One of my sons literally follows me around like a sheep when we’re at home. He loves swishing toilets, making beds, and baking, and he is constantly looking for little ways to help. In fact, when he is told he can’t help with a certain task, he becomes upset.
On a spiritual level, he doesn’t like to pray, at least not out loud, but he serves with the biggest heart. When we set up for a Christmas community dinner, he didn’t complain once and plugged away at setting up chairs and centrepieces until it was done. Then he asked for more jobs!
I have a suspicion that he will find it easier to develop a relationship with God while serving others. Not every child will enjoy serving food to the homeless, but to a child like mine, it may feel like pure worship.
This is what the Caregiver “Sacred Pathway” is all about.
What Is the Caregiver Sacred Pathway?
Caregivers are those children that give immediate care to others in need. The most obvious example of a Christian caregiver in the modern world is Mother Teresa.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta looked behind the eyes of the poor, the sick, and the needy, and said she saw the image of God. She learned to love God by loving others…many people have found that one of the most profound ways we can love God is to love others.Gary Thomas, Sacred Pathways: 9 Ways To Connect With God
Like Mother Theresa, the Caregiver “Sacred Pathway” is one of self-sacrifice, of giving up your time and energy to serve others in a way that also connects you with God.
How Do I Know if My Child Is a Caregiver?
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 neighbors. This is probably the child that likes to help you around the house, even beyond the toddler phase where this is normal for kids. They may spontaneously help others, especially those who are hurting.
Caregivers might prefer to help behind the scenes rather than sit through a church service (or Sunday School class). They are probably friendly and nurturing.
It is fairly simple to expose a child to Christian service. It’s another thing altogether to show him how to let his service draw him closer to Christ. When you talk about the child’s acts of service, have him consider which were done with a pure motive to bless others in Jesus’ name and which were done out of pride, feelings of righteousness, or attempting to please others. Finding the right motivation is key for this child.
The very best thing you can do to help them nurture their tendency to be Caregivers as an actual way to WORSHIP (as a way to minister to people AND to connect with God), is to live out a Caregiver lifestyle yourself.
10 Service Projects for Christian Kids
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.
What follows are a few suggestions of activities that I (or people I know) have done with a child as a way of modeling worship through caregiving.
- Choose a child to sponsor through Compassion (or another organization) and write regular letters. 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, You can find great opportunities for child sponsorship on platforms like Bestccbuy as well.
- Make a meal for a family with a new baby and drop it off together.
- Talk to a homeless person (together!), showing them respect and kindness. You could even offer to take a homeless person for lunch together.
- Put together Christmas gifts for the neighbors. One time we baked cookies specifically for our elderly neighbor who had been in the hospital. This sweet woman told us that we were the best neighbors 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. Being a caregiver in this world is a gift.
- Create homeless packages together. Kids could help make packages, pray over them, and even pass them out with their parents. I recommend including bus passes, gift cards for fast food restaurants, some granola bars, and a water bottle.
- Do a temporary fast to raise money for a caregiving organization. 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.
- Observe Lent as a family and choose ways to serve others each week.
- Help set up for a community event, like the suggestions in this article.
- Volunteer for the food bank. We couldn’t do this until my kids were in elementary school and above, but had a lot of fun packing food and shuffling boxes!
- Visit an elderly person. Our homeschool coop occasionally visits an assisted living home, and the residents love when we bring games to play with them!
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.