retirement home. Not only do my kids LOVE getting out glitter and paint and stickers to make cards, but it is obvious how much joy children bring to the residents we visit as well. Last year during the Thanksgiving card distribution one resident proudly showed their Valentine still hanging on the wall months later. From Valentine’s Day to Christmas, this has become a really special part of our holiday traditions; holiday crafting + service = win, win for everyone!
We have also tried to help cultivate a heart of service in our children by focusing less on the bigger one-off projects (though those are great and super important!), but instead focusing on how we can serve the community around us on a daily basis. We don't actually use the word service with our kids, but instead talk about loving our neighbors. Baking muffins? Take a few extra to a neighbor. Want to get to know your community better? Host a Christmas cookies and cocoa open house for your block. (Another favorite Holiday tradition in our house!) Or if you are anything like our family, you have way more drawings laying around than walls and refrigerators to hang them on! We use them to brighten someone's day! When an elderly neighbor recently fell and broke her hip and wrist, those pictures became perfect decorations for her hospital room, and my kids loved visiting her and bringing something to make her smile.
A common phrase around our house is "We respect people, things, and ideas." Not only is this applicable to why we don't hit our sister, throw a book, or fight over whose suggestion is better, but also why we need to take care of physical space around us. At the park where you play after school multiple times a week? Grab some gloves and pick up the trash littered around, and help rake the leaves. School garden looking overgrown? Pull some weeds. In and of themselves, each of these activities seems small, but they play a part in reinforcing to our children that service is not just something you do, but how you live your life.
Stacy Vidal, Echo Stage
One of the things I love about NCC Echostage is the chance for my son to see that service is integral to church life. “Service” isn’t really a separate concept. Our family arrives early to set-up the Crosswalk Kids check-in table and our two-and-a-half-year-old is right in the middle helping (or trying). Not only is he part of setting up the sign, welcoming families and handing out nametags, but he’s seeing countless other people serving too. He sees men and women working together to move heavy carts of chairs over ramps, tech savvy people setting up cool lights, musicians practicing with their instruments and voices to make music praising God, teenagers who pause to play silly games with him while helping their parents set up tables and muffins. What a blessing! We just bring him along with what we’re doing and trust he’s absorbing a bigger picture too.
Kristin Pushak, Ballston
We pray with our kids for opportunities to serve those around them. It's amazing how God opens doors in our day-to-day life. We have started looking at the ways we are already serving, and then find ways to involve our children in what we’re already doing! My husband Joe and I had an "Aha!" moment when we shifted perspectives from focusing on getting our kids quiet and out of the way for our small group, to involving them in hosting. We shared how hospitality is our heart and Jesus' heart and that we can serve our small group members. Now they look forward to our small group and welcoming our guests into our home and serving tea and snacks from their special menu.
We have also found ways to include our kids in short-term missions and Second Saturday Serve. A highlight this year was serving alongside Gabriella, our oldest daughter, in Haiti. It was one of the most incredible, faith-building opportunities for both her and us! It's amazing how she constantly makes connections in her daily life to our trip.
Prayer has been a huge way God has helped our kids develop a heart of service.One way we've done this is to pray together for the release of the precious girls taken by Boko Haram in Nigeria. We were able to truly rejoice together when some of these precious girls were released. We've also sponsored children through Compassion International and Dalit Freedom Network, which enables our kids to care for another child outside their world.
The Crosswalk Kid's Missions curriculum has been extremely valuable for us in discussing service. Our kids loved going through the boxes and discussing the questions. We discuss it as a family straight up from CWK! We talk about "serving the poor, caring for the sick, and practicing hospitality". Acts 1:8 is another verse that A18 and CWK have highlighted which has helped us discuss service in our home.
Felicia Oland, Barracks Row
When I was a new mom I was blessed with delicious meals. Once I experienced that kind of care, it became my mission to deliver as many home cooked meals as I could. My kids have been my helpers in meal delivery! Depending on where the newly mom lives, I make it an adventure! First, I make the stop to deliver the food and explain to the kids what we are doing and why. Lately, the kids are fighting over which one gets to hand over the bag of food. I pray that when they grow up they will have an automatic response to associate new babies or families in need with delivered food!
Amanda Cutts, Potomac Yard
This is an area that, to be honest, we have a long way to go with our kids. Every day we pray that our kids would grow up to be bold and courageous and generous and kind. So far, God is definitely answering the bold part! Our kids (6,4,2) are all different and are at different points on the generous/heart for others scale. We often miss the moments or the small whispers and we don't always get it right, but the times that we do are huge -- even when it's something so small.
Recently, I was at Costco with our two youngest kids and after we had packed up the car full of food and everything else under the sun and were driving away, we saw a refugee family sitting outside of their old van holding a cardboard sign asking for help. I felt a small tug at my heart and decided to turn the car around. My four year old asked why that family was standing there with a sign and why we were stopping the car. I told him that this was a family who didn't have enough to eat and that we are going to help them. I gave them some of the food we had just bought at Costco and my kids and I said a prayer for the family. This seemed like such a small, insignificant thing - but it has stuck with my son. He often brings it up still, and will use this as an example when we tell our kids that there are people who don't have enough to eat and would love their dinner (when they are refusing to eat dinner!) - he will say "Yes! Like the people at Costco!" I'm not advocating to give food or money to everyone on the street who asks for it, but to be sensitive to what your heart is telling you to do because sometimes there is a lot more to be gained than just the gift of a meal or a little money. I really believe that my kids benefited more from that food than the family we gave it to, and I hope and pray that we will be more sensitive to the everyday opportunities to involve our kids in showing the world God's love.
Here are some additional ideas to get you started!
- Hang a list of NCC missionaries in a prominent place in your home. Choose a night of the week to pray over them by name.
- Host a cookie decorating party with neighbors or friends from a different culture than your own.
- Host a lemonade stand with friends to raise money for a cause.
- Ask your family to donate to a cause instead of buying you a birthday or Christmas gift.
- Collect children’s books for a local school.
- Plant flowers at a local park or school.
- Collect winter blankets, sleeping bags and coats for a homeless shelter.
- Attend Second Saturday Serve (look for family friendly opportunities).
- Choose an NCC missionary to support as a family. Make a commitment to encourage them once a month.
- Serve grieving neighbors or new moms by taking a homemade meal.
- Write letters to children living in another country. Consider sponsoring them over time to develop a relationship.
- Organize friends and family to collect food for a local food pantry.
- Deliver handmade cards or posters to a local homeless shelter.
- Sing Christmas carols at a nursing home.
- Pack a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child.
- Pray for specific people affected by tragic world events. As a family, brainstorm ways to respond.
- Make Blessing Bags for friends experiencing homelessness and keep them in your car to encourage someone at just the right time.
- Host an online baby shower or housewarming registry for someone needing support.
- Write a letter of thanks to public servants in your community.
- Sell toys or clothes that you have outgrown and donate the proceeds to a cause.