Do you feel a sense of entitlement slowly creeping into your family?
Are you frustrated with the cell phone constantly in your teen’s face? How about doing a gratitude activity to change things up?
Perhaps you feel like you’ve already done all the community service project ideas. For instance, you’ve fed those without a home, done scouts, and you’ve helped your neighbor multiple times.
However, things haven’t changed.
What else can you possibly do?
What about doing something together as a family that is different? Even life-changing?
A good idea might be to go on a mission trip. Why? Because there is something about leaving town and serving for several days together instead of just doing something for a couple of hours.
In this post, you will learn why it is so important to get away with your family and do a gratitude activity such as a mission trip. I guarantee you it will be impactful on your family and it may be just what you need to turn things around.
How a Gratitude Activity Will Impact Your Kids
Personally, this gratitude activity has taught my kids things I could never teach them at home or at church. Going on a mission trip is that important. Really.
You might be thinking...my kids will never go for this. It is going to be miserable listening to them complain. I’m going to complain! I hear you.
Do it anyway.
Many churches offer mission trips during the summer and spring break. Find one that includes the whole family, so there will be other kids close to your kid’s age participating as well. Additionally, you will not only bond as a family, but you will also bond with other believers.
To make it more enticing, you might attach a small vacation at the end of your mission trip. This will give them something to look forward to when they are done. Sort of a reward for giving back.
If you are having a hard time with your teenager, it’s time to consider a mission trip. It is by far the best gratitude activity with the most long-term impact.
How to Teach a Gratitude Lesson
The great thing about going on a mission trip is that you don’t have to teach any lessons. Life is going to do this for you!
And let’s face it, at this age, the only way teenagers really learn is through experience. They are pretty much done with what you have to say!
However, what you can do is empower your teenagers by asking for input. Let them talk about their passions. Who they feel needs the most help.
Ask them to participate in the research. This alone will teach them about the world around them just by reading about impoverished places.
Don’t worry if they don’t buy into this idea. The gratitude lessons are still coming. And you don’t have to say a word.
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You may wonder why my family chose to do a gratitude activity in South Texas and serve at The Colonias with Hearts4kids.
Let me explain. The Colonias are communities in an unincorporated makeshift area about a mile from the Texas-Mexico border. These areas are just beyond the municipal boundaries of any city or town.
Many sections of land have no drinking water, electricity, or sewage service. Texas has the largest number of Colonia residents; more than 500,000, mostly immigrants, who live in these shanty houses.
Additionally, many of the houses in the Colonias barely stand up straight because they are built with a mixture of plywood, cinderblocks, metal scraps, and tar paper.
Residents have extension cords running from one shanty to another trying to get electricity to their shelters. Some shelters are a little better than a cardboard box.
While driving through the area, I saw one makeshift home that had three “walls” (scrap wood) barely secured and no roof. A baby was sitting outside of the “home” in the 100-degree heat left in a stroller by himself. There was no one around.
It was beyond imaginable. I wanted to stop and rescue the child, however, we had to keep driving to our destination. This is the hardest thing about volunteering. Once you are there, you become overwhelmed with thousands of needs everywhere you turn.
Why Teach Gratitude Away From Home
One of the gratitude activities we did as a family was food distribution. We went door to door handing out food and inviting people to come to a cookout on the following Saturday. (This may seem scary, but we were in a big group.)
One of the “houses” we approached was actually just a big box on blocks with no electricity, water, or sewage. The people inside were barely existing.
It smelled like death. Yes, death has a smell.
What’s more, we found dead rats under the house that had been meticulously slit open and gutted. It appeared they had been eating the rats for food. This still haunts me. I don’t know how they were living this way.
After we talked to the family, the teens decided we should go back the next day and help them clean up their yard. We also brought more food for the family.
This one act changed the trajectory of a family’s life. Eventually, they accepted Jesus and moved out.
From this one experience, my kids learned how their behavior affected others greatly, not to mention how blessed they realized they were.
They would never have learned this gratitude lesson at home. There are some things you just can’t teach. They have to be experienced firsthand.
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The Long-Term Impact of Volunteering
You may wonder why doing a long-term community service project with your teen is going to change things. Or how serving in a dirty and forgotten place will help you emotionally reconnect with your family.
It seems counterintuitive. The secret sauce is that volunteering together away from home will help you to find what really matters.
My otherwise, phone-addicted teenage children, had to put down their devices for several days and work. At first, it was shocking because the world was no longer about them. But after a while, they started to engage with the community.
More importantly, they started to love the children. They experienced poverty. They felt its relentless sting. And then they realized how blessed they were to have so much.
This alone changed me as I watched my kids find the true meaning of life through this powerful gratitude activity.
True happiness is not found in a bigger house, a faster car, or a better job. On the contrary, true happiness is found in giving to others who will never be able to pay you back.
When you see your son pick up trash in a stranger’s yard for hours or you see your daughter give a child extra snacks because he has not eaten all day, it makes you realize this is the best thing your family has ever done together.
My family found true purpose in the heat, dust, and dirt of an abandoned area that no one else cares about. We found who we really are as a family and as Christians who love Jesus.
My daughter has said over and over again she would rather be in South Texas than on a big, fancy vacation.
I would love to hear how your gratitude activity changed your family. Tell us in the comments below.
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