The Servant’s secret

Choose a “dirty job” and do it joyfully together. It could be yard clean up, picking up garbage, cleaning washrooms or washing dishes. Or recruit some friends to help you pick up litter in your community (a park, a boulevard or the grounds around your church).

To add fun, listen to energetic praise music and sing along, and wear silly hats or glasses. Intentionally get even dirtier than necessary and take photos.

Add more fun by telling knock-knock jokes like this one:

First person: Knock knock.

Second person: Who’s there?

First person: Phil.

Second person: Phil who?

First person: Phil Thee. Filthy jobs are my favourite!

Use the discussion questions below to talk about a “secret” that Jesus told, and yet, two thousand years later, many people still don’t understand it.

Questions for discussion
  • Do you know what a secret is?
  • One day Jesus’ disciples were arguing about who was the greatest. Do you know what Jesus told them?
  • Which “dirty job” did Jesus choose to do?
  • What did Jesus show the disciples by washing their feet?
  • What are the dirtiest jobs in our home?
  • Which jobs are the ones nobody wants to do?
  • What kind of attitude do you have when you’re asked to do the dirty job?
Key concepts

A secret is something that only a few people know. Jesus told His disciples that the secret to greatness is to be willing to serve others – even if it means doing the dirty jobs. Oddly enough, most people today still think they are great when others cater to them, rather than the other way around.

Jesus didn’t expect others to serve Him or treat Him like a King, even though He could have expected or demanded royal treatment! Instead, Jesus took on the job of washing everyone else’s feet. This was the job that nobody wanted: the disciples likely wore sandals or bare feet all day, and their feet would have been very dirty. In washing all the dirty feet, Jesus was showing His disciples how to share His love with others by being willing to do the jobs no one else wanted to do.

We did a “Jesus joy job” together because we took joy in doing a job no one else wanted to do, just like Jesus did. A “joy job” brings joy to God, to you, and to the person you have helped. When we are diligent in serving others cheerfully and willingly we bring honour to God.

Relevant Scripture

Proverbs 11:25 “Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.

Mark 10:45 “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.

Luke 22:26-27 “But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

1 John 4:10-12 “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.

Caring for orphans and widows

If you know someone who is a widower, pray and ask God what kind of care you can offer him or her. It may mean offering an invitation to dinner, baking a batch of muffins, or stopping in for a visit or to play a game.

Alternatively – or in addition – search online for orphanages you could help, such as God’s Littlest Angels or Olive Tree Projects, both in Haiti. Find out what they need and collect items locally. You have the option to mail the supplies directly to the orphanage, but it may be easier to connect with local churches when they are organizing a container drive (i.e. inviting community members to help fill a large shipping crate).

Whichever option you chose, explain to your children that God makes it clear in the Bible that He cares for the orphans and widows and He wants us to do the same. It’s our God-given responsibility or “trust.”

Relevant Scripture

1 Timothy 5:3-4 “Honor widows who are truly widows. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God.

1 Timothy 5:16 “If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows.

James 1:27 “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

Responsible animal owners

If you have a pet, review the importance of feeding and caring for your pet. Give your children some responsibility for caring for them: young children can check daily to make sure your pet’s water bowl is full and ask for help to fill it; kids can also help fill pet dishes with dry food using a measuring cup.

If you don’t have a family pet, have your kids set up a farm with their toys. Use the discussion questions to talk about the responsibilities animal farmers have. These might include:

  • ensuring the animals have clean water each day
  • growing or purchasing food for their animals
  • feeding their animals once or twice daily
  • keeping a clean sleeping area for the animals covered with straw or other bedding material
  • making sure the animals have proper shelter
  • providing immunizations
  • caring for weak or sick animals
  • overseeing the birth of baby animals
  • for dairy farmers, milking cows and goats once or twice daily.

Read Proverbs 12:10. In closing, pray together and ask God to help you care kindly for all animals.

Questions for discussion
  • What do your parents do to take care of you?
  • What kinds of things would a farmer need to do to care for his animals?
  • What do your parents do when you are sick?
  • How does a farmer get medical help for his sick animals?
Key concepts

Parents provide a home, healthy meals, snacks and drinks, and clothing for their children. Likewise, a farmer needs to make sure his animals are warm, well fed and have fresh water. Parents earn money so they can go to the store and buy groceries, while farmers need to either grow grain or hay or purchase food for their animals.

Kids trust their parents to care for them, just as animals trust their owners to take care of them. Trustworthy owners ensure that their animals have everything they need to remain healthy and comfortable.

Relevant Scripture

Proverbs 12:10 “Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.

Note: To extend this activity further, organize a farm visit. Depending on how well you know the farmer, you can offer to help him or her do the farm chores.

Child sponsorship

Sponsoring a child is a wonderful way to help your children think about the needs of others.

Many organizations offer child sponsorship. Some suggested organizations include Compassion Canada, Food for the Hungry and World Vision.

You can view photos and read short stories online with your kids about children in need of sponsorship.

