If you are raising a family right now, the bulk of your “giving back” is happening right within the walls of your own home. Do you ever need encouragement that this type of serving counts? Check out what Mother Teresa once said:
“What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.” (emphasis mine)
Powerful words. Creating a family culture of serving one another at home naturally leads to a lifestyle of serving others outside of the home. By raising our kids to live mission-minded, they will take that perspective and apply it to whatever they go on to do in life.
Here are five practical steps to consider taking:
1. Write a family mission statement.
Tsh Oxenreider from The Art of Simple has written a helpful guide to creating a purpose statement as a family. This allows you to decide what your family is all about—and if you recite it regularly—the words will naturally begin to influence your home atmosphere.
Our family doesn’t have an official purpose statement per se, but we do have a family manifesto and an education manifesto that I alternate reading on Monday mornings to kick off a new week with intention.
I can even remember reading these aloud through tears of frustration mixed with mustard-seed faith when my kids were small and bickering loudly at the breakfast table! Now the words have become such a part of our lives that they often recite them with me.
2. Have everyone contribute to the family without pay.
Little children can put away toys and do a variety of simple tasks. Older kids can begin to contribute to the family in larger ways: cooking meals, handling detailed cleaning, looking after younger siblings, and so on.
Not getting paid for this work develops a serving-others attitude, even when there’s nothing in it for yourself. This attitude, which has been around for centuries, is sadly beginning to evaporate within our society.
If you’re wondering how to teach your kids to clean and help within the family, this post I wrote last year might help. My three children (ages 12, 11, and 10) clean each weekday as part of our regular routine. The older two also have extra jobs they do get paid for, which aren’t required but still bless the family. Don’t try to follow our exact formula, but just look at what will work for you and yours.
3. Mention it when you’re struggling to serve.
“I don’t feel like making dinner today, but I know the family needs it so I’m going to set my feelings aside and do it anyway.”
Sometimes when I have a yucky attitude about my own daily tasks, I mention it to my kids. I want them to see that they’re not the only ones who struggle with what is asked of them, and I want to model putting aside my own feelings to serve when it’s right to do so.
Of course on other days it’s best to throw a frozen pizza in the oven, and call it a day! (I did so just last night, come to think of it.)
4. Look for simple needs to meet around you.
A neighbor with a new baby, stamping out hunger each year with the post office, food drives at church, clearing out gently used toys for Goodwill—so many situations arise in our daily lives where we have a small opportunity to impact others.
Take advantage of these as a family, and make sure to share with your kids why you’re doing it and how it will bless others.
5. Start a positivity jar.
A positivity jar is an easy tool to use in your home—one that allows your kids’ good choices to benefit others. Find detailed instructions to make your own here, but here’s a brief overview:
Using a jar and a bag of dried beans, you add one or more beans to the jar when your child makes a positive choice at home. This could be for anything you determine: doing homeschool work diligently, being kind, or completing chores without complaining.
Each bean is worth 10 cents (or whatever amount you decide), and when the jar is full the children get to donate the money to a charity of their choice. It’s a fantastic way to let kids’ service within the home impact those outside of it, which leads to a greater mission-minded perspective.
We have years to spend with our children. Just by raising them with a mission, we create an atmosphere that permeates our home and leads to thinking of and serving others, which I also believe leads to a happier life. And isn’t that what we most want for ourselves and our kids?!
ACTIVITIES & QUESTIONS
- Do you have a mission statement, either as an individual or as a family? If not, make one today! What attitudes, values, priorities and activities do you want to characterize your life?
- How else can you encourage your family to be mission-minded in the midst of the busyness that is family life? Choose another activity from Jamie’s list to put into practice, or come up with your own! The point is just to be intentional about cultivating a mindset of serving.