Supersize your children’s ministry service projects with these 8 awesome ways to serve your church, families, and community!
Our goal might be to raise up kids with servants’ hearts. But with the time and resources we have on hand, it’s not always easy to fit kid-shaped service into our ministry efforts. Is that because we feel like every service project must be “XXL”? The truth is, Jesus loves and honors service of every size. As we model aid and encouragement in our ministries, kids learn that service is a way of life, not necessarily just a single event. Here are eight service ideas in every size that show kids a variety of ways they can serve the people in their lives.
Service to Church Leaders
Church leaders’ lives are defined by service. So let’s help our kids do two things: be more aware of how much those leaders actually serve them—and practice giving back through service.
Small: Simple Weekly Charge
Most leaders will tell you that they hear more complaints than appreciation, so get your kids in the habit of showing appreciation by giving them one simple charge weekly. For example, have them find a leader to give a high-five, smile, or thank-you to. Simple gestures say a lot. Highlight different leaders in your church each week, but encourage children to show appreciation to any leader of their choice. Highlighting various leaders’ service to kids will make kids more aware of people who serve them. Letting kids choose which leaders to thank encourages authenticity. Before you share the weekly charge, read aloud 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13, and give kids time to pray about who to approach that week. Sometimes just the effort to show appreciation is an act of service.
Large: Picnic for My Pastor
Ronald McDonald House Charities has an excellent model for serving families in need. Groups can go into Ronald McDonald Houses and prepare a meal for families who are staying there due to a child’s long-term illness. And once the meal is prepared, groups have an opportunity to eat with the families. This model could easily be translated to a kid-friendly way of honoring your pastors and their families.
After the Sunday morning services, why not prepare a picnic for your pastors and their families?
Ahead of time, you’ll have kids do all the prep work to serve. Before you start, help kids understand why they’re serving by reading aloud Mark 10:45. Ask:
- What are some ways our pastors serve us?
- What are some reasons we want to serve our pastors, too?
After you complete your discussion, make sure kids wash their hands and use gloves. Kids can work in an assembly line to make sandwiches, adding side dishes of fresh fruit and veggies, chips, and cookies.
As soon as kids have served the pastors and their families, have kids join them. This will be a special and intimate time for your kids to get to know their pastors and their pastors’ families.
Service to People in Need
Some of your children may understand very well what it means to be in need, and others may not. Either way, we can cultivate compassion in kids when we help them learn about the real needs of those in our communities and around the world.
Small: Two Colorful Gifts in One
Share with children how Tabitha was always doing kind things for others and helping the poor in Acts 9:36-39. Then explain to kids that they can do something kind and colorful for kids in need. Briefly help kids understand some reasons children might be in the local hospital, and invite kids to tell about kids they know who’ve been sick.
Invite each child to carefully color in the first page of a new coloring book and then write or dictate a short message to the child who’ll receive the entire coloring book. Pray together for the recipients of the coloring books, and then deliver them to your local hospital along with boxes of crayons.
Large: Ready Aid
Have kids make care packages for people who are asking for help on street corners.
- a Bible,
- index cards,
- large plastic resealable bags, and
- items to include such as water bottles, combs, toothbrushes, toothpaste, small packs of gum, soft snack bars or packages of cracker sandwiches, deodorants, plastic bandages, packages of tissues, and antiseptic wipes
Read aloud Romans 12:13. Say: Today we’ll make care packages so we’re ready to help people at any time.
Invite kids to share about people in need they’ve seen, possibly people holding signs or verbally asking for help.
Have kids set up and use an assembly line to make at least three care packages per child. Give kids each three index cards, and have them write or draw encouraging messages to put in each bag. Send the bags home with families, explaining that they can keep them in their cars to give out as needed.
Service to Our Families
Family members can be the toughest people to serve. We’re with them through thick and thin, and parents’ service to kids can easily go unnoticed. Additionally, service to siblings may not come naturally. Encouraging this practice with kids at a young age will make it more natural as kids grow older.
Small: Saving Smiles
Use this idea to help kids show appreciation to each person in their family.
- a Bible,
- card stock,
- scissors, and
- fine-tipped markers
- Tell about a time one of your family members did something to put a smile on your face.
