Whole family volunteering ideas?


So, we’re a Catholic family trying to live out the Lord’s call and follow the precepts of the church. My wife and I have been blessed with 3 children, currently 11yo DS, 7 yo DD, and 8 mo DS…

DW and I have been active in various capacities in our parish. DW has taught faith formation, been the first communion coordinator, teaches music at our parish’s school, plays piano at mass, and was just asked if she’d help teach confirmation. I’ve volunteered extensively with youth ministry, been on the school board, help with the parish fundraiser, and am in the KofC. DW is a certified catechist…I’m working on my certification now.

Anyway, we’ve been trying to cut back on some of our volunteer activities lately since we’ve got the new little one, and have managed to pull back on some of them. This is hard for us because we’re those people who have trouble saying “no” when asked to help. In a discussion with DW last night after the kids were in bed, we came to a realization that when one of us goes off to volunteer at one thing or another, our kids just see us leaving, just see it as less time that we are spending with them. We are trying to set a good example and show that we are called to serve…but our kids don’t really see it that way. They see it as another “stupid meeting” that takes one or both of us away. I took a group of 41 teens to a Steubenville youth conference in July, and my two older kids are still calling it “Stupidville.” To them it is bad enough that my job takes me away from them on travel a few times a year. To add to that voluntarily they see as a great injustice.

So we started talking about how it might be better for everyone involved if we poured our energy into doing God’s work as a family…finding some way to volunteer our time and talents together so that the kids would be more involved and develop an understanding of what it means to give of oneself. They would be able to see us working, work with us, and see the fruits of our labor. It would be an opportunity to spend time together while serving God…I can only see that strengthening our family. Obviously DW and I might have to switch off depending on what we do since the 8 month old will need to be cared for. But now it just seems to make sense to pursue this.

My question, then, is: Anyone have any good ideas for good works we can do together as a family? I’m interested in the creative ways you’ve gotten your whole family involved in doing works of mercy.

Thanks in advance!


That’s a great idea! It’s good for children to participate first-hand in service like that.

Off the top of my head, I’d say visiting a nursing home is something you could do as a family. Volunteering at a soup kitchen may or may not be something they could help with, but it’s something to consider.


One family, in our parish, volunteers to serve at various “meals” so often part of our parish community life (Volunteer’s Dinner, Socials, First Communion get-togethers etc). They serve the food or soda … and they help clean-up after. They are a God-send to the parish … and they do this service as a family (their children are getting older now (high school) so that may make it easier. But you could start with smaller functions and shorter time frames… I think it’s wonderful to include children in our service (so they see what we do) … my wife brings ours (at times) to our Soup Kitchen where she serves … some get the idea … others do not … but they have seen what we do and understand why we do it … Mike


I second the nursing home suggestion. Folks are often “warehoused” in nursing facilities and rarely visited by family, especially when there’s dementia involved. Dad just isn’t dad anymore and it can make family members uncomfortable. Some families truly are legitimately too busy with working and raising families to spend much time with their elderly family members. Kids have a way of perking these folks up, even the ones who seem not to be very aware of their surroundings. You have no idea the incredible loneliness, isolation and depression these people can be suffering even though they live in a communal setting.
Not only is it a huge work of mercy, it’s a great teaching opportunity for you about the stages of life and the sanctity of life, no matter the age or condition. Kids rarely see that side of life unless you have elderly relatives in nursing homes and visit them regularly. It makes the residents so happy. There’s no smile like the smile on an elderly person’s face when a kid walks in the room. I worked with junior hospice volunteers for years and, while the adult volunteers did a great job, it was the kids the nursing home residents wanted to see, or even pet! Having young people around makes them feel younger and more alive. God bless you for your generous spirit.


This is an idea we’ve talked over several times before also. It’s hard with younger kids because some places don’t want to worry about liability issues. For example, when mine were younger we couldn’t work in the soup kitchen because of the possibility of injury from a hot stove, knives, etc. A commercial kitchen is not quite like the one at home!

