When I was seven, I couldn't wait to be asked to be a helper. The teacher would ask for a volunteer and my arm would wag excitedly as I hoped that the teacher would pick me.
At seven, I knew the joy of serving. Most seven-year-olds do. But trying to preserve that joyful servant's heart in a world that taxes our time and energy can be a real trick, and it's not something we can do alone.
Many of us "grew out of" our servant hearts, but we have a second chance in our children who still long to be "Mommy's little helper". With the help of the Holy Spirit, it is our task as parents and youth leaders to continually encourage the joy of service in our children's hearts, and to teach our youth to prioritize their lives based on God's plan and not the world's.
In youth ministry programming, we often use John 13:1-20 to teach servanthood. Jesus washed His disciples' feet, and, no doubt, the disciples' feet were pretty disgusting. Yet, Jesus, God, Creator and Savior, washed the filth from His friends' feet. He made a job for slaves majestic and honorable. Christ made serving something every Christian can consider a privilege.
Sometimes, young people feel they have little to offer. Nothing could be further from the truth. God equips His children with many skills and backs them with His power. And He has given them parents and youth leaders who love them and want what's best for them. Once young people understand that God has called and equipped them they are usually empowered to serve. Once they see their parents and other respected adults modeling service, they are usually more than eager to follow suit.
Youth workers and parents must work to help their youth serve. It's important that youth witness the joy the adults in their lives receive from serving. And it is important that youth be given service opportunities.
Young people are amazing when they are given the opportunity to serve. They make it fun. They rarely disappoint. And when adults serve alongside them, both the youth and the adults reap some incredible benefits.
Parents, create servant events for your families. Many Christian parents teach and witness the joy of being Christ's servants to their children by creating servant events for their families. These parents have discovered that when their family members serve together they benefit greatly as a family. Not only do they experience joy they often end up realizing how much God has blessed them.
One faithful mom whose family regularly serves together said that her family always receives more than they give. She also noted an increased respect between her, her husband and her boys. Serving brought her family closer to each other and to God.
Youth workers, you can encourage family servant events in your congregation. Set aside a Saturday for families to come together to serve in nursing homes, homeless shelters, hospitals or in their own church. Invite your youth to help design such an event and invite their parents. Encourage families to "adopt" lonely or parent-less youth for a servant event day. The possibilities are endless, and the results will be beautiful.
In a world that preaches consumerist domination and encourages selfish gain, it is important that parents and youth leaders work to help youth develop servant ears that hear the needs of people around them. Encourage youth to develop servant hearts that respond to the needs they hear.
In today's world, it may seem unnatural, even unattractive, to be servants; but be assured that living as a servant, and as a family, of God is healthy, joyful, rewarding, and God pleasing.
thESource is published on the Web by LCMS District & Congregational Services - Youth Ministry. The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, 1333 South Kirkwood Road, St. Louis, MO 63122-7295; 800.248.1930; www.lcms.org Editor: Gretchen M. Jameson; Assistant Editor: Dawn Cornelius-Gaunt; Layout: Gretchen M. Jameson. VOL 1 NO. 1 November 2003