Have you and your children ever seen a homeless person on the side of the road? Sometimes when it is something we see regularly, we forget to really see. But our children see and they see with fresh eyes, eyes and hearts that aren’t tainted by preconceived notions or expectations. And in that freshness, we as parents have an opportunity to inform their worldview and teach their hearts to love others like Jesus did. What questions did your children have when you’ve encountered homelessness?
Being homeless looks different in different parts of the world, depending upon the climate, the country in which they reside, and charity services available. Being homeless doesn’t necessarily mean that they never had or never will have a home. Being homeless doesn’t necessarily mean that they never had or never will have a job. The reasons for poverty and homelessness are as many as the reasons for wealth and prosperity.
The purpose in engaging in this conversation is to help your children see the issues surrounding homelessness in a biblical light and to learn to love others with the love that Jesus has.
Consider watching this helpful, short video (1:29 minutes) developed by a homeless ministry and discuss as a family what you notice about the people that were homeless. Point out the similarities and differences. Let them share what they noticed without correcting them.
It is completely normal for our eyes to see differences – but Jesus doesn’t want that to affect the way we treat each other. Each person in the video and each person we come across in our lives is equally valued and loved by God, regardless of race, status, education, opportunities, etc. God sent His one and only Son to the whole world, “not wishing than any should perish, but that all should reach repentance [through Jesus Christ]” (2 Peter 3:9). Sometimes viewing people like this requires a heart shift, a heart shift that only Jesus can make in our hearts, in our children’s hearts. Read Luke 10:30-37 together about the parable of the good Samaritan.
Why do you think the priest (v. 31) and the Levite (v. 32, a teacher of the Law) did not help the hurt man? Why do you think the Samaritan man chose to stop and then continued to choose to put the hurt man’s needs above his own (v. 33-35)? Jesus commanded us to “go, and do likewise” (v. 37). How can we help those who are hurting and homeless, in practical ways?
Have a family discussion:
What are some reasons you think someone might become homeless?
There are many reasons why someone might become homeless. Sometimes it is a temporary homelessness due to a job loss, an illness, or even a natural disaster. Sometimes what they thought was going to be temporary turns long-term due to bad choices or further unfortunate circumstances.
What are ways that our church could come alongside and help people in this situation?
Many times, people just need someone to come alongside them and provide food, shelter, job training, counseling, and/or someone to simply care and bandage their wounds (physical or otherwise). Sometimes they need professional help to overcome lifelong trauma or addiction challenges.
What are some practical ways that your family could love the homeless?
No matter the reason for their homelessness, all people, everywhere simply want to be seen, loved, and cared for by a “good Samaritan” with a smile, a wave, a simple bottle of water or a snack.
How should we treat other people, even those who are different than ourselves?
When we see someone on the side of the street, we do not know their whole story, so we should not assume to know. Help your children understand there are many reasons why someone might become homeless and that as people made in the image of God, we can love them and share the Gospel with them.
In many cities, there are people and ministries that the homeless can turn to for help, whether short-term or for a longer-term need. They provide food, clothes, a bed, and shelter. What other things might someone who is homeless need?
Simple Family Activity
One way that you can love the homeless in your city is to create some simple care packages to keep in your card. See this short video (3 minutes) about a little girl who did just that. Talk about her heart and how her compassion was a critical part of handing out the bags. Keep these in your car to hand out to someone you see on the side of the street who is in need. Consider helping each of your children package a nice backpack or bag that might include:
- Toothbrush & toothpaste
- Feminine hygiene items (women only)
- Water bottle(s)
- A hat
- Gloves (especially in the winter)
- Non-perishable food items
- Gift card to a grocery store
Family Service Project
As a family, you may choose to go serve a meal with a local homeless ministry or attend a “street church” service downtown. You may choose to pack up a few care packages. You may choose to open up your heart, schedule, and home in more practical ways. Whatever practical ways you choose to get involved to be a good neighbor in your city, make sure you are having intentional conversations with your children and you bring them along where you can. Use the opportunities to teach them more about Jesus’ heart for those who have hit a rough patch. Encourage them to be the hands and feet of Jesus and they will meet their Savior in a new and fresh way.