A few months ago, we were at Verizon getting a new phone for our oldest. The sales guy was kindly showing us our options of different phones and when he found out which “prominent” community we live in, he said, “Oh, you are definitely going to need to get her this iPhone because every kid in that community has one.” End of sales pitch. Sadly, he was talking to the wrong parents because we don’t parent our kids based on what everyone else is doing or based on what everyone else has.
Our older two children have been to Africa with us and have seen that we are beyond blessed in America and don’t need anything and everything our culture says we need. Is that always easy: no. Do we still get fun things: yes. However, we want to raise our kids to have servant’s hearts. We want to raise them to have eyes that see needs and seek to meet them because they love Jesus and people more than things and themselves. We want them to have a heart for the poor, for the orphan, and for the widow. We want them to love big. We believe that starts early on in life. It starts with us as parents. If we are not doing it, we shouldn’t expect our kids to be doing it.
We live in a culture in which we are daily bombarded with commercials, billboards, advertising, movies, and slogans, which promote and sell the idea that we deserve, that we are entitled to, that we need to satisfy our wants, our needs, our goals with whatever our hearts and minds desire. A “me first” culture is so hard to live in and let alone hard to parent in.
If we want our kids to have servant’s hearts, it must start with us. When we picked this family value, we had to ask ourselves, “Do we really value being a servant? Are we even servants? Where and how are we serving God and others?” or “Are we self focused and seeking to satisfy only our needs and wants?” “If we want to have servant’s hearts, how are we going to do this as family. How are we going to make time to serve? What are we going to give up?” Tough questions to ask as parents, if you honestly answer them.
God has always placed us in ministry in wealthy suburban areas precisely some of the wealthiest areas in the country. Places where it is easy to get caught up in keeping up with the Joneses or living in bubble of what is not reality in most places. However, in those environments it is amazing to see what God does when people surrender to giving their time and their resources to loving and serving God and others especially when serving pours out of the church building and busts out the doors into our surrounding communities, countries, and cultures.
One of the greatest things is serving side by side with our kids. In doing this, yes, it might take a little longer: that’s ok. It may not be picture perfect: that’s ok. You may have to show them or teach them how to do a new task: that’s ok. Just remember to encourage them. Cheer them on when you catch them serving. When our kids were little, we would start by baking a meal for someone who is sick, serving in the nursery together, helping a neighbor do a project, or prepping for a ministry event together. For the longest time, we served with our kids strapped on our backs…talk about a workout! We have taught them to be aware and taught them the phrase, “How can I help?”…so simple…4 words….”How can I help?” As they have gotten older, we can see how God has wired and gifted each of our kids differently and so we helped them plug into an area of ministry, which fits their passions and giftedness.
As a family, we raised money and dug a well in Bangladesh with friends and we sponsor 2 children in Africa and our kids take time to write them and pray for them. Not because we are great, but because we love Jesus more and we want Him to use us as family and as individuals in His kingdom. It might mean giving up the next new thing, so we can help feed a little boy or girl who has needs that far outshine our wants. It might mean giving up time and helping someone, even when it may not be the most convenient. It might mean giving something up and saving up, so a mission trip is possible.
Servant’s hearts. Start small. Start with yourself. Start praying for God to instill a servant’s heart in your children’s hearts. Start looking for opportunities to serve as a family. There is something life giving and fulfilling about denying yourself, taking up your cross, and following Jesus. God made us to love and to love big.