Preschoolers are full of energy and most, they love to help adults with their activities.
- If I’m doing some gardening, Timothy (my three-year-old son) want to help.
- If we are design lessons for this site, Timothy wants to help.
- If I’m carrying something way too heavy for a young child, this limitation doesn’t hinder his desire to help.
Watching him reminds me of my childhood. I’d love to help my grandparents work in their garden. I’d love helping my parents bake cakes, especially liking the spoon – yummy! In school, I’d love to help the teacher hand out milk for the other children. There was a good feeling about helping out.
This got me thinking – How can we encourage this natural desire to help / serve in children? It seems to me that desire is there, we just need to create the opportunity for our kids.
In church life, we often think about how we can serve children. We put on new ministries and services for them. Maybe we need to start asking the question “how can we help our children serve?”
Jesus rebuked His disciples who were trying to hold back the children from coming to Him by telling them,
“Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:13-14).
Jesus knew they too have a part in the body of Christ.
You can engage your preschooler in serving at your local church and community so they can learn to serve others. God has given them gifts that No one else has. We should encourage our children to use them for His glory.
The list below will give you 8 ways you can serve with your preschooler. It is not exhaustive and is a good place to start.
1. Helping the Sunday school teacher
Your child can be of tremendous help if shown what to do. Don’t let the little body size fool you. Your child can volunteer to help the Sunday school teacher arrange papers, crayons or items used for crafts, or even usher other children into the class.
Ask her children’s worker if it would be possible for you to come with your child little early a little later than normal start time of their class to help with the setup. Make sure that you go with them to support them. You don’t want to make extra work for the teacher by making them think that you’re asking them to mind your child for longer. You want to help, assist and serve. The goal is to bless them.
Another idea is to stay behind when you pick up your child. Encourage them to help with tidying up toys, put in the way the chairs and so on. This is such a great way for your kids to start serving in their ministry.
2. Preparing gift bags for others
Why not plan a visit to a retirement or children’s home and take your preschooler with you?
Before you go, ask your child to help you pack toiletries and other items into gift bags. They can also help you pick out items to include in the gift bag. Your child will learn to be generous and care for others in their community.
They will learn that we can bless others with the things of God blesses us with and that we are called to be a good steward of our resources.
Visiting a retirement home with some children really encourage some of the older patients rarely have any visitors, in fact, you may be their only visitor.
3. Welcome people at church
Many people have a stereotype of church being filled with old people. What a great way to break this by families welcoming people to the church on a Sunday morning.
Ask your church leaders if it would be possible to go early with your family and welcome people as they arrive.
If you have a church newsletter your child could hand them to people as they come in. People will be so excited to be welcomed by a preschooler, you may just be asked to do it again next Sunday.
Operation Christmas Child annual Christmas appeal in a great way to encourage your child to serve others around the world. They have the option to make a box for children aged 2 – 4, boy or girl. So, you can match someone similar to your child.
Talk to you child about how some children may have nothing for Christmas and how they can help them. You child can help pick the items and pack the box.
Put wrapping paper on the outside and make a small card or picture to include.
Encourage your child to pray for the other child who will receive the box.
5. Decorating cards
You can help your preschooler decorate cards and give them to others. This can be done during Christmas and Easter holidays or throughout the year.
Here are just a few examples:
- Get Well
- Thinking of you
- Thank You
- Praying for you.
These cards will be such an encouragement to someone in need and your child will have a great time making them. To make it extra special, you could take your child along and deliver the card in person.
6. Preparing food for an ill or aged church member
Our communities and church as full of people who area in need, ill or aged.
Ask your child to help you prepare a meal for them, even if it’s as simple as making sandwiches, cookies or baking a pie.
Take your child with you to see the person (if their condition allows for child visits). This will remind them they live in a community and one needs a helping hand at times.
Another idea could be to invite them to eat with you at home or at a restaurant.
7. Praying for others
Many times, we say the prayers ourselves when we visit others or gather with our families. We seldom think to ask our children to pray. Next time why not can ask your preschooler to pray for the food or a sick person.
The prayer can be simple… “Dear God, please heal uncle John. Amen.”
It may sound simple but remember God hears our prayers and answers them.
When “Uncle John” recovers, remind your child of their prayer and ask them to thank God for the healing.
Your child will be confident in praying for others and have the assurance that God answers prayer.
Further reading: 5 simple steps to help your child pray.
8. Taking part in church fund-raising projects
When your church or a mission organization has a fund-raising project eligible for the whole family, bring your child along.
Whether it is a lemonade stand, washing cars, selling cakes, a sponsored walk or other activities, involve your child.
You can assign your child very simple tasks that are age-appropriate and fun.
He or she will know the importance of engaging in what the church is doing to help the community.
As your child serves others, thank them for giving of their time and effort.
Tell them Jesus came to serve others and not to be served and they are to do the same. Following Jesus means serving others.
Buy Bible storybooks that help your child understand more about serving others. They will come in handy when you are trying to communicate to them the concept of serving.
Adopting a culture of serving in your household will help your children grow up focusing on the needs of others and not only self.