Homeschooling opens up a myriad of opportunities for service and allows the parent to display servant leadership that can then be emulated by the children. Servant leadership is the biblical leadership model that Jesus used. He did not sit to the side and give orders. Nor did He leave orders and go off and expect them to have been accomplished when He returned. Rather, Jesus worked alongside His disciples and served with them teaching them and training them along the way.
So how can you as the parent teach service to your children? It starts when they are very little by teaching them to put away their toys, encouraging them to help with household chores and teaching them that they are important to the family because they can help to make the days go smoothly by pitching in. This includes making beds, sweeping, cooking, cleaning floors, cleaning their bedrooms and even cleaning the garage and mowing. Cutting vegetables for stew and fruit for fruit salad are family events. And it is always fun to have the children help you with a special surprise for someone like surprising Dad with a clean garage or really making Mom’s day by having dinner on when she gets home from an activity. I often encouraged a child to sneak into a brother’s room and make his bed for him while the brother was in the shower. The benefits from this game will be appreciated by every mom when the children pick up on the idea and begin to surprise family members and others on their own!
Fun is a part of the equation of training your children for service. One autumn we needed to rake a lot of leaves in the front yard. We divided into two teams and raced to see which team could get their section raked the fastest! The reward was getting to choose a movie that evening, and the losing team had to serve the ice cream!
We put a broom into our kids’ hands as soon as they could walk. They loved pushing the vacuum cleaner as early as age three, and by age nine, their rite of passage was getting to clean the bathroom! Let me explain. On each birthday we gave our children a new privilege and a new responsibility. For example, along with getting to clean bathrooms at age nine, the children also got their bedtimes extended to 9:00. But if the bathroom wasn’t cleaned on Saturday without Mom having to nag, the child lost the bedtime and went to bed at 8:30 with the younger children. By seventeen when our boys started driving, their privilege was getting to drive. The responsibility included doing chores while they were out. If they complained about the chores, they would lose the keys for a week.
So, service starts in the home where the children learn that hard work leads to reward—but the reward is often merely the satisfaction of a job well done! As parents we tried not to criticize when the job was not done up to our standards. Rather, we chose to give a word of appreciation for the effort that was put forth, and then we stepped in and to help the child finish the project to our expectations. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (Proverbs 18:21). We did not flatter them with praise when the job was not done well. Praise always came when we saw hard work and good attitudes.
As the boys’ service moved out from the family to include neighbors, church members and others, we always gave the guarantee that the job would meet Mommy approval. This made the boys work hard, so that Mom wouldn’t need to step in. They took pride in a job well done on their own. Often, service projects included helping Dad and Mom at the church—setting up chairs, putting away tables, even checking the parking lot by driving a golf cart! See, service can be fun! Mom and Dad showed by example and worked alongside the boys. We often raced or just talked and enjoyed the time together as we worked. This is how you teach servant leadership—by example.
When the boys were eight or nine, they began a company called “Any Odd Jobs.” They took flyers to all the neighbors, and we told people at church. Pretty soon their evenings and weekends were full with mowing, taking in groceries, weeding, raking, cleaning attics, etc. They always negotiated the price, often charging a coke to the older ladies that couldn’t afford lawn care. They were eventually able to buy their own riding lawnmower and got a contract with the church to keep the church properties neat and tidy.
Our older boys went on mission trips with their dad to Haiti, Mexico and Russia where they taught karate, played volleyball and soccer and gave away soccer balls. The boys helped to erect a bunkhouse for a school in Haiti, and also constructed a playground. The Haitian boys and girls had never seen swings and teeter totters. Our boys came home with a new appreciation for what they have!
As adults, our boys continue to serve. They are involved with missions in India, in mentoring younger boys, in teaching inner city children weight lifting and karate.
There are opportunities for service all around you. Maybe you have an elderly neighbor that would appreciate your children visiting with him or reading to him. Baking pies or cakes and taking them to a neighbor is a great way to serve others. During the holidays, chipping in by serving meals at a homeless shelter or the Salvation Army can teach your children appreciation and humility. Jesus was the epitome of servant leadership when He knelt and washed His disciples’ feet. The King of Kings, the Creator of the universe, the Lord Jesus knelt at the feet of lowly man and washed the dust off of their feet. Wow! Service requires humility and produces humility. It is hard to put yourself above others when you are on the ground looking up at them!
Hospitals, nursing homes, shelters, local mission groups and your local church all have programs for volunteers. Learn your child’s interests and help them to plug in. One friend has a daughter who loves to crochet, so she crochets hats and blankets for the local fire department and police station to give to children who have lost everything. My oldest son did the story hour at the local library for years because he loves to read and loves children.
Pray that God will show you and your family how He would have you to serve. Teach your children good work habits, the joy of doing a job well, the satisfaction of finishing a job, the humility of doing for others and the joy of serving. Work alongside your children and be the greatest example of servanthood to them. This is a legacy that will serve them well all of their lives and that they will pass down to your grandchildren.