I have been blessed over the last 20 years to serve in the church in two areas that are close to my heart: music ministry and childrenâ€™s ministry. Some of my most lovely memories are the times I combined these two ministries together; like when I taught my Sunday school students a Motherâ€™s Day song I had written to honour my own mother. It was touching to hear their pure voices sing so earnestly as they looked over at their respective mothers. There wasnâ€™t a dry eye in the church.
As a former teacher and childrenâ€™s ministry leader, I have seen first-hand how kids are impacted when they use their gifts to serve others. Singing their heart out to their mothers is an example. Here are a few more ideas as to how to engage children and youth in acts of service.
- Â Â Â In a unit that combined entrepreneurship with service, I researched and/or came up with unique, cute ideas for assembly-line crafts that were simple enough for students of varying ages and abilities to do. The kids then sold what they made (doing a concurrent bake sale also helps) to other children/families. They were very excited to raise enough funds to purchase a pair of bunnies and a goat for an impoverished family in a third-world country. While I did this in a classroom, you could easily do the same for a Sunday school class or even within your own family.
- Â Â Â In my city, there is a store called â€śTen Thousand Villagesâ€ť which provides retail space for artisans from third-world countries. The money made goes directly to the individual artist, to help them financially support their families. I brought my students to tour the store, shop, see a video presentation, and help pack emergency supplies for countries experiencing natural disasters and famines. Afterwards my students said it was their favourite field trip that year.
- Â Â Â My teen helpers at Sunday school were just as engaged as the children in creating hand-made blank cards to send to military personnel overseas so that the soldiers could send the cards back home to their loved ones with their own special message inside. There are a number of organizations that do this; hereâ€™s one: http://operationwritehome.org/.
- Â Â Â Another time we built a tower of coins as tall as the pastor (and he was REALLY tall!) to raise funds to support an outreach to disadvantaged children in India. I found rigid plastic transparent tubing with a diameter big enough to easily accommodate a Canadian â€śtoonieâ€ť, our largest coin. My husband helped me clamp the hose to a board of the same height. Then we rested the board against the wall, with a chair nearby so kids could stand on it and drop their coins in it themselves before Sunday service. The adults were just as excited as the kids to see the column of coins grow week by week. It didnâ€™t take long for us to fill the tower and send the money off to those in need.
Kids love to make crafts, and I have worked hard to find really unique things for the children to make that fit with the scripture reading for the day. Of course the children often wanted to keep the things they made, but I encouraged them to pray about whether they should keep their craft themselves, or give it someone else. One of the most heart-warming things I had the kids make was a â€ślove letterâ€ť. We used a tiny (about 1â€ť by 2â€ť) envelope punch and I had the kids glue the flaps together then compose a short message on an equally tiny piece of cardstock to give it to someone in the congregation, their neighborhood, or their school; whoever was on their heart as needing encouragement. Sometimes they wrote their letter to Jesus. I even got one a couple of times.
The secret to a successful engagement of kids in acts of service is to make it fun; make it hands-on; give them the opportunity to make decisions; and let them see in a concrete way, how they can make a difference. Happy serving!
Sally Meadows is a two-time national award-nominated singer/songwriter and freelance writer from Saskatchewan, Canada. Â Her latest CD is â€śRed & Whiteâ€ť. Sally continues to pursue her passion for serving â€śthe least of our brothers and sistersâ€ť through her work as an Artist-Ambassador with Compassion Canada (https://compassion.ca/ambassador/sallymeadows; for US citizens please go to http://www.compassion.com/.
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