After all kids share, ask them if they let their family members know how much they appreciated what they did.
Have kids cut small circles out of card stock, each one about the size of a dollar coin. Each child will need enough circles for every family member to have one. Have kids draw a smile on each circle.
Read aloud Romans 12:9-10. Say: Think of one way each of your family members recently put a smile on your face. Allow time for kids to share, and then explain that they’ll give their family members each a smile, telling them, “You made me smile when…”
- How is saying encouraging words a way to serve our families?
Medium: The Foot Treatment
Use this idea to help kids experience Jesus’ modeling of washing his disciples’ feet.
- a Bible;
- and for each child:
- a plastic spoon,
- ¼ cup Epsom salt,
- ¼ cup sea salt,
- ½ cup baking soda,
- a few drops of essential oil (such as lavender or peppermint), and
- a pint-size mason jar with a lid
Read aloud John 13:1-5. Say: Peter was surprised that Jesus was washing his feet. Jesus is God, after all! But Jesus was the best example of a servant. Do you know who else is a servant—someone who probably serves you every day, doing a lot of dirty work, like Jesus did? Your parents!
Explain to kids that they’re going to turn the tables on serving by making a homemade foot soak for a parent or a caregiver. Show kids how to combine all the ingredients in their mason jars with a spoon, and then help each child add just a few drops of the essential oil. Once the ingredients are all combined, have kids place the lids on the mason jars.
Encourage kids to use the homemade foot soak to wash at least one of their parents’ feet. With their parents’ permission, they can fill a large container with warm water and then use a washcloth, the foot soak, and a towel to wash and dry the person’s feet.
Service to Our Neighbors
Jesus commanded us to “love your neighbor as yourself.” But in today’s busy world, it takes intentional effort to know our neighbors, let alone serve them. Encouraging kids to serve their neighbors will not only help kids get to know them, but also show them Jesus’ love.
Medium: Medal in Motion
Use this craft to help kids create a culture of encouragement in their neighborhoods.
- a Bible,
- wide blue ribbon (about ½-inch or 1-inch wide),
- gold glitter card stock,
- glue, and
- fine-tipped markers
- Tell about a time you received a ribbon, medal, or another award.
Say: It’s always nice to be honored for an accomplishment. But now it’s our turn to honor others. When we appreciate people for their acts or character, it’s a way to serve them—and to serve our community.
Have kids each cut out two small, identical circles (about 2½ inches in diameter) from the gold glitter card stock. Give kids each about 2 feet of ribbon. Show them how to glue the two ends to the back of one circle. Once the ribbon is in place, have kids glue the second circle over the glued ribbon to make a “medal.” Have kids cut another slightly smaller circle from the paper and write “Medal of Honor” on it. They’ll glue that circle onto one side of the medal.
Read aloud Hebrews 10:24-25. Say: Use this medal to start encouragement in your neighborhood. Catch a neighbor doing something kind, and give him or her this “Medal of Honor.” Compliment that neighbor for the kind act, and explain that he or she will give the “Medal of Honor” to someone else in the neighborhood who is caught doing an act of kindness.
Give each child a slip of paper explaining these directions, and tell kids to encourage their neighbors to pass the paper along with the medal to keep it moving around their neighborhoods.
Large: Undercover Hand of Help
Read aloud 1 Corinthians 10:33. Say: We can say we love others, but what’s even better is to show love through service. Let’s think about some of the people we’re near a lot of the time—our neighbors. Demonstrating love through service is one way we can show Jesus’ love to them.
Host a week of undercover service by having kids pledge to show love by serving people in their neighborhoods. Start by brainstorming ways kids and their families can help their neighbors. For example, they might rake leaves, shovel snow, put away trash cans, pick up litter around the neighborhood, or offer to walk a dog or wash a car. With a neighbor’s permission, kids could also offer to collect the mail.
Hang a pledge sheet in your room, and help kids make pledges—it’s okay if they pledge to do only one thing that week. Ensure you speak to parents about the pledges. You can also do spontaneous acts in the neighborhood around your church if that works better for your group.
Jessica Sausto is an editor in Group’s children’s ministry department and a key leader in the preschool program at Flatirons Community Church in Lafayette, Colorado.
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