Blog, On Mission

Serving with Your Little Ones

Each summer my nieces (ages 11 and 9) come down and spend about two weeks with us and it’s always super fun! This year we had the fun opportunity to all serve together at The Bridge, a ministry of our church, that helps others in our neighborhood with financial, food, and clothing needs. It’s pretty dear to my heart so it was the perfect place for us all to serve together. After our time serving, I shared a few pictures over on Instagram and was so encouraged by several of my friends who reached out to say that they really wanted to start serving with their little ones too, but weren’t sure exactly how to get started or connected. I also realized that I’ve never really shared any insight to serving with little ones although that is a pretty big piece behind my desire to start up On Mission Moms (duh….)

So here goes:

1. Know your children! That seems kind of silly to say but it has to be said here. If you know your little one can probably only stay focused for an hour or so, you don’t want to volunteer little “Suzy” for a four hour shift. Or if your child struggles with carrying or lifting heavy items, you probably shouldn’t sign up sweet “Bobby” for unloading the food truck with 10 pallets of #10 cans. Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean they can, and you have to keep in mind that the experience is not really about you.

2. Get connected with the right place to serve! What does your child like to do? What are they good at? What does a specific ministry do? How can they use your gifts and talents and the gifts of your little ones? What rules or policies do they have in place for volunteers? There are tons of great ministries out there – soup kitchen, homeless shelters, children’s shelters, community centers, pregnancy centers, and on and on but they may not always be the best fit for a four year old or a twelve year old. One way to do that is to email or call them and chat and ask questions like “Can my four year old serve?” “What types of things would my eight year old be doing?”, “what do you expect from my family if we volunteer?” It may also take a few times and a few different places before you find your sweet spot of service!

3. Keep the end goal in mind! I’m a “doer”. When I serve, I wanna put my head down, get my hands dirty and just get to it; however, when Ivey and my nieces are with me… my goals and responsibilities have to change. My desire when I serve with them is that they have the opportunity to actually serve. So I may never get to stack a can, hand out a bag of food, help a shopper pick out food they like or hang a stitch of clothing, but if I have led my little one to do that, then we have had a great day! It won’t be as productive but they will walk away having a fun experience and a chance to learn. My expectations have to be that of what a four year old can get done not what a nearly 40 year old mom can do! And the expectations of the ministry site must be the same too! If they are expecting you to unload those pallets and your six year old can barely lift a pound of potatoes, there might be unmet expectations and frustrations all around!

4. Be ready to follow up and debrief with your child. They may have questions like “Why don’t these friends have food?”, “Can we take home some juice and chips?”, “Where does all this food and clothing come from?”, “Why does he smell funny?”. Also, be ready to help them walk through their experience. With my four year old, I ask questions like “What was your favorite thing about serving this morning?”, “What did you not like about serving.” “Why do you think we should serve others?” Help them begin to process the “whys” behind it all. They may not understand it all completely and that is okay but help them process. Pray with them about their day and experience.

5. Make it relational and personal! This is pretty important to me because while it’s important to help our little ones hang clothes and sort food, it’s even more important for our little ones to begin to “see” people. Look for opportunities to let them interact with those that are being served. Introduce yourself and your children. Ask your new friend their name. This really depends on the place of service and what they will allow a volunteer to do. I’m so thankful that at the Bridge we had an opportunity to help a couple ladies shop for their food. The girls got to hold their bags and we got to introduce ourselves to them. We got to talk about foods we each loved or didn’t like. How do you cook an artichoke?! It led to great opportunities later to pray for them too, by name. The day was fun because we served together, but it was also fun because we made a new friend!

Above all, just serve! It doesn’t have to be perfect, you don’t always have to know all the answers, you may or may not even interact with people, but just get to it! Your little one will love it and when they begin to serve at a young age, it begins to build in them a foundation of service and a love for others!

Have you had an opportunity to serve with your children? If so, what tips would you add to the list? Comment below!

