For years I have been impressed with the work of the Salvation Army. The merging of personal salvation with social acts of charity have long been their style. Every Christmas I am reminded of the dedication of these Army workers as I sometimes see them in extremely cold weather, ringing their bells and collecting money for the needy. But the scene I saw this year caught my attention in still another way: It was a mom and her two young children working together to bless others. Their example made clear the lesson that giving and serving is not just something that adults are called to do; rather, it is something we, as families, can do together..
Now I think we will have to admit, that sometimes it is quicker and easier to do a job, even a benevolent one, by ourselves than it is to organize and instruct children as to how they can have a part. But there are three great values of doing "acts of kindness" together:
First, it brings us closer together as a family. You may recall the old saying, "The family that prays together stays together." I believe the same holds true for serving together. When we engage in mission as a family, not just as individuals, we experience of the joy of growing closer to one another. Missions groups, for years, have testified to the "bonding" effect of working together on a project to improve the lives of others. I believe this same principle holds true for "families in mission" as well.
Second, it teaches (and models for), our children, the value of mission and service. It is one thing to talk to children about the importance of helping others; it is another thing to participate with them in a lifestyle of serving. Remember, Jesus, didn't just give lectures about what it means to be a servant, he served others, in a variety of situations, with his disciples by his side. I'm sure that many of the lessons the disciples learned came through the times that they engaged in ministry together with their Lord.
Third, I think it pleases God. I believe that the One who created us as families (and knows well the value of family units being strong) takes delight when He sees families working together to further His purposes. The most important lessons of life are the ones we learn as we journey through life together with members of our family. I believe God is pleased when the home becomes the "home school" it was designed to be.
So God bless you Salvation Army workers; and may God bless families everywhere who join together to make the lives of others even a little bit better during this Christmas season.
Dr. Allen Schneider is a United Methodist pastor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist presently serving the Sapulpa and greater Tulsa communities.