We know we’re to be kind to one another. We know we’re supposed to be tenderhearted. We know we are to forgive one another even as God has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32).
And as we watch our sons and daughters interact with others, we truly desire that they’ll grow into those kind, tenderhearted people who care about the world around them.
But sometimes teaching our children to be compassionate is hard work. They don’t care all that much about others because they (like us) tend to be egocentric. Often, their thoughts are on the new video game or whether or not they can spend Saturday at the water park rather than on helping others. Let’s face it. We live in a country where 95% of us have a lot – and that includes our kids. Unfortunately, sometimes the more a child has, the more he wants.
What can we do? Anything?
- Expose your children to different situations and ministry opportunities. Do you sing at a nursing home or deliver food to the needy? Take your child with you. Even if he is too young to actually help, he will begin to feel comfortable in those types of situations. (However, even very young children can help by cheering up the nursing home residents.)
- Work with your child to accomplish a task. Can your child help stock shelves at the food bank or bake cookies for your neighbors? You might be surprised at how much your children CAN do. Challenge them.
- Go on a family mission trip. Many churches have family mission trips. Take your child to the inner city or even to another country. Allow her to see the poverty and to get a sense that she has helped because she swept up the sawdust while her parents and others from her church were building a community center for the area. Older kids can actually take part in the construction … or teach a Bible lesson to a group of local kids.
- Teach your child to help out wherever he is. Even picking up waste paper after church is helping the maintenance crew – and the people attending the next service. Don’t let him walk OVER a discarded worship folder but encourage him to throw it away or put it in the leftover pile.
- Work on tangible projects. If your family or church is collecting money for Bibles for another country, put pictures of Bibles on a chart and allow your child to color them in as the money is collected. Children will be a lot more willing to do chores (to earn money to give) if they know it’s for a specific item rather than the Smith’s support. They need tangible projects and concrete goals.
- Support a child in another country. Organizations like Compassion International (compassion.com) and World Vision (worldvision.org) can match you with a child who has your own child’s birthday. Through Awana, you can reach a child with the gospel and long-term discipleship for only $10.00 (awana.org).
- Step out of your comfort zone and take the kids with you. Sometimes it’s easy to stand in your church gym and pack boxes for the hungry or make cards for elderly people in the retirement home. But it’s not so easy serving supper to the people at the rescue mission or going out of your way to befriend that new (but seemingly rather weird) family who’s been attending church the last few weeks. When the Lord tells us to be kind, He doesn’t add “to those in your social circle or income bracket.”
Begin by praying. Ask God for wisdom in training your kids to make compassion be a heart response.