Need some ways to help your child serve others? Read more
on how to encourage your child to become a servant!
A couple weeks ago, I was talking to our teen group at our church. As we discussed Jesus washing His disciples’ feet shortly before He gave His life on the cross, the conversation took a turn I wasn’t expecting.
What about when we just don’t feel like or care about serving others?
Everyone wants to serve when it’s fun and exciting! But service that looks like caring for the needs and concerns of others is genuinely hard. And, as I’m sure you know, serving our families or our church FAITHFULLY often means putting off what we want to do and making sacrifices.
For kids, this feels WAY harder—many times, they struggle with long-term goals and internal rewards. Often, their focus is on things that will make them happy right NOW. As far as they are concerned, serving others may seem like a waste of time.
How do we help and encourage our kids to serve when they don’t seem to care?“
Table of Contents
Things to Remember When Your Child Doesn’t Care About Serving Others
Serving Others Is Not Natural
Before we go any further, we need to set something straight. NONE OF US naturally wants to serve others! We are self-focused, selfish humans whose first concern is for ourselves. In this state, we may serve, but mainly for a benefit coming our way. Jesus didn’t have to tell us to love ourselves. In fact, He told us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39) because He knew we already know how to love ourselves!
We naturally care about ourselves, not others. This is especially true for those who have not trusted Jesus for salvation. If your child is not a believer, their lack of desire to serve is simply an outflowing from an unchanged heart. Of course, this is not an excuse to show no concern for others. We still have to hold them accountable to be kind to their siblings and friends.
But if your child who professes to know Jesus still doesn’t care about serving others, here are a few things to bring up with them and keep in mind yourself!
Serving Others Is Modeled in Scripture
None of us likes to be the “bad guy” in expecting hard things from our kids. Maybe serving seems like a battle that you just don’t want to fight or have the energy to encourage. But the good news is that the command to serve others doesn’t come from you!
There’s no question about what Jesus thinks of serving others. Just by coming to this earth as God in human form, Jesus humbled Himself and served. He met our greatest need for a Savior to take away our sin! When we look at this amazing act of service, we know we could NEVER serve in a way as great and wonderful as this. But Jesus does tell us how He desires for us to serve!
Jesus made the idea of serving others real and tangible for His disciples and those who follow Christ today. In John 13, Jesus explains that if He, the Lord and Teacher of these disciples, washed their feet, should they not wash each other’s feet (John 13:14)? But then Jesus goes further. He commands them to follow His example of service and “do just as I have done to you” (John 13:15).
Serving others isn’t just a good or nice thing to do. Jesus calls all Christians to follow His example of service. So when we get pushback from our kids about serving, we can point them to a higher authority. Jesus says to serve!
Serving Others Starts With Conversations
Have you ever assumed something about your kids? Sometimes our assumptions are 100% accurate. But sometimes, when we finally talk to them, we realize something completely different has been going on. Just like a fear we don’t understand or an attitude that comes out of nowhere, the apparent lack of desire to serve others may take a conversation to get to the heart of!
This conversation might involve asking questions about what they personally believe about service. Ask if they have studied what God tells us about service in His Word. If they need a good place to start, suggest they read about Jesus’ example in John 13. Then you can even discuss what they observe in that passage and any others they study!
Another benefit of having a conversation with our kids about serving others is the openness it brings. When our kids know they can come to us about things, it helps us help our kids! These conversations reach their hearts—the whole point of serving in the first place. So before assuming your child doesn’t want to serve, have a conversation about it. You never know what you’ll learn!
It’s Reinforced by Your Joyful Example
Something I have noticed in my life is that I may serve, but I don’t always do it joyfully. I get flustered when I feel like I’m the only one who sees the crumby floors and overflowing trash. I feel like I’m the one always serving at church and others could be jumping in. Of course, this is not really the case. But despite my best efforts, this discontent or anger at the “slackers” definitely shows up in my service.
If this is what serving others looks like, why would my kids want to serve?
Our response to serving others tells our kids about the importance and value of service. If “serving” puts Mom in a bad mood and brings frustration that she takes out on her husband and kids, serving doesn’t look like something good anymore. It looks like an expectation you are guilted or forced into instead of a joyful, voluntary outlet for the love God puts in our hearts! True service will be joyful and loving because it comes from a heart full of love.
If serving puts you in a bad mood, full of frustration, you are sending the message to your kids that serving isn’t a good thing.”