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Do No Harm: We’re All Poor

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You’ve met the sweet young mom standing on the corner with her child and given her a blessing bag. What do we do from there? Well, let’s back up even before you roll down your car window. Before we can even begin to work with those in poverty, we must understand a crucial truth.  We must spend some time looking inward. We are all created by a loving God but we are all poor and broken in some way. 

Yes, you read that right…. you are poor and broken. How’s that for a great way to start out the second part of the Do No Harm Series.   But it is true and sometimes, as we all know, the truth hurts. But I’ve also read that the truth can set us free… (John 8:32)

While their poverty is mostly visible for all the world to see, my poverty is usually hidden and disguised well (most of the time). Steve Fikert, the author of When Helping Hurts explains it through 4 broken Relationships that we each have. 

  1. We all have a broken relationship with God (thanks Adam & Eve).
  2. We all have a broken relationship with self.
  3. We all have a broken relationship with others. 
  4. We all have a broken relationship with creation.  

So where are you broken? Where are you poor? We can’t begin to help and serve and love others in a helpful and gospel centered way until we acknowledge our own poverty. 

Spend some time today seeking to acknowledge and understand your own poverty. 

If you have a broken relationship in one (or more of these areas), how can you seek to restore it today? 

If you missed the previous post on Being Prepared, take a minute to read it here!

Blog, On Mission

Do No Harm: Be Prepared

We will be sharing over the next several weeks a Series called “Do No Harm” – teachings that I’ve learned and practiced in my time working with the homeless from New Orleans to Spartanburg and a few other places along the way.

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A pretty important lesson that I learned in my early days working with homeless was that I had to be prepared. Prepared in all kinds of ways. Prepared to help them physically, spiritually, emotionally or socially. Prepared to tell them yes or no, depending on what and how I could help them. Prepared with knowledge to share about where they could get help. Prepared in prayer and God’s word and ready to respond as the Holy Spirit led me. 

There are several simple ways that you can be better prepared as you interact with our homeless friends. One way is to know about what services are available to our friends. Do you know which shelters take men and women, or which shelters only take families? Do you know where they are located? Do you know if your town has a place where they can get a hot meal each day and when they serve that meal? Spend some time looking around and learning about what resources and services your community offers.  One word of caution though is to make sure that your info is correct! Imagine you are a single mom on the street and someone told you that the local shelter takes single moms and you walk 20 minutes with your bags and child to find out that they don’t. It can be quite frustrating when the information is wrong. One resource that is often overlooked would be 211. Did you know that anyone can call 211 or go online and find out resources in their community for their specific situation. This is a GREAT resource from the United Way.

Another simple way is to have something to give them tangibly when they ask or when you come across someone in need in a parking lot or at a street corner. Often times it’s in these moments, we can be caught off guard and our only option is to give them money or tell them “No”, which isn’t always the best way to love and serve our friends. When I lived in New Orleans, I kept at least three or four bags for the homeless ready in my car so that I was always prepared to love and serve.

A “blessing bag” can also model to your children several important life lessons such as:

  1. You care about and value others, and they should too.
  2. Homeless people matter, as do all people because they are created by God.
  3. We should value helping and serving and loving others because God commands it! 
  4. Helping others can be easy, cheap, and fun! 
  5. You always strive to be prepared and ready to help, and they should too! 

You can let your little’s help you as you put them together and talk about homelessness, and how we are called to love and serve all people. You can pray with your little ones as you work to put the bags together. You can let them color a picture or write a note and add it into the bag. Below are some of the items that I make sure to have in my bags. 

Blessing Bag

  • Travel size toiletries such as soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, lotion
  • Washcloth
  • Socks
  • Chapstick 
  • $5 fast food gift card from places like McDonald’s
  • Bottle water
  • Granola Bar
  • Fresh Fruit (banana or orange) if giving away quickly
  • Pop top canned tuna or chicken
  • Crackers 
  • Info about a local ministry where they can get assistance (for me, it’s Refuge info) 

There are a few more ideas over on our Pinterest Page. 

So are you prepared when you met a friend on the street? How can you better prepare yourself and your family to respond in love and with wisdom?