One Sunday morning on our way to church, my son asked, “Where are we going?” 

“We are going to church, buddy,” my wife replied. 

“Why are we going to church?” 

“Well, we are going to church to worship God and be with our church family.” 

“I don’t want to go to church to worship and be with church family.” 

My wife and I glanced at one another with the same realization: this was an important moment. Then I asked, “Son, should church be about what you want to do?” He said, “No.” This is where I began to teach him that worshiping God helps us to be mindful of Someone greater than ourselves. And that serving our neighbor or church family helps us be mindful of others. 

Here are two big-picture ways we can teach our kids to think about more than themselves:

1. Remind Your Kids How Amazing God Is 

Our purpose as people is to bring God the glory for everything we do. Early on, our children have to know that they were created to magnify someone else, even though our culture teaches them to celebrate their own accomplishments.

So the first thing our kids have to know is that there is someone greater, bigger, more powerful than anything they can imagine. We want our kids to become awestruck by God, not obsessed with their own identity. As your kids see how amazing God is, they will begin to realize that he matters so much more than their belongings, fun, and happiness, and yet he gives meaning to those things.

Let’s bring our kids to church on Sunday morning and help them offer praise and thanksgiving to God. This is not too big for them to understand, especially when children are awestruck by meeting superheroes and Disney characters. I remember the first time my son saw a superhero in costume. He was fascinated! “Oh look, look there’s Hulk!” He wanted to meet Hulk, to shake his hand, to simply be in his presence. I want my son to have that desire when it comes to God. To want to be in God’s presence with the family of God. 

What does this have to do with teaching our kids the world doesn’t revolve around them? Our kids must know that there is something greater than their own wants. Being a part of something greater than themselves helps our kids think about themselves less.


2. Make Opportunities for Your Kids to Share

The one word that a child remembers is the word, “MINE.” The first time we heard our son use that word, he had been playing with a friend. We glanced at him and there he was snatching back an action figure yelling, “Mine!” 
Here are three practical ways we taught him to share: 

Helping Out When We Have Guests

In our house, hospitality is a practical way to put an end to that word. We taught our child that, whenever we host guests, he is part of setting the table and even serving a portion of the meal. It’s incredible to see his enthusiasm in serving our guests. Having a part to play gives our children ownership and a tangible way to realize that serving others requires effort.

Planning Play-Dates

Play-dates are teaching our child how to share. My wife taught our son to be mindful of others whenever they come to his home by offering toys and games to them. In fact, he says, “Since you are my guest, you get to pick what you want to play with.” The joy that he finds in sharing allows him to appreciate his friends and enjoy the moment with them.

Practicing Empathy 

We also taught him not only to share in the joyous moments, but also to share in the sad moments with friends. This is important for our children because they will be able to empathize with friends. We can teach our kids to empathize through praying for others and giving to others. If your child talks about something bad happening to their friends at school, ask them if they would like to pray for that friend or even bring something to share with that friend at school the next day. 

Take Action 

  1. Look for times to talk about how big and amazing God is—like talking about God’s creativity and power when you drive around a mountain or talking about his justice and self-sacrifice after you watch a superhero movie. 
  2. How can you invite your child to take part in hosting guests? Consider giving your child a special responsibility like opening the door to greet guests or helping serve the food.  
  3. Plan a time for your child to have one or two of their friends over to your house. Talk with your child beforehand about what it looks like to share with our guests.
  4. Encourage your child to think of a friend they can pray for. Pray together. 

Michael Davis is the Teaching Pastor at Downtown Church in Memphis, TN and serves on the board of Presbyterian Day School. He is married to Serena, and they have one son, Michael “MJ” Davis Jr. Michael is passionate about the gospel, expositional preaching, and shepherding and equipping the people of God. He also enjoys sports, photography, BBQ, jazz music, and spending time with his family.