Serving Others Is a Different Way of Seeing
A huge part of serving others is learning to see the needs around us! More often than not, kids don’t have the life experience that helps them realize when there is a need. Plus, they’re just more used to someone taking care of THEIR needs. They probably won’t figure out this new perspective on their own. We have to teach them—just like we teach them *almost* everything else that makes them decent humans (haha!).
Some kids really are naturally better at observing and seeing where service is needed. But others need a little push in the right direction or suggestions to get them started. Our kids may not be good at seeing where they need to serve yet. Or they may even be afraid to jump in and serve. But we can help them!
Serving Others Is Easier When We Start Small
We all know the daunting feeling when there’s a task that seems too huge or overwhelming to tackle. It’s like the feeling when you’ve had paint supplies sitting in the corner of your kitchen for months. You truly want to repaint the walls and cabinets! But it’s ridiculously hard to just. get. started.
The same is true for serving others—especially if your kids don’t really care about serving. If they’re hesitant or just don’t want to, finding small ways to get them started can help! The goal is getting them involved in the physical action first. Then the discipline of serving will naturally lead their hearts to get in step too.
Small Ways to Help Your Kids Start Serving Others
If you can, starting young will help your kids learn a serving mindset early! Small, attainable actions of service for young kids may look like:
- helping their siblings clean up their toys
- wiping the table after dinner
- feeding your family pet
- emptying the clean silverware from the dishwasher
- picking up trash at church
- collecting or passing out papers or worksheets for their teacher
- putting away supplies in their classroom.
Kids who are a little older can handle bigger tasks such as:
- sweeping up crumbs
- wiping down the bathroom sink
- collecting laundry and carrying it to the laundry room
- helping younger siblings to get dressed
- looking out for younger kids while they play
- straightening chairs or collecting items left in seats at church
- joining and helping older siblings in how they are serving.
Maybe you’re already thinking of ways these or similar things will work for your family. This list doesn’t even cover all of the ways your young kids can serve—the possibilities are truly endless!
Teens are capable of so much, but we often don’t expect much from them. Giving them responsibilities in our homes communicates that they are an important part of what goes on! Don’t worry—you aren’t ruining their lives. You’re actually helping them in one of the kindest ways possible.
One great way to get teens thinking about serving others is to encourage them to start where they are. Challenge them to look around the room they’re in and look for one way they can make it better for the next person who enters the room, like:
- taking out the trash
- cleaning the toilet
- straightening pillows on the couch
- cleaning up games, books, blankets, or toys that have been left out
- vacuuming and mopping the floor when it looks dirty
- putting away food
- cleaning up the kitchen after meals.
Though the home is where we start, serving others should spread to outside our homes too! Some ways to start are:
- helping elderly people out to their cars after church
- setting up or tearing down chairs, tables, or equipment at church
- assisting in the nursery or kids’ classes at church
- putting away the shopping cart for a mom with young kids
- cleaning or doing yard work for a neighbor who is unable.
Of course, there are so many more ways than this that our teens are equipped to serve, but having the mindset of “making it better” will help them learn to see needs and know where to start!
How to Make Serving Others Easier
No matter how you end up encouraging your kids to start serving others, all of you need to be on the same page about serving! This is why we have written Becoming a Servant, a Bible study for kids about serving like Jesus. This four-week study dives deep into what servants truly look like. Starting with the example Jesus gave and working through other passages that show us true servanthood, this study challenges you to make serving personal in your home, church, work, and friendships!
The Becoming a Servant is part of our Relationship Series, designed to teach your kids Biblical principles for developing and strengthening Christian relationships. Each bundle box contains five age-appropriate Bible studies: Obey, My Brother’s Keeper, Making Peace, Becoming a Servant, and Navigating Friendships— plus, some fun bonus items! Check out the collection!
Ever since she was a little girl, listening delightedly as her mom read books and poetry out loud to her, Jessica has been enraptured by the power of words. When she is not reading or scribbling down poems of her own, Jessica can most likely be found hiking with her husband or trying out new recipes. She has yet to discover at what point plants, journals, and coffee mugs become *excessive,* but is sure she can still find room for one or two more. Through her bachelor’s degree in English Literature, opportunities to write for various small publications, and experience as a Staff Writer for Not Consumed Ministries, Jessica has grown in her passion for writing and desire to share that passion with others. As she seeks to show the goodness and beauty of God in her calling as a writer-wife-homemaker, Jessica hopes to encourage you in your relationships with family, friends, and most importantly, in your relationship with Christ.