It was a chilly Saturday morning when my husband and I loaded up our three kids, ages 2, 4, and 5, and headed to a local elementary school. I had signed us up to help clean lockers, hallways, and classroom doors. I’ve always loved volunteering and I know there are benefits of community service for kids, so I was determined to get my kids started in service projects at a young age.
My kids climbed into the lockers, closed the doors, and wiped down the insides. Three hours later, we were staring at dozens of sparkling clean lockers. It was exhausting work keeping them on task, but so worth it! They still talk about cleaning the lockers and how much fun they had. Yes, service can be fun, but here are 5 other benefits of community service for kids.
1. Service teaches them to think outside themselves.
No matter the person’s age, when someone is working hard at serving others, they think less about their wants and needs and more about the wants and needs of others. It’s common for kids to not even realize that some people don’t have food, or some kids don’t have money for school supplies. So one of the benefits of community service is that it opens their eyes to the way others live.
Whether it’s organizing a food drive, collecting backpacks, or coloring pictures for nursing home residents, spending time doing something for others is a great way to take your child’s attention off his or her own needs, even if it’s just for a few hours.
2. Service gives them an opportunity to see how others handle difficulties.
Taking your kids to various service opportunities will teach them more than any book or lesson could. They will see how others respond to tough situations. They will see brokenness, hurt, and anger. But they will also see how some have overcome their circumstances and done something wonderful with their story.
Allowing your kids to see first-hand how others have maneuvered through difficult situations will show them how to be resilient and that down doesn’t necessarily mean out.
3. Service teaches them to be thankful for what they have.
It’s easy for kids to focus on the things they don’t have when all they do is try to meet their own needs. But when they focus on the needs of others, priorities tend to shift. It’s not always enjoyable or easy, but one of the benefits of community service is that it provides a lot of eye-opening experiences for kids.
After picking up trash for a few hours, they will be grateful that the garbage man comes twice a week and if they sort clothes for kids in need, they’ll be glad to come home to drawers of clean socks and underwear. Even if you feel like your family doesn’t have enough time to serve, just a few opportunities here and there can show your kids how much they have.
4. Service teaches kids responsibility.
One of the clearest benefits of community service for kids is that it’s hard work! And you can’t underestimate the power of manual labor on building character. When you volunteer you work with people you might not know, listen to instructions, and see a job to completion – all without getting paid.
If you have a child who doesn’t listen well to you or to teachers, you might find that they respond differently to a leader when he’s in a volunteer capacity. Volunteering can open the heart and soften a rebellious spirit. Respect, cooperation, and responsibility are all areas your kids will grow in when they help fulfill a need in the community.
5. Service provides opportunities to use their talents.
It’s worthwhile to expose your kids to enough service opportunities that they learn how and where to best serve in their skill-set. When you’re able to serve in an area that you’re good at and enjoy, it becomes more of a lifestyle pattern instead of a box to check off.
Maybe your daughter has great organization skills or your son loves art. Both of those interests can be used in service to others. When we use the gifts we’re given to help people around us, we are living out our purpose. It also shows kids that they can affect change, even in just one hour on a Saturday.
When we use the gifts we’re given to help people around us, we are living out our purpose.
What are ways that you can get your children involved in community service?