My wife and I with our two daughters, ages 3 and 4, were helping with a children’s program in a neighborhood center in a transitional area near our church, First Baptist Waco.
Our church had several projects like this around town. One of my girls walked up to me and said, “Look Dad, I found a balloon.” I turned in time to see one of the other workers casually reaching with a tissue to take it out of her hand. It was not a balloon.
From the early days, Treva and I felt that it was important that our children serve alongside us. While we never took a so-called mission trip together, we did many projects in our town and church together. These encounters brought us in contact with many different kinds of people and offered many different types of experiences.
Diana Garland in Family Ministry: A Comprehensive Guide (1999/2012) argues that there are long-term benefits for faith in helping families serve together. This fact really resonated with me as a minister and professor of children’s and family ministry.
In my own family, I have seen the benefits of service with the family in the following ways:
Advocacy - My oldest daughter Katie is in law school focusing her attention on representing children and families who do not have advocates. In college, she served at FBC Waco coaching several sports teams for children and hosting events for families in the same transitional neighborhood. Her passion to serve Christ and these children is an encouragement to me as a Christian.
Actions – Claire, who is in nursing school, came home after her first clinical and told me that on her first day she helped bathe an 84-year-old woman and that she was honored to serve this saint in such a manner. She especially felt this way when she saw the serene smile on her face as she rested in her bath refreshed by the experience. Claire also volunteers with children with special needs at church and in a neighborhood ministry in East Dallas.
Acceptance – All three of my children are far more proactive in accepting others than even I am. Katie and Claire have always sought out those who did not fit in and are the first to take up arms when individuals are singled out. Katie made our home outside Dallas a way station for students coming and going to China from DFW airport during her undergraduate studies. She also always invited them to her church. Eventually one of these young Chinese women accepted Christ with the support of Katie and the church family.
In these ways and so many others, my children have moved beyond the boundaries of our ministry to chart their own ways of serving Christ. This Thanksgiving, create a tradition of serving that extends beyond a season and becomes a way of serving family style. The benefits for faith, family, and the kingdom may have ripple effects for years to come.
P.S. I do have a son who is a freshman in college, and he too is on a journey of service and faith, but in this post I wanted to focus on my young adult children who are focusing their life and career on service.