We want to serve, but the little ones pose a very real challenge. How can you serve with young kids?
Check out these practical tips and more fun ideas!
As moms, one of the most important things we can teach our children is to serve others. Not only does Jesus call us to do so, but we are blessed and grow closer to Christ in the process! However, this can be a huge challenge for families with small children. It’s easy to think we’re just in a season when serving with kids isn’t possible, but truthfully, we just need to think outside the box.
Serving with kids—especially with little ones in tow—will look different from how others may serve, and that’s okay! It’s even a good thing. There are ways you can serve and meet needs that others cannot. But sometimes, it’s hard to know how to serve or where to start.
Serving with Kids: 5 Practical Tips and More Fun Ideas!
1. Serving With Kids Can Be Simple
As much as we might be tempted to think the ways we can serve might be too small or unimportant, this is not true! Anything we do in serving with kids is serving God first of all and others second of all. Jesus said even those who give a cup of water in His name are serving Him! We don’t have to do elaborate acts of service or amazing things to serve Jesus.
Serving with kids doesn’t need to be larger than life—simple acts of kind service go a long way! It may be as simple as a smile and “Can we take your cart for you?” to a fellow mom struggling to get her groceries AND children into her car after a shopping trip. The smallest things like this can make a huge difference to someone else!
2. View Serving as an Opportunity to Teach
Because they have limited experience and a smaller perspective on life, kids are very self-focused. It comes naturally to be focused on ourselves—why would we worry about other people? Part of serving with kids is teaching them to look around them and see the needs of others. Until they start realizing what’s going on around them, our kids won’t understand why we should be serving others!
We can start by teaching them to notice small things, like when someone seems sad and might need comfort. But as we continue serving with our kids, we can also teach them to notice as we drive through town how some people seem to live outside all the time or stand on the street with signs. As they start to see people with needs, we get the opportunity to teach them about meeting those needs! For example, we will get to share how the homeless man under the bridge does NEED food. But is a cookie or milkshake going to be the kind of nourishment that is most helpful? A better way to meet that need is probably with bottled water and protein bars.
Once your kids have started learning to think this way, ask them to look around and tell you what needs they see. Encourage them to think of ways to meet those needs and tell you their ideas. You may need to guide their thinking A LOT at first. But keep encouraging them—soon they will be telling you about ways they served without your prompting!
3. Serving With Kids Means Giving Them Achievable Tasks
It kind of defeats the purpose of serving with kids if we are the ones doing everything! Getting our kids involved personally by giving them kid-sized tasks and responsibilities will help them take ownership of their ability to serve. Kids are so creative—you might be surprised how much they can do or what problems they can solve when they are involved in tasks they can handle on their own.
Don’t burden yourself by feeling like service has to look like a perfectly curated four-course dinner delivered to someone’s home. Serving with kids never looks perfect and often involves a mess—but it will be a sweet mess because you served together. Tell your kids you’re going to write notes or make drawings or paintings for an older lady in your church who can’t get out on her own very much. Ask them for suggestions of snacks or small, comforting things to cheer up a friend or family member who is in the hospital. When we ask for their input or make them responsible for age-appropriate tasks, kids will enjoy getting to serve!
Serving with kids never looks perfect and often involves a mess—but it will be a sweet mess because you served together!”
4. Intentionally Make Valuable Memories
Make serving valuable—these moments can stick in your child’s mind for a long time, so make it something they remember as important in their life!
Some of my most detailed memories are of the many opportunities to serve that my parents involved me in from a young age. Whether it was visiting the nursing home weekly where we sang, played the piano, and talked with the residents or keeping an eagle eye out for visitors at church so we could welcome them and show their kids to their classes, my earliest memories include my parents encouraging me and leading me in serving.
When we intentionally and habitually serve with our kids, they will make memories that stay with them for the rest of their lives! These early memories will become valuable parts of how our kids view serving and, consequently, how they view life. They will value our teaching and guidance when they have their own families someday and are teaching their children to serve as well!
5. Prayer Is a Crucial Part of Serving With Kids
It’s so important that we continually direct the focus of serving back to God. We don’t serve to make ourselves look good or to feel like we have done our duty. We serve to honor God and bring glory to Him by spreading His love! This is why praying that God will give us opportunities to serve is a great place to start. Then we need to keep praying when He shows us needs so we can have the wisdom to meet them in a helpful way! Finally, after we serve, it’s a wonderful practice to direct our hearts to God by praying He blesses our service and brings forth fruit from it. It’s pretty hard to be selfish or proud about serving when we continually direct our hearts to God in prayer!
More Ideas for Serving With Kids
Maybe you’ve heard principles about serving your whole life, but no one ever talks about what it looks like. We may get all energized to serve, do one big day of service, get completely burnt out, and let serving fall by the wayside. The best way to make something a part of our everyday lives is to make it a habit! So here are some ideas of what serving with kids actually can look like as you seek to make it a habit in your family:
- Fill a gallon ziptop bag (or several) with toiletries, protein bars, socks, etc., and give it to a homeless person.
- Ask your kids to pick two or three items that would cheer them up if they were sick (a teddy bear, crayons and a coloring book, a blanket) and deliver them to a child who is in the hospital.
- Write notes to send in the mail or deliver to elderly people in your church or community.
- Make “get well soon” cards or pick up medicine, tea, and snacks for a family struggling with sickness.
- Pull weeds or rake leaves for a neighbor who can’t do it themselves.
- Find one new family at church to greet, be kind to, and establish contact with throughout the week.
- Ask your kids what they would like to say to a friend and text the parent with your kids’ encouraging message.
- Bake cookies to give to families in your neighborhood.
- Bring extra snacks to the neighborhood pool or community playground to share with the kids there.
Discipling Them at Home
Ultimately, learning to serve starts right in our homes! Because we believe this is incredibly important, we have written Becoming a Servant, a Bible study for all ages on serving like Jesus. In this study, your kids will learn why we serve, what a servant truly looks like, and how they can start serving. Whether you have pre-K kids who can’t read yet or older kids who need encouragement in learning to serve, we have something for you!
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!
Through practical tools & Bible-based resources, Kim Sorgius is dedicated to helping your family GROW in faith so you can be Not Consumed by life’s struggles. Author of popular kid’s devotional Bible studies and practical homeschooling tools, Kim has a master’s degree in education and curriculum design coupled with over 2 decades of experience working with kids and teens. Above all, her most treasured job is mother and homeschool teacher of four amazing kiddos.