I love the nursing home idea, and it is one we’ve done. We also found an organization that took lunches to homeless in the city. Our job was making the lunches–very easy to do in the parish hall. And fun because several families took turns as teams.


At the Parish, helping to set up and clean up for events is something the whole family can do.

Praying together outside an abortion clinic is a powerful thing, getting involved with pro life is for the whole family.

We are Catholic, so, very pro family - parents bring along kids to Catechists meetings, to CCD, to RCIA, there are many places a family can volunteer together!!


You might start with things that can also be a lot of fun, before jumping right into the self sacrifice.

–Try volunteering for things at your local zoo! Kids love animals, I find that it is a great learning resource, and you are giving your time and energy to help something else succeed.
–Help build a Habitat for Humanity house, my sister and I had a great time with that, and all we did was screw in cupboard hinges! Everyone can do something there, some feed the workers and some just cheer them on!
–I love soup kitchens, but with an eight year old that might be difficult, perhaps you could try filling a few book bags for underprivileged children in your area. It brings the hardships of others right home, and because of the association with familiar objects, makes the kids think about it a little more.
–Strike up a relationship with a few elderly people in a nursing home that can tolerate children (I know this sounds hopelessly harsh, and I’m sure someone will flame me for it, but there are quite a few older people who cannot handle children for many different reasons, especially medical.) and would appreciate the attention and companionship. If you feel comfortable, some elderly do not mind being called grandmother or auntie and it helps forge a connection with the children. If you dislike the more familiar terms of endearment, make up your own.

Good luck! I hope you find many others!


Not flame; just disagree. In all the years I’ve worked around the very sick elderly and with young volunteers, I’ve never once seen any of the residents be unkind to children unless they were normally crotchety with everyone to begin with. It’s not uncommon for people to respond to kids when they won’t respond favorably to adults. But it’s a simple fix: the nursing home staff can tell you who you and your family should probably not approach.

If you’re not quite ready for nursing homes, which can be intimidating sometimes, try a local assisted living facility where residents have their own private rooms or apartments but are in better condition than folks in nursing homes. There are plenty of lonely people in those, too.


Why not volunteer at your local children’s museum? I work at one; the need for straightening is CONSTANT. Why not volunteer to tidy up (this also teaches responsibility for belongings)?


On nursing homes - your 8 mo will be a ROCK STAR!!!
I kid you not, I LOVED taking my girls to see pop at the nursing home. All these people would roll up to me in their chairs en masse (okay, THAT part was kind of creepy) but they just wanted to see this baby!
The 11 yo or even the 7 yo would I think really enjoy bringing the kid around. Honestly, a baby in a nursing home is like a Jonas brother at the mall.
Soup kitchens are also good because there is SO much different stuff to do there, from simple chopping up food to serving to cleaning and sorting.
What are your kids’ interests? Do they like outdoors stuff?
Here in Michigan there’s ALWAYS some river or lake or forest that needs cleaning, and it’s nice because it’s a big group of people, the kids get to be outside, and they can immediately see the effect of their work.
Here, they even have people volunteer to go outside on their own and do stuff like count the number of frog noises they hear in an hour. What a great way to spend an evening as a family (though if your 7 yo dd is anything like I was, she won’t be able to be quiet long enough for that task!)
How are they with kids?
I have found that most kids really like other kids. What about your area children’s hospital? Ours is forever needing people to help throw parties there and what kid doesn’t like to help throw a party, right? :slight_smile:
I think your plan is really really good one though!! Let us know what you find that works! I’d be interested to hear!


No problem fickle. I am a nursing student and did some of my clinicals there when there were too many of us for the hospital. I did not mean to infer that all elderly people are sourpusses, I was merely cautioning that there are some who do not take kindly to children and it would be best to avoid that kind of situation. I had a few who did not take kindly to our rounds, or even their own staff. As you said, talking to the staff would definitely help them.


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