Teaching Your Children About Community Service

Service MormonWeekly Family Nights are a wonderful way to share your values with your children. Following is a lesson you can adapt for your family on volunteerism in the community.

Learn how to hold a family night.

A week before your lesson, ask your children to pay attention to the world around them and the news and to begin a list of things they see they wish could be different. Help them understand you don’t mean things like later bedtimes or less homework. You are referring to topics such as homelessness, hunger, or illiteracy. Younger children can work with a parent and make pictures of the things they would like to see changed.

At the start of family night, ask your family to share a few of the things on their list and to explain why they chose those items. How would the world be different if those things were fixed? Ask each person to choose the three things on their list they care about the most, and to number them in order by how much they care. (Number one would be for the issue that most concerns them.) If you have younger children, or family members who draw, invite them to draw two pictures about their first choice. On one side of the paper, draw a picture of the problem. On the other side, draw a picture of how it would look if it were fixed. You can ask your family to write about this, if you prefer, but again, do them on opposite sides of the paper.

Set aside the papers and begin the core of the lesson. Show a picture of Jesus to your family. Ask, “If Jesus were still on

 the earth and He knocked on our door and said He was hungry, would you invite Him in and give Him something to eat? If He said there were a group of hungry people in the park nearby, and He needed food for them, would you give Him food? Would you go with Him to serve it? Why?”

Invite your family to turn in their Bible to Matthew 25:31-46. Ask your family to retell this in their own words after you read it together. What did Jesus mean when He said “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

Help them understand that even though Jesus will not show up at our door asking for food, giving food to others who need it is the same as feeding Jesus. Jesus often does His good works through people living on the earth.

Share some stories of ways Jesus helped people when He lived on earth. You might want to share the following stories. Included is a link to the Bible story (King James translation) and a Bible storybook online.

Jesus Heals a Deaf Man

Children’s story of Jesus healing

Jesus Feeds 5000 People

Children’s story of Jesus feeding the 5000

Remind the children that even when Jesus was on the earth, He could not help everyone who needed help alone. There was too much to do. Also, if He did it all for us, we wouldn’t learn the joy that comes from serving others.

Now turn their attention to the wider community. Ask your family to talk about what your town would be like if everything they put on their lists earlier was fixed. Would they like to live in that kind of town, nation, or world? Remind them that praying for a better world is good, but God also expects us to do our part.

Ask your family if they think they can make a better world. Share the following quote with them:

“I believe in the principle that I can make a difference in this world. It may be ever so small. But it will count for the greater good. The goodness of the world in which we live is the accumulated goodness of many small and seemingly inconsequential acts,” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “I Believe,” Ensign, Aug 1992, 2).

To help your family understand this principle, tell the old folk tale, “Stone Soup.”

There was a famine in the land and the people of the small village were saving all their food, hiding it and refusing to help others. They wanted to be sure they had enough for themselves. One day a soldier came into town. People were afraid he’d want to stay and be fed, so they told them the village had no food at all, and he should just go on his way. The soldier smiled and assured the people he didn’t need any food, and that in fact, as a thank-you for letting him stay in town, he would make a large pot of soup to share with everyone in the entire village. He reached into his bag and pulled out a shining clean and very attractive stone. He then pulled out a large pot and put it over the fire he built and added the stone to it.

People began to gather around, wondering how the soldier could make soup from a stone. The soldier stirred and sniffed, stirred and sniffed. He seemed pleased and told the crowd it was just like his mother made…except she sometimes added a few carrots to make it just a little better. One villager admitted he might have a few carrots around the house and went to get them. Into the pot they went. The soldier said he was trying to remember what else his mother added to her soup. A woman said she always added potatoes to hers, and she had a few she might be willing to contribute, just to make the soup better. The potatoes went into the pot and others began to remember something they had in their kitchens that might make the soup better. Soon the entire village smelled like a wonderful soup filled with good things to eat. The villagers gathered to enjoy the feast and to marvel at the soldier who had made such a good soup from nothing but a stone.

Ask the family what this story had to do with the quote they read just before. Point out that although no one had much food, when they worked together, those odds and ends of food made a very nice meal. Gordon B. Hinckley said in his quote that even though one person might not be able to do a lot, he can make a difference if his acts of service are combined with those of others.

Have the family study the lists they made. As a family, create a community service plan. You may want to choose a project you can do at home, such as making toys for a homeless shelter. You might also choose something you can do together outside the home, such as cleaning a park or working at a food bank. If your family is older, consider also having each person research service opportunities related to the top item on their list and then choose a regular personal service project, in addition to the one the family does together. Schedule a regular day and time to do the service, so it becomes a priority and a normal part of the week.

To help the family remember, post the pictures or paragraphs the family created at the start. Post them with the problem side facing outward until the person has completed his first day of service. Then turn it around to show the better world side of the picture or paragraph.

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