To help your children fully comprehend the level of poverty elsewhere in the world, and what a difference your sponsorship can make, give your kids some understanding of how little it costs to care for a sponsored child for a month. For example, you could tell your child:

It costs $35 each month to support a needy child. If we added up the money we would spend on buying a new toy ($30), a bag of chips ($2) and two cups of coffee ($3), that would be enough money to pay for a child’s food and schooling for a whole month.

Relevant Scripture

1 John 3:17 “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?

Open arms

Operation Christmas Child is organized by Samaritan’s Purse, and gives you the opportunity to pack a shoebox with small gifts and toiletries for a needy child.

This activity is ideal for children because they can relate to the needs of a child their own age and they enjoy choosing the gift items. You don’t have to wait for the Christmas season: you can pack a box any time of the year and tuck it away until November when the boxes are collected in communities across North America.

Alternatively, you can choose another way to serve others as a family, so you can be like the “wife of noble character” in Proverbs 31:20 who not only cares for the needs of her household, but also “opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.”

Whatever you choose to do, affirm your children with one of the Bible verses provided here to let them know that God is honoured when they care for others.

These discussion questions will help you introduce your children to the idea of helping those less fortunate.

Questions for discussion
  • How would you feel on Christmas morning if there were no gifts to open?
  • What would you want to pack in a shoebox for a child your age?
  • If you were packing some gifts for baby Jesus, what would you put in the box?
  • Why is it important for us to share with people who are poor?
  • How does it make you feel when you think about a child opening the shoebox you packed?
Key concepts

Caring for the poor and needy is an expression of our love for God and shows others that we have God’s love in our hearts. The Bible tells us that whatever acts of kindness we do for anyone else is as though we have done it for Jesus. When we care for those in need, we honour God.

Relevant Scripture

Proverbs 14:31 “Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors Him.

Matthew 25:40 “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me.’

Fun with laundry

On laundry day, take some very dirty whites and show them to your children. When you do the laundry, add bleach or fabric whitener to the load so that the clothes come out bright white. Have your children compare the clothing items before and after they have been washed.

Then use 1 John 1:8-9 and Isaiah 1:18 to explain the beauty of God’s forgiveness to your children. Take some time to ask your children if they want to have stained hearts or washed hearts. Pray a kids talk with God prayer together.

During the course of your study on forgiveness, when your children sin, suggest that you pray together so that God can “wash” the sin from their hearts.

Relevant Scripture

1 John 1:8-9 “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Isaiah 1:18 “…Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”

“What do we have extra?” game

Link this activity with the story found in Luke 12:13-21 in the Bible stories section. (See “Gimme my share!”) After reading the story, ask your children what the rich man could have done with his extra crop and extra possessions. Explain that it would have pleased God if he had chosen to share it with others who needed it. Spend some time thanking God for all He has blessed your family with. Finish by asking, “What do we have extra that we could share?” Discover what you have extra, package it up and search out a place in your community to donate it.

Some examples include:

  • food – take some food to the Food Bank,
  • clothing – pack up clothes that have been outgrown or not being worn, and give them to a charity or needy family,
  • blankets and other household items – many inner-city ministries make home starter kits for those in need,
  • toys – many organizations collect toys for underprivileged children.

Refreshing others

If it is summertime, pick a hot day and plan to refresh others who need refreshing. Some ideas include giving out (instead of selling) lemonade at a lemonade stand, or going to the park and taking a box of frozen treats to share with others. You could also take a slushy drink to someone you know who is at work on a hot day and can’t get the time to get out of the office to buy one for themselves.

If it is wintertime, think of refreshing others with hot cocoa or coffee instead. For example, provide your garbage collector or outdoor workers with portable cups full of something hot or a gift certificate for a local coffee shop. Perhaps you can plan to take a thermos of hot cocoa to share with friends at a skating rink or toboggan hill. Afterwards, have a discussion based on the following questions. Talk about how we experience joy and refresh ourselves when we share with and refresh others.

Questions for discussion
  • How do they think ________ felt when we gave them the ________?
  • How did you feel when you saw how ________ (happy/surprised) ________ was when we gave them ________?
  • Who do you think felt happier, _______ or us?
Relevant Scripture

Proverbs 11:25 “A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”

Caring for others

Have your children make something for someone else. Pray about the project together: “God, is there someone who needs to be encouraged by a gift or a visit from us?” Maybe it will be creating a card for a relative, baking cookies for the homeless, making a care package for someone in need, or spending time with a widow who struggles with loneliness. This hands-on option fits well with the stories, “Intentional generosity” and “An unexpected blessing” found in the Bible stories section of this lesson.

Celebrate the joy of Christmas

The purpose of Christmas is to remember Jesus’ birth, so why not celebrate it outside the traditional season? Most children love Christmas and would not object to some Christmas festivities being added to the family schedule any time of year! The ideas provided here focus on the joy surrounding the birth of Jesus and on the enjoyment found in giving. Whichever activity you choose, you can use the discussion questions and related Bible verses to highlight the “Christmas-Jesus-Joy” connection.

