Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.
As a mom I know the value of setting an example for your children. My children mimic me sometimes to their detriment. Maybe grumpy mornings are my fault after all. This is an important step of parenting. I pray daily that my children will Love God and because of that want to please Him. I pray that my life can be used to point them to Jesus. I want to show them how to Glorify Christ with their lives.
I have always prescribed to the training method at the hospital of: Watch, Try, Do. I have trained many nurses over the years and have benefited myself from this theory of mentorship. I demonstrate the care to the nurse (Watch), let them try the process with my direction (Try), so that they can ultimately do it on their own (Do). But with my children I have lingered too long on the Watch step.
I know I am training my children so that one day they can leave the nest. I cringe when letting my children Try do many tasks including laundry, chores, and cooking; yet I allow them to “fail” for their good (despite having to go behind them and redo it). We do this because we know that it is a necessary step. But when it comes to ministry I get stuck on Watch. I plan the homeless goodie bags and let them “help” me assemble them. I instruct them what to write on a card to a newly adopted cousin. I have them drop off a meal to a sick friend that I volunteered to bring and prepared. They assist me when I have setup duty at church. Now these are valuable experiences for my children, but I need to move on from Watch. I need to let them Try ministry so that one day when they don’t have me in their ear, they can actually listen to God and Do.
Maybe I shy away from the Try stage because often the mentored messes up royally. I can handle that in laundry or dinner, but not in ministry! That has to be perfect because it is for God…or does it?
It reminds me of the one time I attempted a prayer walk with my children alone and it was a disaster! I set out with three children to walk just a block around our neighborhood street. They were so excited! And about 10 feet into the walk, before we had whispered one prayer, my daughter fell and scrapped both her knees. She then of course, wanted me to carry her the entire way. She was crying, loudly, and said she did not want to pray. My firstborn, was oblivious to his hurting sister, and was walking up to every house with prayer hands to pray for his friends. At every stranger he would yell “We are praying for you!” My youngest was just running. So there I was chasing a child, holding a wailing child with blood dripping, being followed by a town cryer. This was not what I had in mind. But my children remember praying for their neighbors! They felt a connection between their prayer life and actual people in their lives. They often bring up wanting to pray for people right away in public and not waiting for bedtime. This Try stage was by no means perfect but it was valuable and I believe God glorifying.
So how can we let our children practice ministry so that they are prepared to Do ministry on their own? We need to get out of the way after letting them Watch. We need to let them dream and listen to God. Of course you can direct them but let them own their own ministry.
Here are some ideas to get started:
1) Take a prayer walk in your neighborhood or around your church
2)Let your children pray both at home and in public
3)Ask them what they want to do for someone who is hurting
4)Implement a Kindness Day but leave it open ended to your children’s ideas
5)Let them serve at church
6)Ask them which friends they want to talk about God with and how that conversation went
7)Ask them what group of people they see that need the love of God and what they would do to show God’s love to them
There are so many places to do ministry. I am trying to get better at stepping aside to let my children Try. And it won’t be perfect–Like when my daughter tried to close the deal on my son’s salvation situation, but ended up saying “Well, I guess he is going to Hell. You talk to him Mom.” But you might be surprised at how God uses your children. They will love being used by God and will recognize their role in the Christian community. They might come up with ministry that you have never thought of or do it in a new way. I am often blown away (and convicted) by my child serving at our local church as a “cheerful giver.” I can’t wait to see the ministry my children have the privilege to be apart of in their future, as they Do ministry.