By Lucia Ferrara
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”—Matthew 25:40
God has commanded us to teach our kids, to lead them in his ways and his word. As caregivers to our next generation, we need to teach them that serving others is a way you can encounter God. I believe children can be taught this at any age. Matthew 25:40 teaches a lesson about community. Think about it. It talks about serving those in need who are suffering around us.
Children need to know that the family of God needs to feel cared for. Responding to these needs is finding ways to care for the less fortunate and suffering people in our communities. An early Christian writer, Ephraem the Syrian, once said, “The sign that you love God is this: that you love your fellow human being.”
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Children learn how to express love and compassion through example. As caregivers, we are called to teach our kids to be disciples just as Jesus sent his disciples out into the world to have an impact and make a difference. If our aim is to grow in a spiritual relationship with Jesus, then one route to take is serving those around us who are in need. This is really what I consider to be the natural sense of social justice.
There are so many ways you can help your children learn how to love God through service. If you belong to a church community, you can begin right there. For example, some elderly church members sometimes cannot make it to the service or Mass because they cannot drive. If you are old enough to drive then you might want to offer rides to church once a week. Another idea is prepping meals for those in your church family who cannot cook or prepare a meal because of sickness or they are recovering from surgery. Helping to clean house or mow lawns for those who are not physically able is another way you can teach your children to love God through service.
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Moreover, there are tons of volunteer opportunities in your city to help serve others in need. It might be a food drive for Harvesters, serving at a food pantry, or feeding the homeless at the City Union Mission. Have your kids read or play music for folks at an assisted living facility. Even tutoring math to their peers in need at school is a wonderful way to serve.
Parents, we need to raise our children to be caring, compassionate and empathic individuals. Taking action and serving alongside them is key. These values can be more effective than anything else.
Exposing our children to a variety of service experiences and causes fosters their personal development, teaches them skills they can use for the rest of their lives and teaches them about how spiritual growth happens in their hearts. They will learn that they can measure the impact of volunteer service in more than just the number of hours they spend in service.
[Lucia Ferrara is the Director of Hospitality at Precious Blood Renewal Center and the lead organizer here of Parent Cafes. Share your thoughts with Lucia or ask her questions by using the form below or sending an email to email@example.com. Read more about the Parent Café here.]
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