My middle son is the kind of boy that always wants to help, but never wants anyone to look directly at him. I can envision him being the man that sets up the classrooms every Sunday but never wants to be on stage. I have a sneaky suspicion that he is going to connect with God best through serving, through being a Caregiver.
Caregivers are those that give immediate care to those in need. Do you have a child that is naturally inclined this way? Maybe they’re the first to rush in with a hug when someone is hurt or they love baking cookies for the neighbours.
The very best thing you can do to help them nurture that gift as a way to minister to people AND to connect with God, is to live out a Caregiver lifestyle yourself.
I’ve struggled in the past with how to help my children develop compassion, since most para-church ministries will not let preschoolers volunteer. Our solution as a family has been to try to model this lifestyle for our children, letting them see when we are giving care to others.
They are engaged in the lives of our sponsored children, and occasionally I have them draw a picture to send. One of our sponsored children was actually our eldest’s idea, as he was drawn to her picture when there was a Compassion table set up at our church.
When I make a meal for a family, I usually bring one of the boys along with me at delivery time.
We let them observe the respect and kindness we give waitresses, panhandlers, and the relationally-challenged.
I have helped them put together Christmas gifts for our neighbours. One time we baked cookies specifically for our elderly neighbour who had been in the hospital. This sweet woman told us that we were the best neighbours she had ever had. It took so little for us to show her love, and it shocked me that our culture has degenerated to such a place that this kind of care is no longer commonplace.
I was reminded that our kids will learn to be different from our self-serving culture only when their adults live counter-culturally.
In a Facebook group for local Christian moms, one mother was talking about the “homeless packages” that she was making. This would be a fabulous way of developing compassion for the downtrodden. Kids could help make packages, pray over them, and even pass them out with their parents.
Older kids can do World Vision’s 30 Hour Famine to raise funds for destitute children. One year I ran a modified famine (20 hours) at my church with the Grade 5/6 kids. We got together on Friday night over the supper hour to write letters and prepare gift packages for our church’s homeless ministry. In the morning we talked about our hunger experience and broke our fast together. The insights these children gathered from simply not eating dinner or an early breakfast was breathtaking.
It IS possible to engage young children in giving care to a hurting world. When we make it clear that this is done because of God’s love, and then do it together in prayer, we pave the way for our children to develop a Caregiver’s sensibility.