I will just go ahead and state this right now; I absolutely have the best sons a man could ever have. OK,maybe I’m a little biased. The reality is, they give me much reason to be proud. Perhaps most pleasing to me is that in a world where so many feel entitled and approach life with a “what’s in it for me” attitude, they live with a servant’s heart. They are successful in their endeavors and are achievers in many fields, yet giving sacrificially of what they have and who they are.
This didn’t happen by accident. Early on they were taught the spirit and principles of serving and hard work. This is not a post to brag on the parenting abilities of mom and dad (ok, maybe just a little), but rather an attempt to encourage those of you who are raising children, or perhaps as grandparents, helping to raise children. We didn’t give our kids everything they wanted; far from it. Actually, they had to “earn” a large amount of anything they had. This even included video game time. We gave them an hour a day to play video games. If they wanted more they had to do certain things to “earn” more time. We didn’t simply give them cars or even cell phones. It use to frustrate me so much when parent’s would give their children a car when they turned sixteen. I have worked with teens as a coach and Pastor for over 30 years. Whenever a young person would come to me and tell me about their new car i would invariably ask them, “how much did you pay for it?” If they told me it was given to them by their parents I would tell them, “oh, so it’s your parents’ car and you are just using it.” They didn’t want to hear that. If our sons wanted to drive they had to pay for their own insurance. When they finally got old enough to have a cell phone (far older than most kids today – young children are not responsible enough to have a cell phone), they had to pay the monthly cost. It was a basic phone too; our sons did not have a smart phone until they were out of college and could earn their own. Why did we do this? Because we wanted them understand, if something is worth having it is worth working for. When you work for something it means much more to you and you genuinely appreciate it.
It wasn’t simply working hard to earn things. It was also learning to be servants. Our two oldest sons were adolescents when our church ran a ministry call Jericho Express. This ministry was essentially a ‘Church on Wheels’. We revamped a school bus with a stage, sound system, AC, generator and more. We took that bus, along with another that carried food goods, to areas where less fortunate people lived and we took the ministry of the church to them. Every Saturday, as many 150 people, mostly children would hear the gospel message and be provided with food to eat. We built relationships, played with kids, got to know the parents and grandparents and they were a part of our church – right where they lived. Our sons worked in this ministry. They carried tables, played with kids, served food, cleaned up, help teach lessons and much more. Why did we have them involved in this? Was it because we needed many hands to do the work? No, we wanted our sons to understand that being a follower of Christ is so much more than what you can get out of it; being a follower of Christ means serving, just like he served.
Our sons participated in many other ministry areas as well. They learned to serve and it shows today. As adults they are still serving, doing some of the most amazing acts of compassion and kindness for people around them. It pains me when I see youth groups so focused on simply having fun. We approach our youth with the fear that if we don’t keep them excited and happy they will stop coming to church. Our youth are looking for and need so much more than fun. They are looking for and need purpose. As followers of Christ we find our purpose in serving, just as he served. We stress over the attitudes so prevalent in society today and wonder how it got this way. A big part of the root cause is that we have tried to make our kids happy by giving them things and never showing them the real joy of serving and working hard. They grow up entitled and when life does not give them what they want they do not know how to handle it.
We have to do more than just tell them these things (sadly, we are doing very little of even that), we must get them actively involved in hard work and serving. We need to roll up our own sleeves and get in their with them. We need to be working hard and serving and we need to make them join us in these endeavors. We do them a great disservice when we neglect so great a gift to them.