I remember sitting at our family’s long wood dining table. I was 5 years old, and I had squeezed onto the bench between two of my five brothers with my feet dangling, not touching the ground. My mom showed me a National Geographic photo of a girl, and I asked, “Mom, why is her tummy so big?”
My mom answered, “There are children in Africa who don’t have enough food.”
I pushed my plate to her. “Can I send her mine?”
Maybe the idea of ditching liver and onions inspired me, but I did long to help. This was a golden moment for my mom. Either she’d show me I could make a difference — or discourage me, perhaps inoculating me against a world in need.
What did my mom do? What would you do?
Every parent gets hard questions, but we can be ready when those questions come. In my doctoral project with more than 30,000 families, I found keys to unlocking goodness in the hearts of our kids and principles to help our children serve and grow. You can use conversations about difficult issues to help your child grow in faith and character.
Match your family’s mission and realities
My mom did not let me give away my dinner. But she and my dad had a mission for our family and told us over and over that “our goal is to raise you to be lovers and givers.” I heard it so often I thought I blocked it out, but the message stuck.
You’re likely familiar with Joshua 24:15 — “… As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” But how does your family and household do that?
To begin, how would you complete the sentence, “As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD by _________________.”
You might consider these question as you try to finish that statement:
- Talk with your spouse or other adults: What are ways you and your kids can realistically serve in this season?
My parents’ realities involved raising seven kids and my dad traveling throughout the southwestern United States for work. But when our church needed leaders to partner with a Mexican orphanage, my parents stepped forward. My mom didn’t let me donate my dinner, but she did let me climb into our blue station wagon and drive to go play alongside new friends in the orphanage.
Later, when our family organized a food and clothing drive for the orphans, she came with me as I talked with teachers and kids about what to bring, and she guided me as I made posters. Later, she helped me load the donated cans into the blue station wagon and unload them when we reached the orphanage. I felt each can’s weight smoothness and also felt my small actions could really count. My parents knew their parenting purpose and found a realistic way to help. I learned I could do more than just look at, or turn away from, a photo of a starving child.
Your kids can too.
What’s your family’s mission for your kids, and how does it relate to your own story? As you define your family’s mission and realities, you open the door for the next step in your child’s journey of faith, gratitude, and generosity.
Check back in the weeks to come as Naomi shares more keys to raising caring, faith-filled kids.
Naomi Cramer Overton is national director of World Vision’s National Leadership Council. She previously worked as president and CEO of MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International, where she led and learned from more than 250,000 Millennial and Gen-X families. She has an MBA from UCLA and a doctorate of intercultural studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. She and her husband have four children and live in Colorado.