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One of the most requested topics this year on my speaking circuit has been a lesson in which I list a hundred ideas for training our kids to be servants. Service oriented kids grow up to be productive adult servants in the kingdom and it’s those people to whom the Lord will say, “Come ye blessed of my Father,” according to Matthew 25. So it matters if I’m making a real effort, as a mom, to put the heart of a servant in my child. For this reason, I’ve decided to devote a post, every now and then, to a service suggestion—a simple idea for moms to make their homes busy service centers for young hearts and hands. I’d love to hear from those of you who try them. So here goes:
Clean for Guests
If you’ve been reading these suggestions, you have noticed that most, so far, have been written assuming that you are all women of hospitality. I’ve cited scriptures in which hospitality is commanded and I have discussed some of the rich rewards of hospitality. This suggestion is also facilitated by hospitality (You can’t do this one if your inhospitable.) and it facilitates hospitality. (Start on this early and serving people from your home will get easier as the kids grow up.)
Every single time that you know you are going to be having company, enlist the help of your children in cleaning. This is an excellent time to teach them that, while you may not be able to provide expensive food or fine china, that everybody’s house can be clean. Because of too many people in a small space and the ages of those people, your house may, of necessity, NOT be straight. This is an excellent time to teach your kids the difference between a “messed-up” house and a dirty house. There is a big difference. Even when there’s a puzzle in the floor that the baby pulled out at the last minute or the cheerios she spilled are scattered, the house can still be clean. This is also an excellent time to teach your children that clean does not always mean meticulously spotless and ready for the Better Living photo-op. It means that it smells good, that floors have been recently vacuumed and furniture recently dusted. It means that toilets are all flushed and clean and sinks are relatively free of hair and toothpaste goo. It means little people have just done their best with their assignments.
Two things are really important to remember when you are cleaning for the glory of God. One is that you remember to tell your kids why. Tell them that you, as a family, are doing this because you are trying to help someone go to heaven. Make them aware that it is benevolence or evangelism. Cite passages like Matthew 25: 31-40 or tell them the story of the great woman in II Kings 4. Secondly, remember NOT to overwhelm your children. Did you know that your saying to a three year old, “Go upstairs and clean” is similar to FEMA coming in after a tornado and saying to you, “Please clean up your neighborhood”? It’s non-specific, huge and daunting.
Instead of asking your toddler to “clean your room,” it’s better to choose a very small job—a particular shelf straightened, one particular puzzle worked and put away, or the items under the bed put in the drawer or the toy box. Give small jobs and then check every few minutes to be sure they are being done and, when one is done, assign another. When you assign the job, spend a few minutes, if necessary, showing the child just what you mean and how to do it. Soon your toddler will be very proficient in lots of small jobs and one day, when he is about eight years old, you can put them all together and say “Clean your room,” and he will not be discouraged by the job’s size.
“But isn’t it easier just to clean myself?” I can hear you asking. The answer is yes. At first it is far easier to do it yourself and you would much rather have your kids at Grandma’s house every time while you are preparing for and while you are having company. It’s important to remember that the point is not having a clean house. The bigger point is sending out faithful servants of God when they leave your house. You are not raising productivity levels at a plant. You are raising children. Just trust me on this one. You will be a happier old lady if you are willing to sometimes pull the tablecloth out of the vacuum cleaner, throw away a vase or two that are casualties of four-year-old dusters or ignore a few missed spots in the corners of the kitchen floor. And, trust me on this one, too: It will be a rare time when a person with whom you are sharing the bread of life will notice a few crumbs on the floor that were missed by an amateur sweeper. If you can get the “why” (evangelism and/or benevolence) of cleaning into your children, the “how” will eventually follow.
And, while you are at it, put this little maxim into their hearts. My grandmother said this to me on several occasions when we cleaned the house and then the company we expected didn’t show up:
“Time spent cleaning is never wasted. We were just doing what needed to be done whether we were having company or not. It’s always a good thing to have a clean house!”