My wife, Donna, and I (along with some great support from the SHINE! middle school ministry at The Chapel) have been encouraging our middle school-aged daughter and our nearly middle school-aged son to own their faith at a deeper level and not to miss some great opportunities to be intentional in their circles of influence (mainly, their schools).
Donna and I can think back to our middle school days and regrettably remember all the ways we could have been a great example of Christ in our friendships and in our school, but simply missed the opportunities because we were afraid what others may think or didn’t want to step outside our comfort zone and stand out at all. With that experience in our back pocket, we have been gently nudging our kids for the past few months to start thinking of ways to live out their faith in their school because we are firmly convinced that if they can ‘get it’ now and learn to live this way while they are young, it will pay major dividends by the time they get to high school, college and into adult life. We believe that parenting our children is all about helping them practice how to live life well as a child so when they reach adulthood, they are well-prepared for what life could bring their way.
My daughter knew a handful of girls from our church and another local youth group who also went to her school. So, we began the process of trying to get a club set up in the school so they could meet together and think of ways to ‘do good’ in their school with their faith as the motivator. Unfortunately, they were unable to get space in the school – but that didn’t stop us. We live very close to the school, so we just invited all the girls over to our house. My wife and daughter worked together to cast some vision for what they wanted to do – and the 15+ girls in attendance responded incredibly well to the idea! So, they spent the rest of their first meeting thinking of the first project they could do together to reach the community and make a difference because of their faith.
Let Them LOL, a local humanitarian organization at work in Sierra Leone that is a ministry partner at our church was just kicking off a fundraising campaign with a goal of raising $20,000 over 20 days to help fund the building of a children’s home. Our family is actively involved with Let Them LOL, so this campaign was close to our hearts already. The girls made the recommendation to hold a garage sale/bake sale as a fundraiser for this campaign and immediately started working on their plans. Of course, my son and a couple of his friends didn’t want to be left out at this point, so they all worked together to make signs to hang up at school and around the neighborhood, used social media to promote what they were doing and all of them donated items from their homes to sell. They also worked together to bake a bunch of items to sell that day! Although the weather had the potential to affect the outcome, the kids charged on and planned for rain in the event it came.
All the kids arrived early on a Saturday morning (which is a big deal for a middle schooler to get up before 7:30am on a weekend), helped with the final set up and started welcoming people bright and early! They all took turns carrying signs, waving to cars as they drove by, selling baked goods and, most importantly, explaining why they were doing what they were doing. The rain held off until later that afternoon and, in one day, these amazing kids raised over $700 to help build a children’s home in Sierra Leone!
Of course, we are incredibly proud of their first effort and it’s a great way for them to get started with this club idea. More importantly though, we are encouraged by their outward expression of their faith and for the real life example that life is not all about them. Raising money for a great cause is awesome, but to boldly communicate why you are doing it enables an even deeper, lasting reward. My hope is this is one of many steps for these kids toward owning their faith while they are young so they don’t look back on their earlier years with regret wishing they would have stepped out just a bit more to show the love of Christ to those around them.
If you are looking for ways to get your kids involved in something like this, feel free to reach out to the middle school student ministry at The Chapel (www.shine.ms) as they would be super excited to point you in the right direction!
Do you have some examples of things you have done to encourage your kids in their faith? Share your stories with us!