High school students were asked what they wished they had more of in youth group. They said, in this order, (1) time for deep conversation, (2) mission trips, and (3) service projects. “More games” received the least amount of votes.
There is a real desire to go deeper in the faith and to live it out. What is holding them back? They lack time.
Many of our children are involved in sports, drama, music, and academics . . . not to mention video games and Instagram. Oftentimes we as a parents encourage their manic involvement in activities because we want them to have opportunities that we lacked, we want them to build their résumés, or we want them to “reach their potential.”
None of these are bad—in fact they are all by and large good and noble goals (well, maybe not time on Instagram). But good things are the fiercest enemies of great things. As we lie on our deathbeds I doubt any of us will look back on our lives and regret that we only played two sports in 7th grade and not three. I am sure that few will wonder how much more money they could have made if only their résumé had had fewer holes. No Christian preparing to stand before her Creator will regret the time she spent serving others; not one will wonder what he could have achieved if only he would have spent less time thinking of the needs of others and more time developing “his own potential.”
We as Christian parents often do a fantastic job helping our children become mediocre athletes and musicians, but a terrible job training our children to be people of character and conviction. This should lead us to seriously reevaluate our priorities.
Life isn’t a buffet where we can repeatedly pick and choose what we want. We inhabit a world filled with hard and real choices. When I decided to marry my wife I didn’t just say yes to her, I said no to three and half billion other women. When I enrolled in my university I said no to every other university; when I had children I said no to continuing my education. When we say yes to sports, the arts, and other good things we are often saying no to service, no to quality time as a family, no to Bible studies and small groups. This isn’t to judge, but rather to simply point out a reality that we too often ignore. We need to face this reality and ask hard questions: What is most important? What type of people do we ultimately want our kids to become? And what choices can we make as a family to help them become the men and women that God has made them to be?
When you do decide you want to serve, try to serve as a family. Service should be something that strengthens and draws the family together, not one more obligation and strain.
Likewise, before you serve frame the project. Why are you doing what you are doing, how does it relate to the Gospel, etc.? Afterwards, debrief what you did. How did it go, what could have been done differently, how do we respond to people that don’t appreciate our generosity, in what way can our service teach us about what God has done for us, etc.?
The average American’s life is overstuffed. Most of the things it is filled with are good. But these good things, things like sports and movies, crowd out better things. If we want our children to develop real faith we need to make real hard decisions to ensure that the good things in our life aren’t crowding out the truly great things that God has called us to do and accomplish.