Serving others

Organize a stocking stuffing event as a way to have family members bless each other with non-material blessings. Have each family member hang a mini-stocking. Put each person’s picture on their stocking, then have each family member write a note or draw a picture for every other family member, telling or displaying something they appreciate about them. Encourage your kids to be creative and provide assistance as needed. When you open the stockings, do so one person at a time, allowing time for each person to share what the other family members have written or drawn. To make the occasion even sweeter, you may want to hand out candy canes (or flavoured hard candy sticks) to savour while you enjoy the sweetness of your together time.

Fun with food

Make mini-gingerbread “stables” out of graham crackers. Use one cracker for each side wall, one for the roof and one for a back wall. Leave the front side open. While your kids are decorating the walls and interior, ask your kids what they think Jesus was like when He was a child. Have them think of a “Jesus-like” character trait that each type of candy, cereal or dried fruit can represent. For example, cinnamon hearts can serve as a reminder that there is joy in a home when family members are loving toward each other. Another child might say that a gummy blue whale reminds him to be generous and share his toys.

To make the icing for your gingerbread stables, you will need:

2 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla or peppermint extract
2 ½ – 3 cups of icing sugar

Use a hand mixer to beat the egg whites until they are fluffy. Add the flavouring, along with half a cup of powdered sugar. Beat the mixture until it’s smooth. Keep adding icing sugar, half a cup at a time, until the icing forms stiff peaks. This icing is ideal for decorating as it hardens quickly. If you are not going to use it right away, cover it tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate it.

Serving others

To allow your children to experience the joy of giving, plan to surprise someone with a gift of some Christmas baking, out of season. Prior to deciding who you should share your baking with, ask God which family friend, relative or neighbour is in need of extra encouragement. Use the experience as an opportunity to talk with your children about how joyful they feel when they bless another person with a gift. Compare this to the joy they feel when they receive gifts.

Nativity drama

Set up a Nativity scene and have your children act out the Christmas story while you read it aloud. Household items like brooms, towels and bathrobes can serve as props and the cast’s wardrobe. As you read the Christmas story, let your kids play a variety of roles using props of their choice. For example, they might choose a mop to be a donkey, a laundry basket as a manger and a tissue box as a wise man’s gift.

Creative crafts

If your children enjoy crafts, have them make a “baby Jesus in a manger ornament.” As they work, use the opportunity to discuss the joy of the first Christmas. Share with your children the angel’s announcement to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10). Remind your kids that through Jesus, God gave the whole world the gift of salvation.

To make one manger ornament, you will need:

a circular mini-grape vine wreath (6-8 cm or 2½ – 3 inches in diameter)
a wooden bead (1.5 cm or ½ inch in diameter)
strips of cloth (cut from an old tea towel)
a piece of string or ribbon
an ice pop stick
straw of any sort
felt markers
a low-temperature glue gun

  • Begin by gluing a layer of brown cardboard on the bottom of the grapevine wreath to create a manger. Spread a layer of glue in the bottom of the manger and have your child fill it with craft moss, shredded yellow paper or tissue, yellow yarn or Easter basket grass, making a cozy manger.
  • To make baby Jesus, draw closed eyes and a little mouth on the wooden bead. Glue one-third of an ice pop stick to the back of the bead to serve as a “body,” then have your child wrap strips of cloth around and around the stick until it looks like a wrapped-up baby. Secure the end of the cloth with a spot of glue.
  • Glue another smaller strip of cloth over the baby’s head to cover the bead hole.
  • Finally, glue the baby in the manger and tie a ribbon to the top of the wreath so you can hang it up.

Note: This baby Jesus ornament can also be used in the shadow box for the kick-off craft of this lesson.

Drive time

While you are travelling in your family’s vehicle, sing Joy to the World and talk about ways that Jesus brings joy to your lives. Put your ideas into song with your own Jesus-centred remake of The Twelve Days of Christmas. Here’s a sample to jump-start your own ideas:

On the first day of Christmas, Jesus gave to me, His Spirit to live in me.

On the second day of Christmas, Jesus gave to me, two helping hands…

On the third day of Christmas, Jesus gave to me, three cups of kindness…

On the fourth day of Christmas, Jesus gave to me, four jugs of joy…

On the fifth day of Christmas, Jesus gave to me, five reasons to share…

On the sixth day of Christmas, Jesus gave to me, six packs of peace…

On the seventh day of Christmas, Jesus gave to me, seven sacks of smiles…

On the eighth day of Christmas, Jesus gave to me, eight gobs of goodness…

On the ninth day of Christmas, Jesus gave to me, nine loads of love…

On the tenth day of Christmas, Jesus gave to me, ten tons of trust…

On the eleventh day of Christmas, Jesus gave to me, eleven pounds of patience…

On the twelfth day of Christmas, Jesus gave to me, twelve jars of gentleness…

Questions for discussion
  • What is your most favourite Christmas tradition of all?
  • If you could play a part in the Christmas story, which character would you like to be?
  • What do you think it would have been like to have Jesus as a brother?
  • How does Jesus bring joy to your life?
  • How does knowing Jesus change the way you treat others?
Relevant Scripture

Acts 20:35 “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus Himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

Luke 2:10-12 “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ ”

Luke 11:13 “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

1 Thessalonians 5:11 “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”